Preventative Maintenance | Are Discounted Services Worth the Cost?
Preventative maintenance from a reputable, licensed professional can save you money later. However, we all have seen the commercial, online post, or billboard offering $69 or $99 maintenance for our furnace, air-conditioner or water heater. We think we are getting a deal, and in a sense, we are. We are paying less and hoping to get the same breadth and level of service, but are we? If we are paying less and getting less, are we really getting a deal anymore, or just paying less for inferior service, and then, does it even make sense anymore?
The reality is low-cost maintenance is almost never real maintenance at all, but a marketing gimmick specifically designed to get us to call or schedule an appointment. These low-cost offerings generally consist of a simple 5-to-8-point visual inspection of the unit while operating, which you or I could do in about 5 minutes. The other reality, and industry secret, are most business coaching services and associations teach this method of marketing for one reason. To get the contractor inside your home in order to upsell you additional testing or cleaning services which should already be part of an industry standard preventive maintenance. Even better if they can sell you a whole new system. Unfortunately, our industry has a lack of trained technical service professionals and many companies do not maintain an experienced staff to perform preventive maintenance in accordance with industry standards. The outcome of all of this, most contractors use discounted services because it allows their untrained service people into your home. They do not have to perform the necessary legitimate technical maintenance required, and often aim to sell you something, you may in fact, not need. My professional opinion is that type of marketing is at best a disservice to customers and at worst borderline unethical.
How Do I Know If I Am Getting Real Maintenance?
Air-Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) developed the nationally recognized industry standard for genuine residential HVAC maintenance. Through feedback from industry and experience of leading professionals, this standard continues to evolve and expand with ACCA regularly publishing revisions. The “standard 4”, has been manufacturer-endorsed and details the importance of routine monitoring, adjusting, cleaning and replacement of high wear components and includes more than 35 tasks aimed at returning equipment to good working order. Real maintenance takes time, materials, and tools, and is specifically geared toward improving occupant health and comfort, while preventing breakdowns, and extending the life cycle of systems. A legitimate preventive maintenance requires a skilled and licensed technical professional, armed with several pieces of test equipment, cleaners and other materials, and takes a minimum of 45 to 75 minutes to properly complete. Transparent contractors will also provide clients a copy of maintenance tasks completed with status indicators explaining the equipment’s current condition and recommendations.
Any contractor offering a discounted maintenance completed in 30 minutes or less, who does not use test equipment as part of their offering, or provide a copy of the completed tasks is simply not performing an ACCA standard 4 compliant maintenance service. You are better off not purchasing such a discounted service and instead save your money for future repairs, or better yet invest in a legitimate maintenance program. A real maintenance program includes standard; inspection, testing and cleaning, and will range from $160 to $700 dollars per year depending on the included equipment, frequency of services, and desired level of care. ACCA recommends annual or semiannual maintenance visits although the exact frequency of visits may vary depending on the type of equipment, and more importantly the condition of equipment. Newer equipment may be adequately maintained with annual service, whereas older systems with significant wear and tear may require much more routine care. A good indication of the quality of maintenance is how often you must pay a service provider to charge, repair, or otherwise work on the equipment they are maintaining. If you are paying for a low-cost maintenance program and are still having regular breakdowns and system issues, chances are you are not receiving the maintenance you are expecting or need.
Benefits of Real Preventive Maintenance
When investing in new heating, cooling, or water heating equipment, manufacturers provide a warranty on the system, and parts, ranging anywhere from 3 to 10 years. Often those manufacturer warranties, specify in writing, a requirement for regular documented routine maintenance. In the event of a warranty claim, if the manufacturer determines damage was caused due to a lack of care, the equipment warranty risks becoming void. Imagine buying a new vehicle and driving the car for 50,000 miles with no routine care. You decide not to change the oil, tighten belts, air the tires or change the filters. Eventually, sooner than later, the vehicle will break down, and the damage could be catastrophic. Is the dealership responsible for the damage or the owner who never maintained the vehicle? The same logic applies to any piece of equipment with moving parts, electrical components or gas burning systems. Homeowners insurance policies protect a home and personal belonging in the event of certain destructive events. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), standard policies do not provide coverage for losses caused by normal wear and tear, or poor maintenance practices, meaning catastrophic damage caused due to a lack of maintenance leaves the homeowner saddled with the entire cost of repairs, mitigation, or replacement. For equipment less than 10 years old or still under an original factory warranty, preventive maintenance protects the integrity of your warranties, potentially saving hundreds or thousands of dollars in future costly repairs. Real maintenance matters!
Real testing as part of a comprehensive maintenance can identify weak components early, allowing the skilled technician to recommend proactive replacement of targeted parts at a predetermined and planned time versus waiting for the part to fail at the most inopportune time. Generally speaking, weak parts fail when placed under high amounts of stress which often occur in the heat of summer or cold of winter. Replacement of a part as an emergency will be much more inconvenient because of wait times to procure parts and availability of technicians during peak seasons. Preemptive part replacement can also avert more expensive damage to other interconnected components that rely on a component to start, stop, or regulate operation.
Dirty equipment loses the ability to operate at 100 percent and over time continues to degrade. Cleaning of equipment and critical components ensures systems perform to rated capacities providing the correct amount of airflow, cooling, dehumidification, heating, or hot water when required. A study by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) found cleaning HVAC systems reduced energy use by 20% and improved humidity control by 10%. Another reason cleanliness matters relates to heat transfer and friction. The cleaner components are, the better various systems can move heat into or out of the home or into the domestic hot water. Additionally, dirty parts create drag and friction which throw fans, motors and other moving parts out of balance creating excessive wear. Finally, equipment in direct contact with a home’s air or hot water could become a health hazard to occupants due to microbial growth, chemicals, or other pollutants contaminating the system. Cleaning tasks are an essential element of real preventive maintenance and a benefit to the longevity and performance of equipment, occupant health and the environment.
Finally, taken together as part of a comprehensive maintenance program, inspection, testing and cleaning, offers aggregate benefits to the homeowner in the form of energy use savings and superior health. Specifically, equipment that operates at peak capacities, with little drag, friction or other operational challenges, can produce the same amount of conditioned air, or hot water while consuming less electricity or gas. Receiving the same benefit with less energy input is literally the definition of energy efficiency according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and translates to lower monthly utility bills. Additionally, clean components in contact with our breathable air stream or the hot water we use to bathe, cook and clean protects us from microbial or chemical contaminations.
Home Performance Group Preventive Maintenance in Kansas City
Tired of the gimmicks or illusion of preventive maintenance? Interested in protecting your health, getting the most from your home’s equipment and systems, or simply don’t want the hassle of inconvenient breakdowns? Consider investing in an ACCA compliant preventive maintenance program with a licensed and reputable contractor. The price difference between a gimmick and the real thing can be less than $5 per month but the benefits are colossal!
At Home Performance Group, we offer multiple tiers of ACCA compliant maintenance for heating, and air-conditioners, as well as preventive services for hot water heaters, and even whole home electrical and plumbing. We continue to invest in technical training so we can offer the very best maintenance practices, and repairs services. We have numerous long-term maintenance clients and perform services regularly.
If you are interested in a no-cost in-home consultation, schedule with a Solutions Advisor today.
Article by Larry L. Motley Jr., 1 November 2021
Larry is a graduate of both Wentworth Military Academy and Missouri Western State University earning a double bachelor’s degree in Economics and Finance. Additionally, he maintains six professional tradesman licenses in two states and advanced credentialing in green technology, project and program management, and process improvement. Larry is a three-time combat veteran having served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, and Operation Inherent Resolve. He continues to serve through a value-based building science company focused on providing clients the best design, highest quality installation, and most honest repair services in the community.