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Old 03-28-2018, 10:08 AM   #21
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HVAC does not have required periodic maintenance, other than air filters, so there's essentially nothing an inspection can protect against. An inspection generally cannot accurately detect equipment that will fail soon.

The most common failure that occurs with heat pump systems is one you can easily watch for yourself, whether the fan on the outdoor unit spins when the unit is on. If it fails during the summer you will notice a lack of cooling, but during the winter the backup heat will engage so you might not notice until the arrival of a higher than usual electricity bill. There's a starter capacitor for the fan that often fails after 5 to 10 years. Its imminent failure generally cannot be detected by inspection.
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Old 03-28-2018, 10:26 AM   #22
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Think twice about having the oil delivery company also do the annual maintenance through a service contract. I had a contract with my oil company because I live in New England and wanted to prevent anything going wrong with the furnace during the winter.

I have an old oil tank in the basement. Every year they tested the inside for any thinness in the walls with a camera and it was fine. They have also told me that the legs were rusty but not an immediate problem. Last inspection was a year ago. Then I had one this past December.

The guy who came out this year told me that two of the legs were completely rusted out and the tank could tip over if they filled it, so they weren't going to deliver oil any more. He told me to call the service manager about it. This was in the middle of December and I had 1/4 of a tank left. He said if it got to an emergency situation they would try to work something out. I said I would have somebody else deliver but he said nobody else would because they would want to look at the oil tank before filling it.

Service manager drove to my house and told me he had an in with the tank replacement company they worked with, which I would need since it was busy season for tank replacement. What a nice guy! He called his "in" from my basement. His friend from the tank replacement company came a couple hours later. He told me they could squeeze in the replacement if I would allow them to come and do it some weekend night because they were swamped with work. He could not guarantee that they could replace it before the oil ran out. His replacement cost was a 1/3 higher than the going rate which I had already checked out.

I called another oil tank replacement company the next day, Friday. They came that Monday and the whole thing was done by Monday afternoon at the going rate.

There is a reasonable explanation for every step in that process, and blame for me for not being more interested in what they were actually doing at each inspection and for not asking how long the oil tank legs were going to last. However, I'll be changing my own furnace filter from now on and possibly getting my plumber, who also does HVAC, to have a look once in awhile.
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Old 03-28-2018, 10:30 AM   #23
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Great to hear you stood up to these guys, misshathaway!

This kind of thing you speak about is also rampant in car repair and maintenance.
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Old 03-28-2018, 10:53 AM   #24
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I bought an Trane extended warranty (10 years) with my HVAC two years ago and I believe it requires an annual inspection. Last year's inspection was part of the original deal but I will have to pay for this year's.

In general, it's probably good practice to have the coils cleaned regularly but oft times, these spring tuneups (especially the too good to be true priced ones) are just ways for the HVAC company to find minor problems and over-charge you to fix them. I mean c'mon, I have in my hand a flyer for a Spring tune-up for only $29.95; they're losing money on that so they have to find some repair to charge you for!
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Old 03-28-2018, 11:15 AM   #25
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I've been in my current house for 3+ years and last summer was the first time I had someone out to check the unit. Wasn't having a problem but the house is 12 years old so thought it might be a good idea for a check. They did a quick inspection of the furnace, checked the freon level and washed out the o/s unit. Everything was fine and they charged $90. There are places in town that will do it for $60 but I have done business with these guys over the years and trust them. They didn't try selling me on having periodic checks either.
That’s what we did. And every other year thereafter.

Ants had gotten into a neighbor’s switch and their AC shut down while they were gone traveling.
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Old 03-28-2018, 11:18 AM   #26
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If you are a little handy, IMO there's not much to be gained from an annual inspection, and twice a year is definitely not worth it. Have a working CO detector, regular filter changes, clean the outside coil annually (easy), make sure the condensation drain is working, take a look at the >inside< AC coil every few years and clean >it< if necessary (use the correct cleaner, see the coil manufacturer's recommendation), visually inspect the heat exchanger for cracks.

The one exception IMO would be an oil furnace. They tend to burn dirtier than a gas furnace and the burners sometimes need cleaning/adjusting. Their flue temperatures (esp older, non-condensing models) tend to be higher than the temperatures for gas furnaces, which can lead to accelerated rusting of the flue, etc. The flue should be checked for residue buildup, integrity of connections and of the pipe itself, etc. A once-per-year inspection would seem plenty to me.

Disclaimer: I'm not a certified HVAC tech or even especially knowledgeable on this stuff.
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Old 03-28-2018, 11:19 AM   #27
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I'm also in the "waste of money" camp. I've lived in houses I have owned since 1993. I have never had inspections on any of them. I do always change the air filter on the heater (I have GFA - most common type around here) every few months. I did have the starter capacitor go bad on my current house's AC unit a few summers ago. They ripped me off on the replacement, but I had young kids in the house and it was hot, so it was $400 well spent in that sense.
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Old 03-28-2018, 11:30 AM   #28
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This is an interesting thread to me. Our winter condo is our first experience with a heat pump and HVAC... our other homes had only had heating systems... one fuel oil where annual tune-ups are common and the other propane where they are not.

Given our unfamiliarity with HVAC and that many of our neighbors had annual servicing, we had our system serviced a year ago and I scheduled another servicing visit for next month before we leave for the summer. When they serviced it last year I bought a package of 4 servicing visits for $179... so 4 years for $179 in our case and this will be the second of four. After these are done, I may be comfortable enough with HVAC to go without a contract.... but one of the alleged benefits of being under contract is that you get prioritized over people without a contract if you have a breakdown.
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Old 03-28-2018, 11:31 AM   #29
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I'm also in the "waste of money" camp. I've lived in houses I have owned since 1993. I have never had inspections on any of them. I do always change the air filter on the heater (I have GFA - most common type around here) every few months. I did have the starter capacitor go bad on my current house's AC unit a few summers ago. They ripped me off on the replacement, but I had young kids in the house and it was hot, so it was $400 well spent in that sense.
Starter capacitors are kind of like car brakes. Both are possible to do by a somewhat advanced DYIer.

Both are a bit scary to most, so the service people can upcharge a bit.
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Old 03-28-2018, 11:38 AM   #30
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Starter capacitors are kind of like car brakes. Both are possible to do by a somewhat advanced DYIer.

Both are a bit scary to most, so the service people can upcharge a bit.
I have an old-ish forced air gas furnace, and always have an extra ignitor on hand. They cost less than 20 bucks and take just a few minutes to replace. Cleaning a flame sensor is also a good skill to have.

Ditto on the capacitor (and relay) for A/C. More advanced than the aforementioned furnace repairs, but the parts cost less than 20 bucks. Service people will have about a 1000% markup, plus labor.
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Old 03-28-2018, 11:41 AM   #31
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Our local HVAC places do inspections for $49-$59. They are just as much sales calls as inspectioms. I am not about to pay $150 twice a year for a salesman's visit.

I have a father/son HVAC company that gives me great service fast. They charge $59 for the service call.
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Old 03-28-2018, 11:43 AM   #32
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I have an efficient furnace in the rental, it stopped working because the heat sensor inside the furnace was dirty. All due to the company not coming to do the cleaning as requested. I was having it cleaned due to warranty needs.

Now I continue once per year with cleaning, as this furnace has shown it is sensitive to dirt.

Our home furnace I had cleaned after 14 years ! Cost was $60 with coupon. It really was pretty clean (gas), but he did tell me the igniter was drawing more current, and could be replaced, for about $200.
I declined as I'm thinking of replacing furnace and Air, as they are 20 years old, and will save some $$ on A/C costs due to a new one being more efficient, plus don't want to replace in an emergency.
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Old 03-28-2018, 11:45 AM   #33
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I have an old-ish forced air gas furnace, and always have an extra ignitor on hand. They cost less than 20 bucks and take just a few minutes to replace. Cleaning a flame sensor is also a good skill to have.

Ditto on the capacitor (and relay) for A/C. More advanced than the aforementioned furnace repairs, but the parts cost less than 20 bucks. Service people will have about a 1000% markup, plus labor.
Wow, I'm going to check mine, as I watched him remove it to show me, pretty easy, and his markup is 10x that price (with the install , but he was already there).
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Old 03-28-2018, 11:46 AM   #34
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My brother is in the business - he does recommend inspections (even tho I am not a paying customer) but Iím sure he would think twice yearly was overkill. Still, if itís part of your contract go with it.
I had a presale inspection when I sold a house. The upstairs heat wasnít working. I had no idea because it was the classic upstairs is heated by hot air rising from downstairs situation.
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Old 03-28-2018, 11:53 AM   #35
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We have the HVAC system maintenance done yearly, same company for the many years we have lived here. Good people, good service, helped keep the old furnace running close to 30 years and we only recently replaced it. They have tried to encourage us to get a larger AC unit, as the one we purchased at the time 15 years ago is not as efficient, but for the few weeks we use it each year, not worth it.
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Old 03-28-2018, 11:53 AM   #36
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I think once/yr is adequate for heat pumps in our area. That 75/inspection is a good price, but it really really depends on what they actually do during the inspection. They should check pressures and temps as well as clean the outside coil (may cost extra). I would expect a written report. Sometimes they won't do much more than prioritize your trouble call and give a discount for repairs. With 2 systems it's unlikely they both go out together so maybe not so critical to get priority response to a trouble call. Another thing... I don't understand how a thermostat would cause the problem you describe. That's usually due to low airflow from a bad blower or clogged filters. You say you're not DIY but hopefully you are changing the filters at least every 90 days. Our civic assoc helps the senior citizens with filter changes etc and some folks just completely overlook this.
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Old 03-28-2018, 12:01 PM   #37
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They have tried to encourage us to get a larger AC unit, as the one we purchased at the time 15 years ago is not as efficient, but for the few weeks we use it each year, not worth it.
If your present AC system cools your house well, you don't need a bigger one (i.e. more tonnage). A system that is larger than required can lead to humidity that is higher inside your home.
And, while it is true that newer AC units are more efficient than the ones made 15 years ago, if you only run the unit for a few weeks per year then the energy savings would never pay for the new unit. This is especially true because the new unit will use the newer type of refrigerant, which requires a new evaporator coil inside your home (=more money).
If it is working, just keep running it. It could last a LONG time at just one month per year of use. The only down-side is that it may conk out an an inconvenient time, and you would be uncomfortable until a replacement can be installed. But that might be a decade or more from now.
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Old 03-28-2018, 12:20 PM   #38
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In the early days after we bought our house, I had twice yearly inspections. I was told they inspect the A/C in the spring, and the furnace in the fall, so that's why they want it twice a year.

They were supposed to clean and inspect the unit. Which after a while, I realized meant they'd pull out my garden hose to hose off any debris from the outside unit (and check to make sure there were no ants/vermin chewing on the wires - which I could do myself easily. The "inspect" part inside involved them getting up in the attic and just eyeballing stuff - no cleaning.

We don't do official inspections any more. I can clean the outside unit and we were shown the overflow tube in our attic and advised to throw a cup of bleach down it every year to prevent algae/mildew from clogging it. This is almost always the reason those things back up and cause water damage we were told - live in the Gulf Coast area. (Please do your own checking regarding bleach/HVAC exposure to cleaners for your own unit, just saying what we do as per what a good ol' boy installer told us and we trusted him but it seems to be recommended out on the interwebz too)

In the last few years, a good friend's husband got certified as a HVAC tech and loves his job and now we have a trusted person/company to call if we need work done and know he's not going to jerk us around on repairs/pricing.

Monitor your unit's outside appearance. Watch for any dents/bent fins and make sure no weeds/grass or anything get up against the unit blocking airflow. Locate your overflow valve and do some reading on how to keep it clear, change the air filters regularly. Make sure you have a working CO2 detector in the living areas of your house. If things start sounding weird or the heat/cool part seems to be worsening, then call someone in. Otherwise, you're probably fine.
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Old 03-28-2018, 01:25 PM   #39
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Starter capacitors are kind of like car brakes. Both are possible to do by a somewhat advanced DYIer.

Both are a bit scary to most, so the service people can upcharge a bit.
Right.

Mine went out on a hot day when I had three young kids in my house, so I didn't have the luxury of investigating / root-causing / ordering the part.

After he replaced the capacitor I did the research. I'd feel comfortable doing it myself next time, although if people asked me I would warn them about the capacitor because my understanding is that they are powerful enough to hurt someone badly if discharged accidentally.
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Old 03-28-2018, 01:33 PM   #40
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$300 is a rip off. I think annual inspections or a waste. Twice a year seems double waste to me.

I get one inspection every 5 years. HVAC is 20 years old and works great.
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