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Are Annual Furnace Inspections Required?

A recent blog post about fall maintenance mentioned having your furnace inspected/tuned up by a qualified heating contractor annually. One reader sent an email asking if this was really necessary – here’s his original question:

“I have a question about furnace tune-ups. You say get one every year – is that really necessary? What do the HVAC guys actually do to the furnace to ‘tune’ it up? There’s no spark plugs to replace like a car tune-up, and my understanding is they basically vacuum out dust and inspect it. Couldn’t the homeowner do this himself? Or do I really need to pay $80-$150 every year for a professional to do it?”

Annual Furnace Inspections

These are great questions worthy of a post all on their own.

Are annual furnace inspections really necessary?

All Furnace manufacturers all recommend annual inspections and maintenance by a qualified technician. They also have language in their warranties saying that damage to the units caused by improper maintenance or lack of, is not covered under the warranty. Does this mean that an annual furnace checkup is really required, or the warranty is voided? Probably not, but it’s recommended. The best analogy is going to the dentist every six months for a checkup and cleaning; probably not necessary, but recommended.

Some HVAC contractors recommend getting newer furnaces checked every other year, but once they’re more than 10 years old, have them checked annually.

What do HVAC technicians actually do to the furnace to “tune” it up?

There seems to be no industry standard for a furnace (or boiler) tune-up, so what’s included in a “tune-up” will vary greatly from company to company. If you’re going to hire a heating contractor to do a tune-up on your furnace, ask them what they’ll be doing. Included below is a partial list of generic stuff that different furnace manufacturers recommend be performed annually by a qualified heating technician:

  • A Carbon Monoxide test should be completed annually. More often than not an HVAC technician’s testing equipment is much more precise that the detector on your wall.
  • The vent system needs to be checked for blockage and/or leakage. This includes the outside termination and the connections at and internal to the furnace.
  • The blower access door needs to be checked to make sure it makes a tight seal at the furnace.
  • The fresh air intake grills and louvers need to be checked for blockage.
  • The heat exchanger needs to be inspected for rust and corrosion.
  • The burners need to be checked for proper ignition, burner flame and flame sense.
  • The drainage system needs to be checked for blockage and/or leakage. This includes the hoses internal to the furnace. The condensate drain and trap need to be cleaned, and the water replaced in the trap.
  • The blower wheel needs to be checked for debris and cleaned if necessary.
  • An electrical test should be conducted on the blower motor and all capacitors and transformers.
  • The wiring needs to be checked for corrosion and damage.
  • The filters need to be checked (but this needs to be done much more frequently than annually).
  • A Carbon Monoxide test should be completed annually. More often than not an HVAC technician’s testing equipment is much more precise that the detector on your wall.
  • The gas valve needs to be tested for proper gas pressure both entering and existing the valve.

In addition to this list, heating contractors say that they regularly do static air pressure checks, and temperature rise checks.

Could the homeowner do this?

Of course, but the only homeowners who are knowledgeable enough to do all the tasks listed above also happen to be heating contractors. If the only thing your furnace tech does is stick a vacuum nozzle into the furnace and suck a little dust out, sure, do it yourself. If your furnace tech does half the stuff on the list above, they’re earning their keep.

Before you hire a company to do a tune-up on your furnace, ask what’s included. The company doing the work should be able to quickly rattle off a long list of stuff they’ll be checking.

Do I really need to pay $80-$150 every year for a professional to do it?
In short, yes. This is what a professional charges — maybe even more. For most heating contractors, $80 barely covers the trip charge. Keep in mind, this isn’t just about safety; it’s also about preventive maintenance. It’s about sometimes catching a problem before your furnace quits working in the middle of the night. When you have to hire a heating contractor to show up on a Sunday evening because the furnace stopped working, you’re probably going to end up paying emergency rates.

If you are in need of diagnostics or services before the next season change, contact us at (928) 636-2955 or email.  Check out our great Google reviews and we look forward to hearing from you.

One Response to “Are Annual Furnace Inspections Required?”

  1. You have a lot of great information here on this blog. Its nice to know that you are helping people with inspections and such. Nice work 🙂