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Old 12-18-2013, 01:13 PM   #21
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I wonder what the heck he could be changing every year that cost $200? There aren't that many 'wear' parts on an old furnace! -ERD50
A lot of that is overhead expenses, like travel time, vehicle maintenance, insurance, taxes and other stuff that the company pays no matter what the service guy does or does not do. The company I worked for charged a flat "trip charge" to cover those expenses.

There is a certain level of expense incurred by the time the service guy is just ringing the doorbell. It is a business and they do have to recover those costs. One can discuss endlessly what is a "reasonable" cost but the fact remains they are a cost.
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Old 12-18-2013, 01:53 PM   #22
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A lot of that is overhead expenses, like travel time, vehicle maintenance, insurance, taxes and other stuff that the company pays no matter what the service guy does or does not do. The company I worked for charged a flat "trip charge" to cover those expenses.

There is a certain level of expense incurred by the time the service guy is just ringing the doorbell. It is a business and they do have to recover those costs. One can discuss endlessly what is a "reasonable" cost but the fact remains they are a cost.
...which brings up another point...
Does the service company charge "Time and half" for weekends? When my circuit board went out it was on a Saturday Morning... Instead of $95/hour, the charge was $142/hour.
Given that an outage has a 32% chance of happening on a weekend or a holiday... seems to be an important factor.

Do you know what your serviceman charges?
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Old 12-18-2013, 01:57 PM   #23
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...which brings up another point...
Does the service company charge "Time and half" for weekends? When my circuit board went out it was on a Saturday Morning... Instead of $95/hour, the charge was $142/hour.
Given that an outage has a 34% chance of happening on a weekend or a holiday... seems to be an important factor.

Do you know what your serviceman charges?
I know ours charges a premium for emergency service. He's helped me get things going over the phone a couple of times to avoid it. I would guess it 1.5 times, but I've never had to pay.
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Old 12-18-2013, 02:00 PM   #24
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Do you know what your serviceman charges?
Haven't the foggiest idea. The rare times I call one they've been reasonable but I don't remember at the moment.

Time-and-a-half on weekends or nights seems reasonable. Who wants to work weekends when most friends/family are off? Or get out of bed at 2:00 AM?

If it's the furnace and the outside temp is -5 F I'll pay, I'll pay! Anything else can wait for a weekday.
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Old 12-18-2013, 03:03 PM   #25
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Time-and-a-half on weekends or nights seems reasonable. Who wants to work weekends when most friends/family are off? Or get out of bed at 2:00 AM?
Hmmm.. Yeah, I can well remember when the towns we lived in had "Blue" laws, and no one worked on Sundays (except the preacher) but that was in the 1940's... Didn't know they still existed. You're lucky... it's a great tradition!
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Old 12-18-2013, 04:10 PM   #26
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A lot of that is overhead expenses, like travel time, vehicle maintenance, insurance, taxes and other stuff that the company pays no matter what the service guy does or does not do. The company I worked for charged a flat "trip charge" to cover those expenses.

There is a certain level of expense incurred by the time the service guy is just ringing the doorbell. It is a business and they do have to recover those costs. One can discuss endlessly what is a "reasonable" cost but the fact remains they are a cost.
Absolutely. But I got the impression that the $200 was over and above the cost of the maintenance service, which would already include much of that overhead.

My point was really about replacing a part or two every year, regardless of the cost. I just can't imagine a furnace requiring that much service every year, year after year. Sounds fishy.

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Old 12-18-2013, 04:23 PM   #27
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But what evidence do you have that the inspections have prevented any problems?

Interesting comment in JoeWras's post. I'm not sure that test would really over-stress the HEX, but it might. Sometimes the activities done during maintenance can create problems.

-ERD50
I'll say! Had a new air conditioner added to the heater. The next fall the heater guy stuck a thermometer probe through an AC line. He didn't say a word. The next summer I fried the AC compressor when I turned it on because there was no freon in it. The AC folks were kind enough to replace the compressor free of charge.
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Old 12-18-2013, 05:49 PM   #28
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We had our heat pump replaced about 4 years ago and not had any extra service to date. No extra service was done on the last 2 systems either. However, we live 3 blocks from the ocean and outside heat exchangers don't last much more than 10-12 years before the salt air gets to them. Part of the expense of living in Florida but at least I don't shovel snow and ice.

Cheers!
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Old 12-18-2013, 06:00 PM   #29
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A lot of that is overhead expenses, like travel time, vehicle maintenance, insurance, taxes and other stuff that the company pays no matter what the service guy does or does not do. The company I worked for charged a flat "trip charge" to cover those expenses.

There is a certain level of expense incurred by the time the service guy is just ringing the doorbell. It is a business and they do have to recover those costs. One can discuss endlessly what is a "reasonable" cost but the fact remains they are a cost.
It is costly to provide service on stuff like heating equipment that is "the same, but different". Some parts you can keep stocked and hit 80% of brands for the 50% of parts that interchange. Otherwise, to the parts place.
The best customers for service orgs. are people who have no interest in looking under the hood and wish to take the physical plant for granted. The diy crowd usually blanches at the fees, but they are not customers. If markets present opportunities, competition usually steps into the breach and charges come down. If nobody steps up and cuts fees in half, I assume the prevailing rate is about right for service people who aren't fools.

If you are handy and enjoy keeping tabs on your equipment, [a-la ERD50] you will likely catch stuff and replace parts more on a scheduled maint. basis than "the furnace quit running" scenarios when you hope the parts house has what you need. They do, but they are closed right now. Interesting to see a show of hands from all who work on their own hvac gear, I bet in general it is less than 3% for all owners.

So, for the bunch that doesn't want to open the metal box and look at the fire, but just enjoy their comfort, some sort of periodic inspection is prudent, esp. for gas or lp. As to the snapshot ensuring against trouble ahead, not always, but a trained tech can see stuff coming. Unless we go back to the days of the stationary engineers [full time, folding chairs and cigars], it's about the best we have.
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Old 12-18-2013, 09:28 PM   #30
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Is it worth the "tune-up" cost?

In the 55 years that we've owned homes, cannot remember ever having an "annual service check up", nor any failures that might have resulted from this kind of neglect. Our recent furnace problem came from a circuit board failure, which could not have been prevented by a "check up", and over the years, all other problems have been from motor failures, or failed components of one sort or another.

That does not mean that no service has been done. Filters, and simple cleaning of the igniters in furnaces, a few drops of oil here and there, and washing the fins in A/C units are simple tasks, taking very little time, and not much technical knowledge. Likewise a once in a while simple vacuuming of ductwork.
My neighbor pays $100 to $150 each for annual check ups, where the serviceman takes about 3/4 of an hour poking around the equipment, but as far as I can see, does little more than dust and replace a filter. The "guarantee" seems little more than a statement that the serviceman will come back and repair anything that he might have missed... not for any future failure or for service calls.

What am I missing?
Your spot on. What you are describing that you are doing is exactly what you should be doing. (It might even be more than what your neighbors service guy ends up doing). One more thing to check is the color of the furnace flame if its more than 12 years old. Make sure it's still mostly blue flame. If it starts getting more yellow than blue and you've been noticing a lot of rust dust dropping out of the heat exchanger air intake, then that's a good time for a professional checkup that year that includes a check of the burner/ heat exchanger integrity.
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Old 12-18-2013, 09:33 PM   #31
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I purchased a Lennox two stage gas furnace about 4 years ago. I asked the salesman what regular maintenance was needed and he was adamant - nothing beyond filter changes. When the installers were installing it, I asked them the same thing and got the same answer. About 2 years ago the circuit board died and I asked the repair man the same question ...and got the same answer.

This fall I got a postcard from the installation company asking why I wasn't getting yearly checkups on the furnace.

I know that AC systems do need the inside and outside coils cleaned occasionally.
They should have told you to also to at least clean your flame sensor with Emory cloth or super fine sandpaper. That avoids the most likely potential problem with neglecting maintenance you would get. But then again they were Lennox techs and salesman so don't expect much. Now if you had a Trane or Carrier furnace you could go years longer without doing anything.
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Old 12-19-2013, 08:00 AM   #32
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They should have told you to also to at least clean your flame sensor with Emory cloth or super fine sandpaper. That avoids the most likely potential problem with neglecting maintenance you would get. But then again they were Lennox techs and salesman so don't expect much. Now if you had a Trane or Carrier furnace you could go years longer without doing anything.
Thanks for the tip. We all know that nothing stops a Trane.
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Old 12-19-2013, 08:09 AM   #33
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Thanks for the tip. We all know that nothing stops a Trane.
Don't buy the hype. My Trane had a major repair after seven years (replaced leaking coil) and the compressor blew at 12 years. I'll not take the Trane again...
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Old 12-19-2013, 02:12 PM   #34
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Don't buy the hype. My Trane had a major repair after seven years (replaced leaking coil) and the compressor blew at 12 years. I'll not take the Trane again...
It was tongue in cheek. It is obvious to me that these units are mostly assembled from commodity parts. Installation skill is more important than brand name.
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Old 12-19-2013, 02:40 PM   #35
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I would say that it depends on the type of system.

We're on our fourth home in 40+ years, and have had different maintenance done, depending on the heating type.

The first (propane, hot air); never had service. Of course, we only lived there four years.

The second (oil, hot water); we had service each year during the four years we owned the home. This was primarily driven by a blow back (explosion) that caused fine soot throughout the basement in the first year. We learned to have the ignitor serviced each heating season to make sure it was cleaned/calibrated.

Our third home had a gas (hot water) boiler system. We had it replaced while we lived there (it was a little over 40 years old) due to the water jacket starting to have leaks. We never had any maintenance done to the old or new boiler during our 15 years there.

Our current system (air/air electric heat pump) get's serviced twice a year, under a maintenance plan that costs me $20/month. In addition to just making sure the sytem is running at peak efficency (I change filters on my own - it's cheaper) I also get a 20% discount on parts and labor (no extra for night/weekend emergency service), if needed. I saved a few $$$ last weekend when I had to have a controller card (stayed on emergency heat) replaced.

BTW, my next door neighbor never has her system checked (same size house) and their electric bill runs about 2x mine - even with only one person living there (we have two). I would attribute it to her system never being checked and losing efficiency (e.g. coolent/freon) over time. It seems like it never turns off during the heating or cooling seasons (the outside unit is across from our garage door, so I hear it every time we leave)...

For $20/month, I'm not going to quibble over what gets done during service. It's worth it just to lube the blower and empty/clean the sump - which I have no desire to do . I'm provided with a full report of the diagnostics run and the readings taken, but I have yet to bother to find out what the numbers mean. As long as I have heat in the winter and cool breezes in the summer, I (we) are happy ...
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