HVAC Tune Up??? Really??

There are periods of time where we as a company have considered taking on residential customers however more times than not the current HVAC residential companies remind us why we do not. This is not to say that perhaps one day we will decide to clean it up, however for now we are content in remaining solely in the commercial HVAC market.

One of the most offensive scams, at least to us, is the offer to residents via residential HVAC companies for what they are calling a “Tune Up”. Well, when is the last time you drove your 2007 TRANE home heating & cooling system into town? Or when is the last time you took your family on a vacation in your late model Carrier home comfort system? Exactly…NEVER. There is no such thing as a “Tune Up” for your home heating and cooling system. There ARE some basic items, most of which any homeowner can self perform, that should be done periodically on any home heating & cooling system BUT it is not a “Tune Up”.

One might suggest that perhaps we are getting worked up over nothing. Here is why it is such a huge issue for us. The thing is that all these catchy sales marketing techniques, “Tune Up” offers being one of them, are not derived from the minds of qualified technicians. All these catchy ideas come down from inexperienced, strictly business marketing department heads. The end result for the HVAC industry, which we enjoy, is that these dishonest marketing practices place a “blanket” of disgust over the whole industry on behalf of frustrated, ripped off customers.

Let’s look at this idea of a home comfort system “Tune Up”. For the most part almost 100% of home systems do not require any kind of adjustments if properly commissioned on install. Home owners simply should regularly change their filter, clean coils when needed, and at the most have a service company come out for an operational check which should include current checks and electrical connection checks. The only systems really requiring more involved service would be older gas furnaces, and oil burning furnaces. Even these do not require any “Tune Up” but basic maintenance items such as changing the nozzle or oil cartridge. A “Tune Up” suggests that your system actually needs “Tweaked”, if you will, or adjusted regularly.

Furthermore, almost all these companies offering “Tune Ups” either through mail fliers, social media, or otherwise, are offering them at a loss. What does that mean? That simply means that when you’re driving down the road when a commercial comes on offering something like, “Call us today and get your home’s heating system tuned up for the winter for only $39.00!!”. A company cannot make money strictly on that offer. It’s what is referred to in the sales world as a “Door Pitch” or a “Foot in the door”.  That is, unless there is more to the picture, and believe us there is. When companies run these types of advertisements they are depending on a huge response, after all a $39.00 “Tune Up” is a great deal…even if there is no such thing. They train their service staff to make money on these “Tune Up” calls. The technicians end up quoting to customers all sorts of items that do not need replaced or repaired. The result…sure the “Tune Up” was only $39.00 dollars but the list of repairs that you “need” now is out of this world. The amount of “repairs” which the technician suggests are really dependant on how much pressure is placed on them from their company superiors/management. Most times the techs being sent out for these types of calls are not very experienced either. Go figure, right.

An average qualified service technician makes in the 20-25 dollar range. Then you have the fuel and miscellaneous items for the tech to arrive and complete the “Tune Up”. Before the service tech even arrives at your residence the company has already lost money on the “Tune Up”. You can bet your system is going to be in “need” of some repairs.

Simply put, companies have been pushing this “Tune Up” idea lately because it’s a proven money maker, no matter about the dishonesty part. After all, as many think…”it’s nothing personal, its just business.” You might be wondering, “Who can I trust then when I need to service my home’s system?” Our advice here is to first be willing to pay a realistic fee for servicing. Second, choose a company that does seem desperate with lettering all over their van, crazy commercials and flashing lights. Thirdly, know what maintenance your system requires. You can find this out by reading the maintenance manual and if you do not have it call the manufacturer and ask. Oil furnaces are going to require the most maintenance and should need NO ADJUSTMENTS if the system was properly set up from the beginning.

We are not too well received many times in our industry among our competitors. We sort of have a habit of informing the market base of what’s “under the rug.” We are proud of the fact that we do not employ these completely dishonest practices to drum up business. We offer great commercial HVAC services with honesty, integrity, and experience…and those are not just any words to us, they are reality.

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6 Comments  comments 

6 Responses

  1. NJT

    Hi CAS, while I agree with your sentiments about the state of our industry, I must take exception to this statement you made:

    “Oil furnaces are going to require the most maintenance and should need NO ADJUSTMENTS if the system was properly set up from the beginning.”

    This is completely wrong. There isn’t an oil burner made that is ‘set it and forget it’. If the nozzle is changed, (and it should be, yearly) the combustion MUST be checked with an analyzer, and the proper adjustments MUST be made to the air shutter in order to obtain proper combustion. Other items such as fuel pressure must be checked, there isn’t a pump in existence that will not wear over time and have the pressure change and require adjustment periodically.

    Otherwise, yeah, 99% of the so-called ‘techs’ don’t deserve the title. They are HACKS plain and simple.

    • CAS

      Thanks for the reply NJT.

      In response to your concern, oil furnaces absolutely will need maintenance such as nozzle replacements, cartridge replacements, oil pressure checks, cleaning, etc. However, in terms of set up such as excess air intake (shutters)and so on these setting requirements will not change over time provided the equipment environment remains constant. They need to be set up upon commissioning of the furnace and providing that the oil burner is cleaned properly and maintained in good condition no changes to factory requirements should need to be made. There are some issues that would, in fact, alter this such as changes to fresh air intake due to remodeling of the home or other changes and so on.

      Bottom line is that oil furnaces will require more maintenance than most other home heating systems and should periodically have a combustion analysis performed along with a smoke test. Cleaning the oil burner and combustion chamber & flue is a biggie.

      Thank for your response NJT!!

      • NJT

        I think the point I should have made is that the air requirements DO change over time as the equipment wears, and is maintained. What’s the ‘tolerance’ of an oil nozzle? Those are some precision machined pieces, with VERY tight tolerances. If a replacement nozzle is 1% different than the old one, then the air must be adjusted.

        An oil burner DOES need a ‘tune up’ yearly, and whether you realize it or not, you are agreeing with me! ;)

        I don’t think it’s the term ‘tune up’ that is really the issue though. It’s just some sales and marketing guy’s idea of something that Joe Public can comprehend. It’s the shady tactics they use to ‘upsell’ every job they go to that is really the problem.

        On the other side of the coin, I’ve been on TONS of jobs where there are OBVIOUS problems that are completely overlooked by previous techs that have been there. Stuff that absolutely should have been noticed and corrected. I could go on and on about this, but we’ve both got better things to do, I’m sure!

        Keep up the good work! Thanks for listening!

        • CAS


          Thanks for engaging with us on this topic. Agreed…we are both on the same page.

          Naturally as parts and components begin to wear there would be some required adjustments. The consumer’s willingness to replace needed components also plays into this scenario as does changes in the equipment’s environment (changes to the space affecting fresh air..etc).

          As stated in the original topic/post oil furnaces will need the most care over others. The whole point of the topic really was to focus on the less than truthful marketing ploys that so many consumers fall for. The shame of it is that there are some really great HVAC contractors that lose out to these companies because they are not willing to implement such marketing schemes.

          It does appear that we were saying the same..simply just in different ways. Appologize for any misunderstanding. We appreciate all HVAC professionals such as yourself that take pride in the HVAC trade. Thanks so much NJT.

          • CAS

            Wanted to quickly add a response regarding NJT’s comment on oil nozzle tolerance. da man. Most techs wouldn’t even think about design tolerance.

            Anyways, Delavan, a manufacturer of oil nozzles we prefer have a tolerance of 4% of designed flow.

            If anyone wants to check their nozzles specs and info out please visit their site at

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