Do you know of a website with good info/tips on cleaning/servicing furnaces? I
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...
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
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.
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
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
I'm not sure what that emergency service you talk about is? Every September I
an annual contract with the oil company which does not include a cleaning
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
to fork $120 for the half an hour furnace maintenance gig.
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
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.
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
Good luck! Des
I have gas, not oil.
I have a pro come in to check it every second year. (Checked out fine this
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.
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.
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.
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.