Many people mistakenly assume that, if their furnace kicks on at the beginning of the heating season, it doesn't need to be serviced. While you might be able to make it through the winter without any issues, ignoring the needs of your furnace is asking for trouble. Regular service calls will alert you to potential problems and improve your furnace's efficiency.

How often do you need to service a furnace?

Under normal circumstances, furnaces should be serviced at least once a year, preferably before you start them up for the winter. Your HVAC contractor may refer to this as a "service and cleaning," a "tune-up," or as an "inspection," but they typically refer to the same thing. This gives your HVAC contractor time to order and replace parts or make any necessary repairs before you need to use your furnace. Yearly servicing of your furnace saves energy by improving the efficiency of the furnace, prevents costly emergency calls in the middle of the winter if your furnace suddenly quits, and ensures that the furnace is safe for you and your family.

What will the HVAC contractor do?

Your HVAC contractor will replace the filters (both air filters and fuel filters), clean and lubricate moving parts, tighten loose bolts or belts, check the electrical components, and test the voltage on the system. They will also check that your thermostat is operating correctly and will check for any leaks in the furnace or ductwork. They will monitor for carbon monoxide leaks that can go undetected and pose a risk to your family's health. Your contractor will also make recommendations for ways to improve the efficiency of your heating system and alert you to any potential issues that may arise. 

Do you need to be home when the HVAC contractor arrives?

While the contractor does not need your assistance to perform their job, they need access to your home. Generally, it is recommended that homeowners be present when the furnace is being serviced. This makes it easier for the service person to relay important information and to assess your understanding of any suggestions or recommendations they have to offer. If you must be away when the contractor services your furnace, discuss it with them ahead of time, or make arrangements for a friend or family member to be present during servicing.

Does your fuel tank need to be full when your furnace is serviced?

No. Your fuel tank does not need to be full, but there does need to be some fuel in the tank so the worker can test the furnace. Generally, at least 20 to 30 gallons of fuel is sufficient. If you are low on fuel, or if you ran out of fuel during the summer and have not had fuel delivered yet, do so before the contractor arrives and alert them that the fuel line needs to be bled.

Do you need to pay the contractor at the time of service?

Generally, conractors collect the payment for their services at the time the services are rendered. However, if you are a regular customer, the company may bill you for the cost of the servicing. Many HVAC companies provide payment plans or offer financing on major jobs. If you require repairs or servicing beyond the initial cleaning and inspection, the HVAC company may apply the fees for the initial servicing to the total bill. According to Angie's List, routine service calls to clean and inspect the furnace typically range between $60 and $85. The cost may be higher if your contractor needs to replace major parts or make difficult repairs.

Scheduling a yearly cleaning and inspection of your furnace before the heating season begins gets your furnace ready to keep you toasty and warm all winter. For more information, contact a company like Hartman Heating, Air and Fireplaces.