Is a service contract a good deal?

fandlilMarch 16, 2008

We replaced our central AC last year, and the heating/AC company that did the work offered a costly annual service contract that provides annual preventive maintenance.

We have not signed on. In the 17 we've lived in this house, we only occasionally had preventive maintenance done, and have not had any serious problems. We have a natural gas hydronic heating system which means that when the thermstat calls for heat, water from the hot water boiler is pumped into a heat exchange device (I think they're coils), and a fan blows air over the coils thereby heating the air and blowing it into the house. I believe this heat exchange system is also integrated into the AC, but I'm not sure how and what purpose it serves (Is it the condenser?). The system is very good for smaller size homes like ours (1600 square feet), although it is not the most efficient. We avoided the highly efficient gas furnaces (like Trane) (98% efficient) because they tend to dry the air too much, and using a humidifier to compensate for that can be problematic.

My question is: How often should I have a service technician do preventive maintenance on the system?

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the contract is on just the AC or AC and hydronic?

what do you describe as costly?

what is age of the hydronic?

any problems with either AC and hydronic?

you are changing your filters regularly?

    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 9:27AM
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When the new AC was installed the heat exchange unit was also installed. As far as I can tell, the only thing that was not new is the gas-fired boiler, which is about 10 years old. The installers told us it was in "excellent" condition.

The price they want is $280 a year for labor and lubricants, but any parts would be extra. I really don't feel like shopping around for a maintenance contract. I like and trust this company, but I can't help feeling this is too much money. If I pass up the offer and let the thing go for a couple of years, what are the risks of my incurring a costly repair that could have been avoided?

    Bookmark   March 24, 2008 at 7:13PM
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When I got a service contract my price was $349.95 and it included most parts (excluding compressor, etc.), labor, and 2 annual cleanings/checkups. I hope this helps you evaluate your estimate.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2008 at 7:55PM
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I've gotten great use out of this service contract. I've had a freon added (until leak was found), a capacitor, schraeder caps/valves, and a compressor replaced (under warranty), and I paid nothing for parts or labor. I can't imagine what the bills would have been like without this contract. Given, my system was problematic at the time, and yours may not be.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2008 at 7:58PM
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I think they are a good idea. One major repair and the
service contract cost is re-couped.
A twice yearly checkup for change of season is also
a good idea for prevenitive measures.
Best of luck to you.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2008 at 9:46AM
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Well, you can shop around for prices to determine whether the contract is reasonably priced. It's not a take it or leave it proposition--you could always go to them and say "Why shouldn't I go with the other guy for $180?"

Service contracts are a moneymaker for the company, but that's business. We have one anyway, although it's $140/year (air heat and hvac). We got it for two reasons--preventative maintenance is a good idea, especially on a system that is 12+ years old (as ours is). Second, it gives us priority response if something does break. And you know when things break--the first day of cold weather or the first day of hot weather. And that's exactly the same time that everyone else has problems. So for us we consider it cheap insurance against not having heat or cool.

We're moving in a few weeks, and I may reconsider. Our house will have all new systems so I'm less sure it needs an annual check up, at least for the time being.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2008 at 3:36PM
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You guys got great deals on your service contracts. I paid around $350--but mine is a full service agreement (FSA). I've gotten great use out of it, though--the service tech recommended it for the problematic system, and it has been great to have. 24/7 emergency service, most parts covered, no charge diagnosis visits. I've been able to call the company on the weekend, have them come out and diagnosis it, then come back and install a part at zero cost to me.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2008 at 4:33PM
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