Are Annual Furnace Inspections Really Necessary?

Your furnace is the heart of your home in the wintertime. Without it, it would be impossible for your home to be habitable on a cold winter’s night. This is why it’s important to keep it well maintained if you intend on staying warm all winter long. This requires a furnace inspection by an HVAC professional. But how often does this inspection really need to occur?

The simple answer is service schedules sort of differ depending on the brand and type of furnace in your home. Most manufacturers will recommend a service schedule of once every 2 to 5 years. For the Pittsburgh area homeowners we serve, due to the harshness of Western Pennsylvania winters, as well as environmental and architectural (lots of older large homes) components, we recommend your furnace be inspected once a year. Preferably, prior to its first use when the weather turns cold.

Is it necessary? The best analogy we can think of is it’s like scheduling a dental appointment every six months. You’re going for a basic check-up and cleaning. It’s probably not necessary but it’s recommended since the overall health of your mouth will be better through the long run. You’re less likely to be one of those people running to the dentist in agonizing pain from a sudden toothache. The dentist will catch issues when they’re small; before they become a bigger problem.

That’s the idea behind an annual furnace inspection. Looming issues can be caught before they escalate into a more expensive problem. You’re less likely to need to call an emergency 24-hour HVAC service when your furnace suddenly stops working on a cold, cold night. That’s because an inspection and some maintenance before you start running your furnace will prevent that complete system failure from happening.

But what does a furnace inspection and tune-up consist of?

Every HVAC contractor is going to have a description with subtle differences in language that make it almost impossible to compare services between competing heating companies. For instance, you may see this service described as a furnace “check-up”, “safety check”, “certification”, “tune-up”, “complete tune-up”, “basic tune-up”, “ or “annual maintenance check-up.”

Services will vary from one HVAC contractor to the next. This is why you need to know exactly what services the HVAC company you hire will provide as part of their annual inspection and tune-up. We’ve compiled this list of generic services recommended annually by different furnace manufacturers. These manufacturers expect these services to be carried out by a qualified HVAC technician:

  • Check vent system for blockage/leakage
  • Check blower access door to ensure the seal at the furnace is tight
  • Analyze and compare combustion gases to the unit specifications
  • Inspect heat exchanger for rust and corrosion
  • Check fresh air intake grills and louvers for blockage
  • Check drainage system for blockage and/or leakage
  • Check burners for proper ignition, burner flame, and flame sense
  • Check blower wheel needs for debris and remove blower wheel to clean if necessary
  • Clean condensate drain and trap and replace water in the trap
  • Check wiring for corrosion and damage.
  • Conduct amp-draw test on the blower motor and compared with what is listed.
  • Check and replace filters if necessary (this needs to be done several times a year)

In addition to this list, gas pressure testing plus static air pressure and temperature rise checks are also performed.

What does a HVAC Tune Up Cost?

You get what you pay for. A cheap furnace tune up will most likely skip some important services. Remember, annual furnace maintenance isn’t just about safety. Preventative maintenance is another reason you want a yearly furnace tune-up. The more thorough the inspection and cleaning services are, the less likely it is you’ll wake up in the middle of a January night with no heat thanks to a furnace that has quit working altogether. When that happens, you’ll need an emergency HVAC service since your furnace stopped working, which means you’ll be paying emergency rates. Paying a little more for an HVAC tune up will ultimately save you money in the long run.


Top Notch Heating and Cooling provides HVAC tune-ups in Pittsburgh. If you’d like to learn which services our furnace tune-ups include, contact us today at 412-381-0598 or by reaching out to us online at