The Importance of Floor Furnace Inspections

Are Annual Furnace Inspections Really Necessary?

Advice from Just Right Plumbing of Los Angeles
The Question:

I have a question about floor furnace tune-ups. Should I get one every year? Is that really necessary? What do the inspectors actually do to the furnace? It is my understanding they basically vacuum out dust and look at it. Couldn’t the homeowner do this? Do I need to pay $80-150 bucks every year for a professional to do it?

The Answer: These are great floor furnace questions worthy of answers.

First let’s look at whether annual furnace inspections are really necessary? All Furnace manufacturers recommend yearly inspections and maintenance by a qualified technician. They also have their warranties state that damage to the units caused by improper maintenance is not covered under warranty. So an inspection means keeping your warranty. But does this mean that an annual furnace checkup is really required, or the warranty is voided?

Probably not, but it’s recommended. But like everything else in life you need to maintain to retain. A great analogy is going to the dentist every six months for a check-up and cleaning; probably not necessary, but recommended. Nonetheless, look at someone with poor teeth and you can see the results of failure to act.

This hole could kill the entire family.
This hole could kill the entire family.

What do HVAC technicians actually do to the furnace to “maintain” it? A few services you may have heard of are “safety check”, “certification”, “check-up”, “tune-up”, “basic tune-up”, “complete tune-up”, and “annual maintenance check-up.” The services provided by different heating contractors will vary, depending on who you call and what you pay. For example, a recently inspected a boiler had a missing flue cap at the exterior, an undersized vent connector, and a rust hole in the middle of the cabinet that was leaking carbon monoxide into the home. If the furnace had not been inspected it could have killed everyone in the home.

The point is that 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 contractor to inspect 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 a qualified heating technician:

  • 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.
  • Combustion gases must be analyzed and compared to the unit specifications.
  • 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 – this requires complete removal of the blower wheel.
  • An amp-draw test should be conducted on the blower motor and compared with what is listed.
  • 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).
  • In addition to this list, heating contractors say that they regularly do static air pressure checks, gas pressure testing, and temperature rise checks.

FloorFurnace1Couldn’t the homeowner do this? Of course… but the only homeowners I know who are knowledgeable enough to do all that stuff listed above also happen to be heating contractors. If the only thing your furnace tech does is stick a vacuum nozzle in to 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. Just Right Plumbing of LA is known for offering one of the best furnace tune-ups out there.

Do I really need to pay $80 – 150 bucks every year for a professional to do it? In short, yes. This is what a professional charges – maybe even more. For most contractors, $80 barely covers the trip charge. Keep in mind, this isn’t just about safety; it’s also about preventative 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. Do yourself a favor and get your floor furnace inspected.

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