What Does It Cost to Miss a Heating System Service?

You’re probably hearing a lot from Fortis BC about the value of annual servicing and safety check of your furnace, boiler, water heater, or gas fireplace.  And if you’re a customer of R&B, you’ll have been getting calls from our lovely front-line staff who really do want to see you get through the winter without needing an emergency service. 

Today is Wednesday, September 27, 2023.  The temperature is 15, and it’s a mild early fall day.   The nights are getting cooler, and if you’re like me, you’ve just reactivated your home heating system programmable thermostat from stand-by to ON!  For most of you that was a routine job that’s forgotten about the moment you walk away.  For others, it’s going to dawn on you that you’re still cold 🙁

I am currently sharing my workspace with my valued collogues Sally & Justin and I’m eavesdropping on some juicy gossip – kidding – some frankly stressful conversations about how they’re going to meet the needs of our customers this week.  They’re both working to arrange bookings and after-hours emergency service for four different customers without heat and one without hot water.  

Without knowing the particulars of the causes of these particular calls, we can be confident that they are resulting from some type of built in safety feature that’s automatically shut down the system, or an equipment failure.  

What’s actually wrong?  

Well the leading causes of heating system interruptions are:

  • Overheating due to air blockage – filter change, cleaning or replacement – preventable with annual maintenance
  • Ignition fails – sometimes due to wear, sometimes due to carbon build up – preventable with annual maintenance 
  • Excess build up or scaling on the heat exchangers leading to failed, cracked, or deficient primary or secondary heat exchangers – this is very dangerous for the home’s occupants – preventable
  • Excessive burner wear and failure – preventable 
  • Motor burn out- lack of lubrication – preventable – Yes!  There’s a common theme here. 

Costs of these repairs range from a few hundred dollars to upwards of $8,000 and more. And today’s warranties are starting to exclude systems where a regular maintenance schedule has not been carried out. 

While you might get away with skipping a year or maybe two, the effects on the system are cumulative.  The carbon build-up will weaken the parts and hasten their deterioration.  Just like your barbecue that’s never been cleaned, the burners stop litigating, the flame turns orange and half the orifices are clogged.  Eventually you have to replace your barbecue which is somehow much more fun than dealing with a lack of heat or hot water – especially if someone is in your home saying “I told you so!”

So… what does it cost?  

In a word, discomfort.  Temperature, unexpected expenses, and possibly a health risk to your family.  Luckily there’s a way to prevent this too. 

What will we do?  

Heating systems can be made up of many different types of equipment, each having their own checklist for servicing.  In general, any natural gas fired furnace, boiler, water heater (hot water tank or on demand / tankless water heater) will have the same types of things checked including;

  • Carbon monoxide readings.  By far the most important thing to check as it relates to gas safety.  
  • Clean-up of carbon or scale build up on burners, heat exchangers, ignition points, etc. 
  • Checking and calibrating flame chemistry for an efficient and clean burn
  • Looking for leaks or condensate where it should not be leading to rust or water damage. 

For more information you can check out Technical Safety BC, formerly the Gas Safety Branch and Fortis BC for a full list of the items that will be covered for your equipment we access each manufacturer’s recommended list.  For example, Carrier posts this service list. At R&B, we upload these service lists to our work orders so you can be assured that each item is checked, keeping you comfortable and off our emergency list. 

It’s very common these days with all the heat pump grants available, for heating systems to be comprised of both a gas fired system like a boiler or furnace, AND a heat pump.  We can’t forget about those wonderful and expensive appliances.  So, be sure to check out our next blog post called ‘What does it cost to miss a heat pump service?”