When the weather gets warm and the air conditioning is on full blast, the last thing on your mind most likely is whether the furnace is working. Even if it’s not – you think to yourself – you still have several more months before you’ll even need it, so why bother with it now? That is, until the cold months start to creep in and you realize that not only is your furnace not working properly, but you may have to have the whole thing replaced, costing you hundreds of dollars in repair bills when it could’ve been prevented by implementing a few basic maintenance tips.
Most home builders and experts agree that you should have your furnace inspected at least once a year to ensure that everything is working properly; if not, a technician can usually diagnose and fix the issue before it gets too far out of hand. Ignoring the issue can only lead to bigger problems, many of which can crop up at the worst possible time.
What Happens During a Heating Inspection?
Though the exact specifics of a heating inspection can change from house to house, the basic procedure is usually followed virtually anywhere. Below is a list of what to expect.
Checking for Leaks or Cracks – A technician will go throughout the vent system and check for any areas where air could be escaping, which is wasted money. In addition, they will normally also inspect the heat exchanger, which if cracked, can allow carbon monoxide to leak into the home – a potentially lethal problem.
Check for Seals or Blockages – If the blower access door is not sealed properly, the unit will work harder to get the temperature down, since not as much air is going into the home. The air intake, flue, and blower wheel will also be checked for possible obstructions.
Testing the Electrical Systems – An amp-draw test should be performed on the blower motor to ensure that it meets the specifications listed on the side, and a technician will also make sure that all wires and electrical components meet safety standards. The temperature will be calibrated correctly and the start-up systems will run as well to make sure everything runs efficiently.
Lubrication of Moving Parts – When the gears and moving parts are not working correctly, the system works harder and less efficiently, which can ultimately result in a complete failure of the system. During a home heating inspection, a technician will normally carry lubricant to grease up those wheels and allow for a system to run more optimally.
How Much Does a Home Heating Test Cost?
In comparison to some home maintenance services, a thorough inspection is relatively inexpensive, especially when you consider that they inspect nearly 20 different parts and run various tests. Though this can also vary by area and company, most inspections run between $60-150 a trip – not too bad when you consider what even the most simple heating problems can cost you.
While it may be tempting to price check and find the cheapest technician you can, consider the costs of running your furnace maintenance through the lowest bidder. HVAC systems are notoriously difficult, so finding the right professional is vital to the success of your unit. Most states have specific licenses that all HVAC techs must hold in order to operate their business, and check services like Angie’s List to make sure the company servicing your unit is legitimate. When in doubt, contact the local licensing office and ask whether your local service company has the right credentials.
Why Should I Get a Furnace Inspection?
If you’re still on the fence about getting a furnace inspection completed, here are a few of the main reasons that you should consider doing so.
1. To Help Your Heater Run More Efficiently
All that dust and debris that is circulating outside of your house on a regular basis gets sucked up into your furnace as well, and if you’re not doing at least some kind of regular furnace maintenance, it will build up in your unit and choke it out. A regular inspection not only cleans out the dust and dirt but also lubricates the parts and checks for leaks that can make your unit run at sub-optimal levels. A furnace that is working too hard will ultimately end up costing you money in the long run.
Because of the heat generated from the furnace itself, the ducts inside the unit expand and then contract, putting strain on the fittings that keep everything in place. Even if these don’t actually come off, over time they will begin to create gaps in the system where air can escape. This adds up over time, meaning you’re paying for hot air that isn’t getting into your house. It may seem like a minor issue, but an inspection will pay for itself every year in heating and energy savings.
If you really want to maximize your energy savings, invest in a programmable thermostat that will lower the temperature by 8-9 degrees when you’re not in the house. Studies have shown that having a lower setting while you’re not there will save up to 30% on your heating and energy bill, so if you’re looking for a way to make up the cost of an inspection, there you have it.
2. To Help Your Heater Last Longer
When you think of expensive fixes for your house, you may consider things like the hot water heater breaking or a sprinkler repair – both of which can cost several hundred dollars worth of damage as well as the cost of replacing what’s broken to begin with.
However, a furnace repair, or even worse, a furnace installation, can dwarf those costs. When not properly maintained, a furnace can break down and leave your house in the cold, which can lead to emergency repair phone calls in the middle of the night to keep your family safe. That can be especially costly; the average price of a furnace repair is around $267, but can cost up to $900 depending on what it is they have to fix.
Consider also the cost of the entire unit breaking down. For a new home build, these initial costs are built into the price of the home so many owners never see it, but a full furnace unit costs, on average, nearly $5,000. Most homeowners end up spending much more than that, nearly $7,000, just to replace the entire unit. If there’s one thing in your house you want to keep on a regular maintenance schedule so that it doesn’t stop working, it’s your furnace. Especially if you live in an area that has several bitterly cold months during the winter.
3. Prevent Carbon Monoxide From Pouring Into Your Home
Carbon monoxide is known as a “silent killer,” precisely because the colorless, odorless gas can seep into a home without the homeowner even knowing it and can prove to be lethal. Without getting too deep into a science lesson, carbon monoxide binds with the hemoglobin in the blood and replaces that space that would normally be reserved for oxygen. Without oxygen traveling through the bloodstream, all the major functions in the body begin to shut down, leaving the person dizzy or disoriented. A large amount of carbon monoxide, if ingested, can cause death within minutes.
Every year in America, nearly 30,000 people are hospitalized for some kind of carbon monoxide poisoning, with about 500 of those people dying. Those with gas appliances in their homes know all too well the danger that carbon monoxide can bring with it, and if you have a furnace that runs even partially off gas (instead of electric), you should have it checked as well.
A faulty furnace can have a leaky heat exchange, which can leave gas pouring through the air vents in your home. If you already use gas in your home, make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector in your home – several, if possible. Since the gas from a furnace is connected to the air vents, it’s nearly impossible to know exactly where it could be, so have your furnace checked regularly to make sure that there’s no gas leaking throughout your house.
4. To Keep Your Warranty Intact
If your home still has a warranty on several components inside your home – sprinkler system, foundation, etc – there are most likely several conditions you must meet in order to make sure that warranty is still valid. If you fail to maintain these systems on your own dime, the warranty is non-binding and your out of luck in the even of a real problem.
Some manufacturers mandate that a homeowner must perform a regular maintenance after a furnace installation in order to keep that warranty valid. The terms vary by builder, but generally requires you to inspect every year or two. If a technician shows up to service your unit and discovers that no maintenance has been done, they could bill you instead of your warranty provider; if they bill the warranty provider anyways, they can rightfully claim negligence on your part.
Not only do you need to have your furnace maintained regularly in order to keep it running optimally and keep your warranty valid, but you’ll need to keep documentation on hand as well. Whenever a warranty claim comes in, they’ll ask for your service records to verify that you’ve kept up your end of the bargain. To be safe, keep everything your technician gives you, from receipts to order forms.
Long story short: get your furnace inspected regularly to protect yourself (and your wallet) from what could be a very expensive fix.
5. To Maintain Proper Air Quality
While you want to make sure your furnace is running optimally in order to keep it running efficiently (saving you money) and to prolong the life of your unit (saving you more money), the simple truth of the matter is that a faulty heating unit produces poor air quality throughout your house. Even if potentially lethal carbon monoxide isn’t pouring into your house causing a significant health hazard, the dust and buildup that accumulates on your unit could be dripping through the air and affecting your family as well.
This poses a special problem for families who have asthma or allergy problems. Dust in the air can get into your system and impact your lungs on a regular basis; what you think is just spring-time pollen could actually be a totally preventable dirt spray. Wheezing and hack-coughing is unpleasant, but so are the doctor’s bills associated with treating your family’s breathing problems, especially if it requires a trip to the hospital.
During an inspection, the technician will not only replace any cracks or leaks within the system, but they’ll also clean off all the vents, suck the excess debris from the ducts, and replace your air filters as part of the routine service charge. You may feel like you’re capable of doing all of these things, but many of the checks performed during an inspection require highly-specialized equipment or knowledge, so unless you’re an HVAC technician yourself, it’s best to leave it up to the professionals.
If your family is experiencing breathing issues that seemed to creep up out of nowhere, or they are already prone to issues like asthma or low allergy sensitivity, it’s worth it to get your home heating system checked regularly to prevent any such problems. A regular inspection is a small price to pay for your family’s health.
Like just about everything else in your home, if you take care of your furnace, it will take care of you. Think of your furnace as a car: the more maintenance you perform on it, the better it will perform overall, the fewer heating problems you’ll have and the longer it will last. Just because you’ve invested in a new unit doesn’t mean you’re immune to the costs of maintaining it. On the contrary, the more you spend on your unit, the more you’ll want to continue investing in it. If you do, you’ll have a warm home year-round that you can be proud of.