Furnace - Could I service it myself?

Hi guys,
Do you know of a website with good info/tips on cleaning/servicing furnaces? I am thinking that I probably could do a good job (and save some money - in my area they are charging $120) if I had a detailed guide I could learn from. I rather spend that money somewhere else, really...
Thanks,
N.
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I responded to this, canceled it when I realizd how bad is sounded, so if the original post gets through, I am sorry in advance.
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There may be some simple items in books, but there's substantial knowledge required for proper setup of the components in a modern furnace. Plus theres specific test equipment that will cost you several thousand dollars to buy - unlikely to find it at a rental store - which is needed to make proper adjustments.
That $120 probably also includes replacing the fuel filter, nozzle, vacuuming out the combustion chamber and flue pipes, and making all the adjustments for air/fuel ratio, electrode gap, etc. If you price it all out, parts included, you might find that the 1-2 hours of time is actually a pretty good deal.
However, there are always those situations where the technician is not as familiar with the equipment as you think he/she should be, so you figure you can do a better job. You might be able to, but when something ends up broken and you are without heat due to parts unavailability, who ya gonna call?
It's only costs you that much once a year, and if you break it down, that's about $0.30 per day. And depending on the oil company, they may roll this in with emergency service and call it an annual service contract, which would usually include one cleaning per year.
In my mind, it's worth it.
Bob M.

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snipped-for-privacy@yyyy.zzz wrote:

I've only been a homeowner for 18 months so I really have very little knowledge about boilers. However, the guy who serviced the furnace last year (from the oil company) spent 40 minutes servicing the boiler, at most. He did change the filter and nozzle and vacuumed the chamber and pipes. Don't know if he did any adjustments, he said a boiler is supposed to run at 87% efficiency and mine runs at 84% (or some such thing). He said not to worry, everything looked fine.

Well, but that could happen even if I keep paying the oil company to service the boiler, no?

I'm not sure what that emergency service you talk about is? Every September I sign an annual contract with the oil company which does not include a cleaning service per year.

It may be, indeed. Then again, we are told to change our car's oil every 3,000 miles when, in reality, only vehicles operating under severe conditions require oil changes so frequently. Jxxx Lube's business benefits from frequent recurring maintenance and so does the oil company. That's what I am thinking when I'm asked to fork $120 for the half an hour furnace maintenance gig.
N.
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If you sign a SERVICE contract every year, then when your furnace fails to heat your house, for just about any reason, you call the oil company and they will send someone out to fix it. That's what the contract is supposed to do. It also probably specifies what components of your system are covered. Some plans are better than others, but most cover everything from the thermostat to the circulating motor or fan, whichever you have. AIr conditioning, if part of the system, is usually covered with a separate contract.
Example: you get up one morning and you have no heat. Call the oil company. They will come out and fix the problem. It could even be that you ran out of oil. If you are on an automatic delivery system, then it's their responsibility to make sure you don't run out. If the burner has failed, they'll fix or replace it. All of this is covered by your service contract, which should also include one annual cleaning.
If you've only subscribed to an OIL contract, they you are NOT covered if your system fails during the year, and might have to pay for someone to come out. Check into the type of contract you really signed. If you pay an annual fee, separate from your oil cost, then it's very likely this is a service contract, and one cleaning per year is standard (well, at least it's standard out in CT). Oil TANK insurance is either optional or included, and is probably worth it if the tank is more than 30 years old, because if it ever should leak, you'll have quite a mess to clean up.
I agree that many times they don't seem to spend much time doing the job, but they get to know the systems pretty good and if the unit is fairly new and clean-burning, there's not much dirt to vacuum up. The really seasoned techs can also do a pretty good job adjusting the burner without resorting to test equipment, but I'd rather they use it to show me how things are running, at least once.
If your oil company does not do the annual cleaning even though you pay per year for a service contract, then perhaps you should shop around for another oil company who does, but be careful about the cost for the oil, as that is often discounted for specific customers depending on how much they're gouging you for other services. Check your contract carefully and make sure you're getting what you're paying for.
Bob M.
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If you live in a fair sized City, you might find a manual on furnace maintenance at your local Public Library. I would check with the dowtown, central branch. They have way more technical info than the neighborhood branches. Good luck! Des
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I have gas, not oil. I have a pro come in to check it every second year. (Checked out fine this year.) The rest of the time I vacuum it, change the filter and check for any rust or signs of problems. One part of the furnace that is crucial is the heat shield. Sometimes moisture in the air or a leaky humidifier can cause it to rust. If it rusts through, you will be pumping deadly carbon monoxide through your house. ds

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Dude:
You are talking about hacking your way around a $K furnace that is potentially the most dangerous device in your house. Pay someone $120 to do it for you. It's really not worth the few bucks you save and you don't have the instruments or expertise to do it right or know if there's a wear and tear issue.
MHO, and I'm a cheap ba$tard.
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You might just want to contact a small, independent firm & see how cooperative they are with homeowner instruction for basic maintenance. I'm pretty handy (do most of my own plumbing, electrical, carpentry, etc), but there's a limit on how much I want to do with heaters & A/C. I have a guy who services my 2 home units plus those at my 4-plex. He's been real helpful on showing me a lot of the basics, like cleaning the condensers, showing me which pipes/hoses should be hot/cold and where some of the common trouble spots are. It's been really helpful even when I don't have/take the time to do all that I could - I can give him a lot more info when I have problems and need a service call. Like some others have indicated, sometimes it's a question of tools, parts, and supplies (besides the knowledge) that just don't make it worthwhile for a non-pro to mess with.
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