Dear Angie: Do I really need to have my a/c and furnace each checked separately every year? Couldn't I save hassle, time and money by having them both checked at the same time, just once a year? — Patricia P., Sterling, Va.
Answer: I certainly appreciate that you want to be as efficient as possible with your time and money, but in this case, it's a better idea to continue having separate inspections, about six months apart.
Top-rated HVAC pros our team interviewed note that even if your air conditioner and furnace are separate appliances, they likely share many components, such as wiring and ductwork. So although a technician will focus on your furnace at this time of year and the a/c in spring or summer, he or she can uncover problems in shared elements at any visit. For instance, one HVAC pro told us he examines the evaporator coil each time he's at a home for a routine inspection.
Experts say it's not wise to go too long between check-ups. One pro likened trying to save money by skipping or consolidating HVAC inspections to driving your car extra miles between recommended oil changes. You might see some short-term financial gain with no apparent issues, but you also run the risk of long-term loss if something goes wrong.
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Heating and cooling systems are major home components, with many moving parts that are often operating continuously. Parts develop wear and tear and dust and dirt build up over the course of several months. When something goes wrong, it can go seriously and expensively wrong. A twice-yearly inspection is more likely to catch problems early, when they might be small and could be more easily corrected.
In addition, if you wait an additional six months before addressing a problem in your heating or a/c, even if it's still functioning, you could cause it to run less efficiently and have to work harder, which will shorten its overall life span and increase your monthly energy bills.
Time of year also matters with a/c and furnace inspections. Ideally, your systems will be checked near the time when you're using them most. When it comes to an A/C inspection, for example, the outside temperature should be warm in order to check the correct refrigerant pressures. Also, furnaces might trip a limit switch if there's too much heat in the cabinet.
When you hire an HVAC service provider for your inspections — which should cost between $70 and $100 on average — make sure to hire a licensed, bonded and insured company with positive online reviews from a trusted site. Also, good technicians will do more than just poke around and replace your filter; they'll check wiring, motors, ducts, evaporator coils and drains, among other things, to keep your system in peak working order.
Angie Hicks compiles the best advice from the most highly rated service pros on Angieslist.com to answer your questions. Ask Angie your question at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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