Pre-Season Check-Ups: Trick or Treat?

15Sep11

With fall upon us, just about every heating and cooling company is offering a $99 ‘Pre-Season Check Up’. Sound great? Spooky stuff really (and just in time for Halloween). You see… not all ‘Pre-season’ or ‘Annual’ check-ups are alike. Let the buyer beware!

Here’s a short True/False quiz about heating and cooling system maintenance. I’ve filled in the answers to make it easy.

True (X)   Good, annual cleaning and safety checks on all H.V.A.C. systems (heating, venting, air-conditioning), whether residential or commercial… are necessary & wise. 

True (X)  Every manufacturer of H.V.A.C. systems and equipment requires  they be done to keep the equipment operating safely and economically…and to keep the warranty valid. 

False (X) All ‘Check-up Specials’ are the same.

Pre-Season Fall Check-ups, Annual Check-ups, and Spring Cleaning Check-ups roll out every season, often for anywhere between $49 to $149.  The reason for the price variation is two-fold.

  1. The change of seasons is a good excuse for a ‘Special’ or a sale.
  2. Since all these H.V.A.C. cleanings and safety checks are necessary and recurring, almost all of us plumbing, heating and cooling companies promote them as a ‘loss leader’.  In other words, as a way to meet new customers and introduce our services.  (We do the same thing, offering our normal Annual Cleaning & Safety Check-up for ½ off our normal pricing).

It’s kind of like milk and other basic goods at the grocery store.  Grocers often sell the necessities at a loss in order to get us into the store, hoping to be able to make it up on other items that are picked up at the same time.

However, there is a big difference between a fixed product like a gallon of milk or a can of soup, and a very detailed Safety Check-up and Annual Cleaning, done by a trained and certified technician, on a system that is potentially dangerous if not operating within specifications.  If you’re not careful, the “$99 Special” may only buy you a generic tech with a spray bottle, a vacuum, and a C.O. detector; not the specific, careful cleaning, safety-checks and combustion analysis you and your equipment need for optimum safety and economy.

Here’s what you should expect a reputable company to do when performing a basic furnace service. The check-list and service on a boiler, heat-pump and/or air-conditioner should be just as comprehensive.

Visually  inspect of check all aspects of installation, for code compliance, safety, and signs of aging, including the unit, gas lines, wiring, and chimney vents, inside and outside.

  • Check and change all filters as needed.
  • Check thermostat operation and accuracy.
  • Check air temperatures in warm air registers and the Delta-T differences at the unit.
  • Analyze and record C.O. (Carbon Monoxide) at warm air register, living space and ambient air at unit, and in chimney vent stack.
  • Analyze and record all combustion gasses in chimney vent stack and chamber.
  • Check and clean burners.
  • Check and adjust combustion air as needed.
  • Check and prove* condensate pump; clean as needed. (*to ‘Prove’ means to activate it and watch it to make sure it’s operating properly and within specs).
  • Check and prove all safety’s; rollout switch, pressure switches, Hi-limits etc.
  • Check and prove ignition controls, gas valve and all motors and blowers.
  • Check and prove transformer, circuit boards, relays and sequencers

As you can see, the comprehensive cleaning and safety-check required by manufacturers is quite a bit more than a quick , 15-minute ‘once-over’ with a filter change.  It’s great to be able to find a good special offer or sale, but when it comes to H.V.A.C. systems, make sure the special is backed by a reputable company who provides comprehensive service, documents what is done in detail, and will still be around with the resources and integrity to stand behind what they do.

Ready for an annual cleaning and safety-check on your heating and cooling systems? Don’t be left holding the bag. Know the difference between a Trick and a Treat.

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2 Responses to “Pre-Season Check-Ups: Trick or Treat?”

  1. Thanks for creating Pre-Season Check-Ups: Trick or Treat? plumbertalk, I had been researching for anything very similar and was happy to acquire the advice through this particular content.


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