Furnace cleaning & thermocouple replacement - how's this pricing? this what I need?
The pilot light on my 25 year old furnace keeps going out. I can light it and it works fine, but after it gets to the set temperature it shuts off. It's probably a busted thermocouple, or so I'm told. The contractor which installed the furnace and services it quoted me xxx for a cleaning and another xxx for thermocouple replacement (no hourly fee). Does this seem about right? What exactly is involved in a cleaning? I don't mind paying the money, just want to make sure it's something worthwhile.
I know there's no DIY here but I did read about replacing a thermocouple and it doesn't seem complex. At the same time, I'm cool with a pro doing it especially so I can pick their brain about what they're doing and learn a thing or two.
I did the math for getting a new furnace but decided against it at this point. If I can keep this going for another year or two with xxxx maintenance per year I'm cool with that.
Last edited by Senior Tech; 12-02-2010 at 01:08 PM.
First of all, there is no pricing allowed on this forum, so you may want to remove them before the mods do. Secondly, at 25 years of age, your furnace is costing you more than your estimated yearly maintenance on it. At best it's 70% AFUE. You would be money ahead by investing a new furnace. Replacing the thermouple requires cleaning the pilot assembly as well. It's not a bad idea to have the furnace serviced, but you should really consider replacing it. There's alot of money just going up the flue and out of your pocket on your 25 year old furnace.
I know it's pretty inefficient, but I don't think the extra savings will add up quick enough for me to replace it just yet. I don't plan on staying at my place of residence for more than 4 additional years.
Some numbers (not pricing) :
I only use the furnace for 4 months out of the year. Even if I averaged $80/month just on gas and could go down to say $40/month with a new furnace, that's still only $160/year, or $640 over 4 years. Over a 10-15 year period, sure, it could "pay for itself", but I'm not going to be here that long.
At this point I just want to keep it running with minimal expenses so I'm wondering what all goes into a cleaning.
I agree about the pilot assembly needing to be taken apart and cleaned as well. The thermocouple may be bad, but if the flame of the pilot is burning lazy and yellow, then it is not burning properly on the thermocoule and will cause the pilot to go out even with a new thermocouple. (not to mention it could be an intermittent issue with the gas valve) The pilot assembly needs to be taken apart and cleaned properly by a trained pro. so no damage is done and so it is re-installed correctly so the furnace does not explode on.
Since it is 25 yrs old, then there is a good possiblility it could have a crack or cracks in the heat exchanger which would pose Carbon monoxide threats to those in the house as well as could be a fire hazard.
It would be worth having a pro out to replace the thermocouple, if he is going to clean the pilot assy. as well and do a thorogh check on the heat exchanger for safety.
just my two cents.
I don't know what he quoted you but if it sounds to high to you then get
another quote. Being the age of the unit make sure you get the heat
exchanger checked for cracks.
You could need a new thermocouple,its a common thing to replace.The pilot burner could need cleaning,or the gas valve could need looking at.
It could also need a new heat exchanger as cracks show up after the metal is heated and expands which causes the burners to become wavey like its in a blower storm which could blow out the pilot.
What you need is a good clean and check with special attention given to checking the heat exchanger for cracks,checking the gas valve for proper function and checking the pilot.
All of these things are done with a good clean and check but if you don't bring up these 3 things with the tech before he starts he may just eyeball the operation and not look very closely.
My opinion, if the contractor installed it and has been around successfully for 25 years, chances are you can trust them.
Originally Posted by Muscle
Strange, I clean
pilot and burners and exchanger on all my calls. Replace thermocouple automatic if looks over 2 yrs of age. never a complaint. Im there anyway. Costomer will always pay that little extra
999 times out of 1000 it is just a dirty pilot. But I still sell 1000 tcouples because they look so rotten! Black ( heated ) copper is the one out of 1000 that is bad.
Not a lot of tcouples around these days.
Sorry I couldn't see the price for your new thermocouple, but I'm sure you would *#@* if you saw our price for that 4 dollar part.
Consider a new furnace. That 25 year old unit is going to die, most likely in the middle of some very cold weather, it may cost a bundle to get it going, and you'll still have a 25 year old pos sitting there as your only source of heat.
There are more important considerations than return on investment.
"Hey Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort." And he says, "there won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness." So I got that goin' for me, which is nice. - Carl Spackler
Thanks for the replies guys, really good info. For now I'm going to call up the contractor and schedule a cleaning + thermocouple replacement (the replacement is pretty cheap) and will ask to have the heat exchanger checked. I also figured that if a contractor stayed in business for 25 years now they got their act together. Just fyi I do have a carbon monoxide/deadly gas detector sitting right next to the furnace for this particular reason and it's always been at 0.
Good for you for scheduling to have it serviced and cleaned. Thought you might be interested in a little more info that could be useful. Carbon monoxide can get into the house from a furnace two ways, if it is an old one like you have (a natural draft one) then if the flue gets clogged CO will come out into the house right there by the furnace. If the heat exchanger gets cracks in it, then on extended run time, like at night when it is coldest out, those cracks will open and CO can and will get out into the air stream and come out the vents. Would be good to also have a CO detector somewhere else in the house that you can hear if it goes off while you are sleeping. Also CO detectors usually state in the fine print that they should be replaced every 5 yrs.
Also, aside from CO danger, cracks in the exchanger pose another danger...fire hazard. Again on extended run time as the cracks open the flames will start to come out the front of the furnace which can and does many times cause fires. The newer furnaces have rollout limits around the burners to shut the furnace down if that happens, however the old ones like yours did not.
one plus on replacing the furnace now is if you are selling your house in 4 yrs..
it will be much easier to sell w a 4 yr old furnace vs a 29 yr old one..
and you can benefit from the savings for the remainder of your time there