Friday, August 28, 2009

Preventative Maintenance?

This money pit came with a relatively new mid efficiency furnace that was under warranty, as long as we paid $100 per year for a maintenance check. Mature homeowner friends told me that it was the thing to do, so I did it too. But did it pay off? I don't think so.

Last August, on the anniversary of our purchase date, I dutifully had the furnace serviced despite the fact that the fee had crept up to $129. A friendly fellow wearing paper shoe covers vacuumed the dirt out, shone a light around, did some tests with a volt meter and was on his way. The start up made some strange noise, like rumbling bearings, but the technician said that it didn't need to be replaced yet. I felt secure in my warranty, so trusted this opinion.

Three months later, on a cold winter day, the house was strangely quiet and uncomfortably cold. Humm. The furnace was not working. Crap. I called the technician who came the next day, but bearing the bad news that the blower motor was broken and that the warranty had expired a few weeks prior. $625 later, we had heat in the house again and the harsh lesson that despite the annual service, we were not protected. Nor did the annual preventative maintenance prevent the motor from breaking after 5.1 years.

Are warranties a scam or am I just a skeptic? If I had not paid the furnace company for their maintenance visits the previous 4 years, I would have had an additional $430 towards that repair bill.

I called them this August to say that I would no longer be paying their "protection" money, which really only offered me 20% off repairs now that my warranty had expired. But then she explained that for $230, I could have the gold service plan that will cover 100% of repairs this year plus the annual maintenance check. Buying into the public fear, I caved in and bought it. What if this furance turned out to be as unreliable as Dan's Mazda 3? Thoughts of huddling around the electric heater during a Swine Flu epidemic this winter are too sad.

Suddenly I was transformed from skeptic to suspersitious and gullible fool?

What do you think? Are warranties worth the money or are they just a scam? Can I vacuum my own furnace next August and bank the $230 towards my next motor? I do have a shop vac!

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