Furnance Inspection

An annual inspection can prolong the life of your furnace and reduce your energy bills. (Photo: Dreamstime)

Much like a car, a furnace needs tuning to keep it in good working order. And regular maintenance will prevent it from breaking down when you need it most. Poor furnace maintenance is to blame for most of the emergency calls heating, venting and air conditioning (HVAC) experts receive in the winter, they say. So, it’s a good idea to have a professional inspect and service your furnace before the cold weather hits.

When should you hire a furnace inspector? And why?
A good rule of thumb is to have your furnace inspected at least once a year. An annual furnace inspection will prolong the life of the system, reduce your energy bills and even decrease health risks. For starters, a furnace inspection will reveal problems within your furnace that may cause it to fail or run inefficiently. Identifying and fixing these problems before winter will ensure that your furnace works when the temperatures drop. And you’ll enjoy lower heating bills as a result of your furnace working at a higher efficiency.

A furnace inspection can also reveal carbon monoxide leaks, which are typically hard to detect. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can lead to headaches, dizziness, nausea and even death. The Center for Disease Control estimates that at least 430 people die in the United States each year as a result of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. And approximately 50,000 people are taken to emergency rooms to
treat exposure.

How much does a furnace inspection cost?
If you have a pro out to do an inspection only, you may have to pay a small trip charge or service fee. (Ask whether that amount will be taken off your bill if you have work done.) If your inspection includes a furnace tune-up, sometimes known as a furnace cleaning, that will typically cost around $60 to $85.

HVAC pros will conduct a number of services in a furnace tune-up, including:

– Cleaning the heating system
– Inspecting controls for safety
– Checking thermostat settings
– Inspecting electrical connections and testing voltage
– Lubricating moving parts
– Inspecting the condensate drain for obstructions
– Checking system start-up and shutdown controls
– Changing the furnace filter

Who should you hire?
Your HVAC system is among the most complex systems running through your home. So, it’s important that you hire a qualified HVAC professional to perform inspections and services. Many states have licensing requirements for HVAC contractors.

The National Contractor License Service maintains a list of each state’s professional licensing agency. You can also search for licenses through Angie’s List License Check. Consult with your local licensing agency to see if the company is licensed, bonded and insured. And always ask any company you’re considering hiring to provide references.

How can you extend your energy savings?
After an HVAC professional services your furnace, there are a few steps you can take to keep it running smoothly. Most importantly, perhaps, is changing the air filter. Energy Star, a branch of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, recommends changing your furnace filter at least once every three months. A clogged air filter will restrict air flow, which can reduce efficiency and increase your exposure to environmental contaminants.

HVAC professionals also recommend using a programmable thermostat. Using a programmable thermostat to reduce your home’s temperature seven or eight degrees for eight hours a day – whether during the work day or at night – can save you up to 10 percent on your energy bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

By Megan Alderton, Angie’s List (TNS). Megan Alderton is a reporter for Angie’s List, a trusted provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services from top-rated providers. Visit AngiesList.com.