Auto mechanics usually advise changing the oil in your car every three months or 3,000 miles. You can always feel free to ignore those recommendations. But if you do, your engine will seize at some point and you’ll wind up paying much more for repairs than you would have for a simple oil change.
The same basic principle applies to your furnace as well. You don’t have to get an annual furnace inspection, but skipping this potentially time- and money-saving maintenance means taking a risk you might later regret. Having a professional furnace inspection once a year can help your system operate at peak efficiency, and it may even lower your energy bills.
Every major furnace manufacturer recommends routine maintenance and inspections to prolong the life of your system. Read the fine print — some manufacturers may even include language in their warranties that precludes coverage for repairs that stem from improper maintenance. Just ask anyone who’s ever had to foot the bill for a pricy furnace fix, it’s smart to take proactive steps now to keep your system in tip-top shape through the long winter months ahead.
What to expect during your inspection
The main goal of any furnace inspection is to make sure everything is working the way it should. A qualified heating contractor or maintenance service expert will make a house call to take a thorough look at your furnace, offer recommendations and feedback, and tune up or replace parts as needed.
Any device that burns natural gas or propane creates carbon monoxide that exits your home through a vent. It’s vitally important to make sure there are no leaks in the heat exchanger, burners and flue that could let this dangerous gas pool into your home. Gas pipes themselves usually don’t leak because they don’t have any moving parts, but it never hurts to check those as well.
Other elements the service expert will examine include the inducer and blower motor, the thermostat, pilot, safety switch, drain lines, filter, ductwork and general air flow. Depending on the age of your unit, the tech might lubricate some of the bearings and fans and tighten up any loose connections. If everything looks good, the service expert may not need to do much more than wipe down the unit to remove dust and debris.
Early fall is the ideal time to schedule your furnace inspection before cold weather sets in. The last thing you want to experience during a Colorado winter is the heat going off in your home, especially during a weekend or holiday when you’re likely to wind up paying higher rates for a service call.
How much to spend for your furnace inspection depends on the company and how much detail the service expert gets into. Prices for this service can range anywhere from $30 to up several hundred; $100 is a fair rate for a good annual inspection that covers all the bases. Ask for a detailed list of inspection items when making the appointment so you’ll know exactly what you’re getting for your money. And look at it this way — you’re likely to recoup whatever you spend on a furnace inspection in energy bill savings thanks to increased operating efficiency.
In between inspections, there are a few DIY maintenance tasks homeowners can perform themselves to keep their furnaces running well. The best thing you can do to preserve the life of your system is to change out your furnace filter on a regular basis (usually every 30 to 90 days). Also, plan to have the air ducts in your home cleaned every two or three years to prevent excess dust from going into your furnace, prolonging its life and operation.