NHI Technical Bulletin: How Often Should You Service HVAC Systems?

How often should furnaces, air conditioners, heat pumps, boiler systems, ductless heat pumps, and the like be serviced?

Most inspectors and HVAC contractors/specialists will advise that your furnaces, air conditioners and the like be serviced annually. American Home Shield, Angie’s List and others concur, especially in areas with 3+ distinct seasons, which is what we see here in the Pacific Northwest.

As systems become older (10+ years), it is absolutely critical that the annual maintenance not be skipped, and you might even consider having the systems serviced twice a year from that point on. Over time, moving parts wear out, break down, rust and corrode, or otherwise fail, and as the system gets older the possibility of part failure or complete system failure becomes greater. In this sense, HVAC systems are very much like a vehicle. As one company notes, “If your unit is 15 years old or more and requires frequent repairs, it may be time to talk to your local HVAC professionals about replacing it with a newer, more efficient model.”

Question: “When does Nickelsen Home Inspections, LLC make this recommendation?”

Answer: First, it should be noted that advising service on a HVAC system is itself beyond the Standards of Practice and if advised it is being mentioned as a courtesy. If we have no clear evidence of recent servicing, we are likely going to recommend it in our reports. If we do, it should be noted that the report also states elsewhere in the report that such servicing should take place prior to closing on the home, if it is for a real estate transaction.

Question: “I had my system serviced and they made recommendations or notes that you didn’t mention in your report. Shouldn’t you have mentioned such things?”

Answer: We wouldn’t be surprised if the contractor himself noted that the “inspector should have” mentioned X or Y problem. Home inspectors are not specialists—they are professional generalists. We do not approach HVAC systems the way that an HVAC contractor will. I have seen HVAC contractors spend as much time with only the HVAC system as we do for an entire home inspection where the HVAC system is only part of the overall home inspection! Needless to say, we are not there to note of every single possible problem. As such, it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone if the system is serviced and an HVAC contractor finds additional problems. By advising that the system be serviced, we are incorporating the findings and recommendations of the HVAC contractor into our report by way of reference.