Getting furnace cleaned and serviced by a professional every year can prevent tragedies
Getting one’s furnace inspected by a licensed heating and air conditioning professional every year can be a life-saving decision.
That’s because there are several safety issues that can cause deadly consequences if not caught and remedied, says Scott Jacobs, fire prevention officer and public information officer for the Dayton Fire Department.
One of those deadly consequences, particularly with gas furnaces, is the buildup of carbon monoxide, an odorless, tasteless and colorless gas that is a byproduct of the combustion process of the gas furnace, he says. The deadly gas can start to accumulate in a home if stored items in the area around the gas furnace cause the gas appliance to be unable to consume enough air for combustion, he says.
“Furnace rooms tend to be a catch-all for a lot of people and when you clog that area up it doesn’t give those units the proper space and air they need to breathe,” says Jacobs.
Another issue that needs to be checked each heating season is the flue pipes that vent the carbon monoxide gas outside of the building. Animals such as birds or squirrels could build a nest inside the flue pipe that could prevent the carbon monoxide gas from being exhausted outside a home, Jacobs says.
Those types of issues are why the Dayton Fire Department recommends having a furnace checked out, cleaned or serviced by a licensed professional heating and air conditioning specialist every year, he says.
And now is a great time to have the inspection completed. “This is definitely the time of year to make sure your furnace is safe and operational by having it cleaned and serviced by a reputable HVAC contractor with heat exchanger safety certification,” says Greg McAfee, founder and president of McAfee Heating & Air Conditioning Co. Inc.
The cost to clean and service a furnace is between $80 to $140, he says. But signing up for a maintenance plan can provide a discount for that service, in addition to making sure the service is performed every year without the homeowner having to remember.
Amanda Kinsella, marketing and communications director for Logan AC/Heat, says, “We recommend getting a maintenance plan, which includes a furnace tune-up in the fall and then an air conditioner tune-up in the spring.” The maintenance plan also includes 10 percent off parts and labor if anything goes wrong with the furnace or air conditioner and priority service, she says.
McAfee says signing up for a maintenance plan through his company can cost as little as $12.95 per month, which includes annual maintenance of both the furnace and the air-conditioning system, priority service, discounts on repairs and zero diagnostic fees.
If your furnace is getting too expensive to maintain and operate a new, efficient furnace may be the way to go. McAfee says the No. 1 reason to install a new furnace, however, is safety. “The new furnaces have many more safety features than they had just 12-15 years ago and older furnaces have more a tendency to leak carbon monoxide,” he says.
The second reason a new furnace might be a smart move is the increased efficiency of today’s furnaces, which equates to savings, says McAfee. “Today’s furnaces are very high efficient, some getting as high as 98 percent efficient compared to 78 percent just 25 years ago,” he says.
So exactly how does that efficiency translate into savings? Kinsella says, “Furnaces now can be up to 97 percent efficient so that means for every dollar you spend only 3 cents of every dollar is lost due to inefficiency. So it makes a big difference.”
McAfee says the average cost to install a new and efficient model of furnace is between $3,500 and $7,500, depending on the size and efficiency.
One device that costs very little but is also very important to safety is a low-level carbon monoxide detector. “We would recommend installing carbon monoxide detectors in a close proximity to where you sleep because they’re designed to wake you up and alert you,” says Jacobs. And it’s important to remember not to ignore a carbon monoxide alarm. “A carbon monoxide detector can go off and you won’t see, taste or smell anything,” says Jacobs.
Indoor air quality is another issue that can be improved during a service call, says McAfee. “Installation of a UV air purifier and cleaning of the air ducts can go a long way in improving the health of the air you breathe,” he says.
The last thing a homeowner wants is the furnace to break down on the coldest day of the year or when family sits down for Thanksgiving dinner. That’s why it’s important to plan ahead, says Kinsella.
“Take that day where the weather is beautiful and remember that the weather here in Ohio changes on a dime,” she says. “And nobody wants an unwanted breakdown.”