Call a Pro or Fix Your Heating System Yourself? Here’s What You Should Know about DIY HVAC Maintenance
We get it. Nobody likes to spend money. And sometimes, with certain things, you really don’t need to. In the age of Google and YouTube, many homeowners can tackle certain jobs around the home by themselves–yes, maybe even some basic HVAC work. But there are certain repairs that no one should ever attempt themselves, and there are certain situations that require professional attention right away. Learning to tell the difference is important, as is remembering this simple mantra: when in doubt, call a professional.
“Wait,” you might be saying, “did they just say I could do this work myself?” But it’s true—with a little common sense and basic hand tools, many homeowners can perform some basic HVAC maintenance (like changing a filter) or repair (like unclogging a drain line). You need working knowledge of the system to a certain extent, and most importantly you need to know what not to touch. After all, many of these systems have live electrical components, spinning fan blades, sharp edges, and freezing cold parts.
In addition to all that, you ought to know your system’s history. At Bell Brothers, we keep records of every system we work on, so if something goes wrong we may have a few ideas based on what the history is. We also keep a maintenance schedule and remind our clients when it’s time for routine maintenance work—they don’t even have to call us!
If You Do Try to Fix It Yourself…
In general, we don’t recommend DIY HVAC maintenance. The risk of injury to the homeowner and the HVAC system is much higher than it would be if a professional was doing the work. But we’re also realists, and we know that people are probably going to go ahead and try anyway. So if you remember nothing else, remember these three things (and keep in mind this is not an inclusive list):
NEVER work on anything that is still turned on. Unplug the device and/or turn off the power at the breaker no matter what you’re doing. This is good advice for anything in your house: if the power is on, or it could turn on, don’t attempt to work on it.
NEVER attempt to work on any system that is pressurized: hot water heaters and boilers being the two most common. Even when turned off these systems can be under pressure and filled with scalding liquid. If that’s not enough incentive, these systems are very technically complex and a mistake can result in an explosion that can maim a person or destroy a house.[1. https://www.mass.gov/eopss/consumer-prot-and-bus-lic/license-type/engineering-div/prevent-your-hot-water-heater-from-exploding.html] And if that’s not enough of an incentive, keep in mind that working on these systems yourself will almost always violate the warranty, potentially costing you hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
Finally, NEVER work on any system with combustible gas. The risk of a gas leak is too great, and the consequences can be truly catastrophic for your own home and the homes (and lives) of those near you.
In addition to things you shouldn’t ever try to work on yourself, there are a few situations when you should call a professional immediately: not tomorrow or today but right now:
If you smell gas. Call 911 and get everyone out of the area. Don’t turn on any lights or cause any sparks.
If your water heater is malfunctioning or leaking water, get everyone out the house and give us a call. We’ll talk you through the issues and make sure we can get it fixed after you get to a safe distance.
Why It’s Usually Cheaper to Call a Pro
A lot of people think they’re saving money by doing work themselves, but that’s very rarely true. Professional HVAC contractors, like Bell Brothers, are licensed by the state to do their work. They have to keep up-to-date with training and new technology, follow every rule in the book to ensure safety, and carry hefty liability insurance to offset financial cost. We’re trained, informed, and very experienced in virtually every situation involving HVAC systems, plumbing systems, and the like.
Contractors are also much less likely to do lasting damage to your system and your home, because they know what they’re doing and have the right tools to do it. They also will let you know when it’s time to replace an old device or part in danger of failing. A lot of folks see that as looking for money from a client, but it isn’t: if there’s a risk that failure causes your family or your home damage, we don’t want to take it. It’s not worth it to us to endanger life or property, and sometimes that means you need a new part. And while it’s very uncommon for a contractor to cause financial loss to a client, if that situation arises they carry insurance for just that reason. If something bad happens while they’re working on your system, a professional can pay for it; if something happens while you’re working on your system, you have to pay out of pocket.
But our time isn’t the only time that comes with a price tag. Your time is worth money too—and homeowners always take more time to do a job than a licensed professional. Throw in the additional hardship of having to pay for your own tools, and working on your own systems starts to look like an expensive proposition. But it doesn’t have to be. With Bell Brothers, there’s just one step: give us a call. Most repairs aren’t as expensive as you think, and we even have a regular maintenance club that will take a lot of the cost out of HVAC work. So if you’ve been thinking about doing your own plumbing or HVAC work, give Bell Brothers a call today.