A guy from the gas company was at my home last week for a routine inspection
and while he was here he tried to upsell me on a maintenance contract for my
furnace to the tune of $10 (CAD) per month.
Mine is a high efficiency furnace of about 12 years of age. It has cost me
nothing but replacement filter costs during this time. He sited a couple
items that were due or likely to fail (exhaust blower, circuit boards,
sensors), that if I were on the contract would be covered for materials and
labour to repair. His pitch basically was that if only the exhaust blower
needed replacement at an approximate cost of $900 (CAD), the contract would
be justified for years to come.
So, I solicit your opinions. What sorts of repair costs would be commonly
associated in maintaining a furnace in the 10 to 20 year range of its life.
Is such a contract a cash cow for the gas company, or something of
reasonable value to the consumer?
For a start, I would contact a local contractor, tell them exactly what
you have and ask them how much they would charge to replace the "exhaust
blower." My guess is it will be a lot lower than $900. That should tell
you all you need to know about the company trying to sell you a contract.
Frankly my furnace is also about 12 years old and I would not want to
put any serious money into it. I would rather replace and upgrade what I
Yes, and insurance companies make money writing insurance policies (we all
have insurance policies of some sort).... of course their point is to make
money, and I don't deny any company a reasonable profit. The question
relates to whether the cost of $10 per month is reasonable in consideration
of the cost one might pay to maintain such a piece of equipment, or
exorbitant and unlikely in average terms to see a payback.
Is a 12 year old system "old" by generally accepted terms? I would have
thought not. Perhaps I am ignorant but I would expect the life of one of
these things would push 40 plus years with the occasional component
replacement. I'm thinking that lots of things would have to fail in concert
for replacement to ever be cheaper than fixing (or many things pending
Considering that the subject unit is of high efficiency, the same service
man that was upselling me could offer no reason to replace the unit in the
next 15 years assuming it is functional. Replacement generally would make
sense if it was a low efficiency unit and the energy savings would pay back
the replacement cost.... if it is high efficiency and working don't replace
What components commonly fail in these things and what are the major
component design lives?
Oddly, the contract is perpetual and so is the vendor's committment to
repair the unit provided that parts are available.
According to Appliance magazine the average life of a gas furnace is 20
In my experience the failure modes are the flame sensor, the ignitor,
the gas valve, limit switches, the inducer motor and the heat
exchanger...not necessarily in that order. On furnaces with electronic
controls the control modules are subject to failure.
The contract covers failure not attributable to neglect, and does not cover
the burner/heat exchanger (terms?).... in an nutshell. But, the burner/heat
exchanger is under a 20yr (pro-rated) warranty from the OEM. And yes, the
exhaust blower is under the warranty.
High for a new unit that probably will not need a repair soon. Not too bad
for an older unit that may have a problem coming up. If I was to put that
money in the bank, I'd have enough saved to buy a new unit if mine failed
today. One service call in 24 years (I do have annual cleaning though.)
I've never bought a service policy on anything except my first power mower
because my son was just at the right age to cause a problem. Had it for a
year and came out ahead. Dropped it after that.
Crunch some numbers. Like a previous post, it may well pay to upgrade
rather than repair when your furnace goes south. High efficiency
models may recoup their cost in 5 years compared to your current
model usage. The cost to repair may be in line with the contract
($120/yr) after you check prices of buying a motor and doing it
yourself. Make sure other "likely to fail" components are covered
also, like circuit boards, capacitors, heat exchangers, heating
elements. In the end, insurance is always a catch22, you want to
spend for it and then hope you really never need it. If there is some
other guarantees like "fix-it-in-24 hrs" or absolutely no costs then
it may be worth your "lack of hassle". Check the fine print, some may
say they will fix it or return your money instead (not fun to loan
someone else your money and get your original investment back).
$900.00 for an exhauster motor? Ouch, that's steep! The 10.00 doesn't
seem too bad, but I think I would put that into a new furnace fund
instead. 20 years average for gas furnaces. Your high efficiency
furnace may no longer be considered high efficiency dxue to
improvements in technology. I never saw a furnace that was called Low
You'd be amazed what people will pay when it's cold. A couple folks I used
to know paid about 200 for a hot surface igniter one cold night. House was
about 45F, and they couldn't find someone who took checks.
I've also never seen a furnace called "low efficiency".
Let's not take things too literally. Sure, furnaces are not marketed as
"low efficiency", but certainly there are many furnaces out there that
operate at lower efficiency levels than a modern (marketed as) "high
efficiency" unit, and thus for general and basic comparative discussion can
be termed "low efficiency". So to not offend anyone, how might one refer to
anything other than a modern "high efficiency" unit?
The age is not the issue but the advancements in technology may help
lower operation costs. I do not think most of the concepts of a
furnace have changed too much but how efficently and smoothly it runs
has changed, even in 12 years.
As an ex printing equipment mechanic who prides himself in being able to fix
most things I hate buying service contracts. However that being said I'm
have been finding myself buying more of them than I like to admit. The
reason is that most new appliances just are not made as good as they used to
be. CBC radio in Ontario has a monthly appliance repair question and answer
call in show and the technician is a real straight shooter who tell most
people to repair their older appliances because the replacements available
are usually junk no matter how much you spend.
As far as furnace contracts are concerned there is another glitch that makes
them a necessity and a rip off at the same time. Furnaces don't break down
in the summer they usually pack it in on the coldest day of the year and
service companies only look after their contract customers and non contract
break downs don't stand a chance of getting done till the rush is over.
Even contract customers can legal be forced to wait up to 48 hours as per
the condition of their contract. I have a business permit and all my tax
numbers and I can't purchase parts from my local heating and plumbing store
because I'm not A licenced heating contractor. When my mothers furnace
broke down just after the warantee ran out it cost me just under $250.00 to
replace the igniter unit and that took less than 15 minutes. Part was
$60.00 and labour etc. made up the balance of the bill. Vent fan blew a
couple of months later and they wanted $600.00 plus labour to replace it
luckily a friend of my son is now a licenced gas fitter and he got the part
for under $200.00 and installed it N/C. Since all this happened I purchased
contracts on my boiler and my mothers furnace and in the last 7 years we
have had 6 igniters and one circulating pump replace and the total of all
those calls comes to $2500.00. Cost of the 2 contracts less than $1400.00.
I don't like being screwed any more than anyone else but these bastards seem
to have us all by the short hairs but in my case I seem to be ahead of the
game as far as furnace contracts go. My sons friend says the new furnaces,
water heaters etc. are real junk and if he wasn't in the business he would
certainly purcase a contract
Sorry for the rant
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