If you’re a homeowner looking to install or repair your HVAC system, your HVAC company will most likely offer you a maintenance agreement. This is sometimes also referred to as an extended service agreement or maintenance plan. There are many names for these agreements but they’re all essentially pre-paid contracts to have your HVAC system inspected a few times a year.
At Minnick’s, we have over 65 years of experience helping Maryland homeowners service their HVAC equipment, and we have realized that the typical HVAC maintenance agreement is not the best option for many homeowners. In this article, we’ll explain what maintenance agreements are, how you can determine if one is right for you, and we’ll also leave you with some alternative options to your typical maintenance agreement. First, let’s start with a quick history on why maintenance agreements were created.
Why were maintenance agreements created?
The initial concept behind maintenance agreements was to provide a mutually beneficial solution for both the homeowner and HVAC company. Homeowners tend to wait until it’s freezing temperatures or uncomfortably hot outside before even thinking about turning on their HVAC unit. Waiting until these moments is often accompanied by the discovery that it isn’t work when they need it most. This behavior is repeated by lots of homeowners and creates what the HVAC industry knows as the busy season. During these busy times, HVAC companies can become overwhelmingly busy and are often unable to offer same-day service.
Imagine it’s freezing outside, and you have no heat in your home. You’ve just called your HVAC company and are told that the earliest they can send a technician out is in 2-3 days. At this point, you’re probably upset or looking for another HVAC company to call. This is a scenario both homeowners and HVAC companies want to avoid, which leads to the primary reason HVAC companies created maintenance agreements. By creating maintenance agreements, HVAC companies can avoid angering and upsetting clients by scheduling their maintenance inspections during slower times when they can offer more immediate service.
What are the benefits of maintenance agreements?
Rescheduling appointments to the slower season create an immense benefit for the HVAC company by providing a steady stream of income during a time when revenue is down. In exchange, the homeowner benefits from receiving regular preventative maintenance. The idea here is that by performing more routine inspections, the homeowner will be able to identify and fix small malfunctions sooner before they can potentially damage the whole system.
The problem with HVAC maintenance agreements
At Minnick’s, our problem with standard maintenance agreements is that most agreements only include two annual appointments where a technician will come out to your home to perform a basic cleaning and visual inspection of your HVAC unit. Keep in mind, that after the technician discovers issues, you must then pay again to fix the found issues. Your most basic HVAC maintenance agreements usually includes the following:
- A visual inspection and cleaning of your heating system at the start of the winter
- A visual inspection and cleaning of your air conditioning system before summer
- Priority scheduling over clients without maintenance agreements
On average, the cost for the included basic inspections can range between $200 and $500 per year. Any repairs or worn parts that need replacing usually cost extra.
We find that this causes a lot of misconceptions around maintenance agreements in the HVAC industry. Homeowners pay these annual fees even if they don’t have any work done and often assume that they are covered when they do need repairs.
Is a service agreement right for me?
Don’t get us wrong, we are not saying that you should immediately cancel your HVAC maintenance agreement. Instead, we are encouraging you to explore and fully understand all of what is included in your contract with your HVAC company. Looking into the specifics of what is included in your maintenance agreement should help you to evaluate if it is right for you and your home. If you’re struggling to weigh the decision, below are some questions you can ask yourself.
- What am I paying for? Just two cleanings and visual inspections? Are there any added benefits? (Discounts, priority service, etc.)
- How old is my HVAC unit? If it’s in its first few years of operation, could one maintenance call a year suffice?
- Is my HVAC unit under warranty? If so, are there manufacturer clauses requiring routine maintenance for the warranty to be valid?
What Are My Other Options?
If you decide that service agreements are not a good fit for you, this doesn’t mean you should just ignore HVAC maintenance until something goes wrong. It’s still a wise decision to routinely have your unit inspected for needed maintenance and cleaning. You may find that it’s more cost-effective for you to individually pay for HVAC inspections, especially if you have a newly installed unit. Maintenance agreements vary from company to company, so be sure to do your own research. However, if you find that the agreement is costing you more than the repairs, it may be time to consider individually scheduling your appointments.
At Minnick’s, we feel strongly that traditional maintenance agreements are a disservice to homeowners. So, in 2012 we discontinued our traditional maintenance agreements and created two alternative maintenance plan options that we feel put the needs of the homeowner first.
Minnick’s Simple Maintenance Plan
With our Simple Maintenance plan, we’ll send a Minnick’s trained technician to come and perform a check-up on the health of your home’s HVAC system twice a year. The main differentiator between our Simple Maintenance plan and a traditional maintenance agreement, is that we don’t charge the homeowner a fee until after the inspection is complete.
In our 65+ years of business, we found that its common for homeowners to pre-pay for inspections but forget or neglect to schedule a time for the technician to come and perform the inspection. Paying for work that did not occur is not in your best interest, so that’s why we created this simple pay-as-you-go style of HVAC maintenance. If you live in the state of Maryland and would like a simple way to schedule HVAC maintenance without locking into agreements, our Simple Maintenance plan may be a good option for you.
Minnick’s Smart Maintenance Plan
With our Smart Maintenance plan, we leverage smart home technology to automate your HVAC inspections. Our technicians will equip your HVAC unit with custom sensors that analyze your system to predict and detect HVAC malfunctions 24/7.
This tech-forward option is an innovative upgrade to the traditional maintenance agreement. Our smart maintenance plan is the equivalent of having an HVAC technician check your HVAC system every month of the year.
Our smart maintenance technology excels at detecting malfunctions before they can damage other components of your HVAC system. When our sensors detect a possible HVAC malfunction, we offer our Smart Maintenance clients a FREE same-day service call to immediately address the problem.
Even if the sensors don’t detect any problems all year, we’ll still send you one of our technicians to perform a maintenance inspection at no additional charge. This option is perfect for the watchdog-style of homeowners who want to catch and fix any potential HVAC malfunctions as early as possible before they can grow into more costly repairs.
Do Your Research
Before signing a maintenance agreement contract, consider what you’re really paying for and if it makes sense for your unique situation. No matter if you choose a traditional maintenance agreement or opt for one of our alternative HVAC maintenance plans, any form of proactive HVAC maintenance will go a long way in saving you money on repairs and extending the lifespan of your system.