According to the United States Department of Energy, 49% of American homes use natural gas as their main heating fuel, 34% use electricity, and about 14% use other fuel sources. Many of these homes use either a boiler or a furnace as their heating system.
Due to the highly combustible nature of heating fuels, it is necessary to carry out routine maintenance on your home's heating equipment. The United States Fire Administration estimates that there were 45,900 heating fires in residential buildings between 2013 and 2015, which resulted in 205 deaths and more than 700 injuries. 22% of these residential fires were confined fires that were caused by a malfunctioning boiler or fuel burner, while 25.49% of the fires were non-confined fires that spread beyond their point of origin. More than 44% of these non-confined fires were caused by furnaces, heaters, and heating stoves. This agency goes on to say that 38.5% of the non-confined fires were caused by electrical and mechanical failure or malfunctioning of the home's heating equipment.
Residential fires are not the only catastrophic results of improperly maintained boilers and furnaces. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, heating systems were responsible for at least 22% of all non-fire carbon monoxide poisoning deaths recorded in 2017.
As highlighted by these figures, boiler/furnace maintenance and repairs should always be left to professionals near you that are trained and skilled in the handling of these equipment in line with the Department of Energy's consumer boilers and consumer furnaces standards. Before you hire a boiler/furnace repair contractor nearby, you should ask the following questions:
Are You a Licensed Boiler/Furnace Repair Contractor?
Boiler/Furnace repair contractors are required to obtain a government-issued professional license before they can repair heating equipment. The requirements for obtaining these licenses vary from state to state. For example, Connecticut issues either limited or unlimited heating, piping, and cooling licenses to qualified contractors. As the name implies, a limited license restricts the scope of work that the contractor is allowed to perform, while an unlimited license allows the contractor to perform any type of heating, piping, and cooling work.
In Michigan, boiler/furnace repair contractors are required to have at least three years' experience before they can obtain a mechanical contractor license. New Jersey requires boiler/furnace repair contractors to complete at least one year of journeyperson experience before they can obtain a Master HVACR license, while West Virginia requires all boiler/furnace repair contractors to have a mandatory state-issued HVAC technician certification. Some states like Wisconsin require all boiler/furnace repair contractors to obtain state-level HVAC contractor licenses, while others like Mississippi require state-level licenses only for projects that are worth a particular amount. Note that states that do not issue state-level licenses typically have local licensing requirements.
Before you hire a boiler/furnace repair contractor near you, you should always contact your local consumer protection agency to get information on the specific licensing requirements for your state of residence. The National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies also maintains an online portal that you can use to verify the authenticity of contractors' licenses.
Are You a Bonded and Insured Boiler/Furnace Repair Contractor?
Boiler/furnace repair contractors utilize sharp cutting and welding tools and these increase the level of risk associated with their jobs. In 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded 31 fatal occupational injuries amongst heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers. It also recorded 3 fatal occupational injuries amongst boilermakers in the same year. During this time, a combined total of 7,170 nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses were also recorded amongst boilermakers, heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers, and stationary engineers and boiler operators.
Hiring a boiler/furnace repair contractor that is insured and bonded is a financially prudent move that protects you from work-related liabilities. When your contractor is insured, your financial exposure becomes greatly reduced if an on-the-job injury should occur during your boiler/furnace repair. Similarly, hiring a bonded contractor ensures that you are adequately compensated if the contractor fails to properly carry out the repair job.
Before you hire a boiler/furnace repair contractor near you, request copies of the contractor's insurance and bonding certificates. You can contact the organizations that issued these certificates to verify their authenticity. It is also a good idea to contact your local consumer protection agency to find out whether there are any minimum insurance and bonding requirements in your state. Contractors are usually required to have general liability insurance, workers' compensation insurance, and at least $5,000 in surety bonds.
What Kind of Boiler/Furnace Work Are You Specialized In?
Even though boilers and furnaces are both heating equipment, there is a basic difference in the way they work. A furnace works by directly converting a fuel source into heat. This heat is then transferred to the air by a heat exchanger, and the heated air is distributed through ducts that have been installed in the home. On the other hand, a boiler uses a fuel source to heat a liquid, usually water or glycol. This heated liquid is then pumped through a hydronic heating system to devices around the home like radiators and in-floor heating loops.
There are various types of boilers and furnaces available, but they can all be generally grouped according to their fuel source:
- Electric boilers/furnaces
- Gas boilers/furnaces
- Oil boilers/furnaces
Professional boiler/furnace repair contractors are usually qualified to handle repairs on both boilers and furnaces. However, it is always a good idea to ask these contractors whether they are more skilled in handling one type over the other. You should also find out if the boiler/furnace repair contractor near you plan to hire specializes in a particular group of boilers and furnaces.
Who Will Do the Work?
You should always find out how many people will be involved in your boiler/furnace repair job. Even though boiler/furnace repairs can usually be handled by a single contractor, your contractor may come along with an apprentice to speed up the job. Ensure that you are duly informed before this happens, and find out whether this apprentice is there strictly to observe the job or to assist. Always make sure that any apprentices or additional workers that will be involved in any actual boiler/furnace repairs are all licensed, insured, and bonded.
Do You Offer a Warranty?
A warranty is a written, implied, or oral guarantee that the provider of a service or product offers to assure the purchaser of the service or product on its quality. These guarantees are legally enforceable.
Always hire boiler/furnace repair contractors near you that offer warranties. Professional boiler/furnace repair contractors typically offer workmanship warranties and materials warranties. The workmanship warranty assures you of the quality of the repair job itself while the materials warranty covers any components of the boiler or furnace that were replaced.
Note that warranties typically come with conditions that have to be met for them to remain valid. As such, you should always ask your boiler/furnace repair contractor to issue you these warranties in writing with all its terms and conditions listed.
Will This Job Require a Permit?
Whether or not you will need to obtain a permit for your boiler/furnace repair job typically depends on the type of repair that has to be done. As a general rule, permits are required for jobs that result in a significant change in your home's footprint or structure. Therefore, minor repairs like thermostat replacements do not usually need permits while major repairs like the total replacement of your boiler/furnace will require permits.
Professional boiler/furnace contractors do not generally cut corners and hiring one ensures that your job will be done in line with all the permit requirements for your area of residence. Note that the specific permit requirements for boiler/furnace repairs depend on your location. As such, it is a good idea for you to contact your local building department or consumer protection agency office near you to find out these requirements for yourself.
Will You Provide References?
You should never hire a contractor that cannot provide you with references. Per the Federal Trade Commission's recommendation, your boiler/furnace repair contractor should provide you with no less than three verifiable references. Contact these references and get their opinions on the contractor. You can also get independent reviews of clients near you on the boiler/furnace repair contractor through websites like Google Review, Better Business Bureau, and Yelp.
Do You Have a Business License?
Even though both are government-issued, a business license is different from a professional license. Professional licenses are issued to individuals to certify their proficiency in a specified trade or field. On the other hand, business licenses are issued to business entities to authorize them to operate in a particular area. It is estimated that there are over 30.7 million registered businesses in the United States with less than 500 employees, otherwise known as small businesses.
Always hire a professional boiler/furnace repair contractor that has a business license. This way, you are sure that the contractor is legally allowed to conduct business in your area of residence. You can verify your contractor's business license by contacting the Office of the Secretary of State in your locality.
What Are Common Boiler/Furnace Problems?
Some common boiler/furnace problems are:
- Low boiler pressure
- Frozen condensate pipes
- Faulty radiator
- Faulty thermostat
- Irregular heating
- Dirty/clogged filters and burners
- Damaged heat exchanger
- The boiler/furnace is too noisy
- Ignition system and pilot light problems
- The boiler/furnace is not producing enough heat
- The boiler/furnace keeps switching on and off
Always employ the service of a professional boiler/furnace repair contractor near you as soon as you notice any of these problems.
How Much Does Boiler/Furnace Repair Cost?
Boiler/furnace repair in the United States costs an average of $400 - $900. Note that several factors like the type of repair required and the location of the boiler/furnace can affect this cost. As such, you may pay as little as $150 or as high as $2,000 to repair your boiler or furnace.
Some common boiler/furnace repair cost estimates are:
Cost estimates based on the type of problem:
Cost estimates based on faulty component replacement:
Cost estimates based on the type of heating equipment:
What Are the Factors That Affect the Cost of Boiler/Furnace Repair?
The cost of boiler/furnace repair is affected by the type of repair that you want to carry out. Replacing components like a thermocouple or an ignitor switch will cost you less than replacing a heat exchanger, while replacing the whole boiler or furnace will cost you a lot more.
The amount of labor required for the job also affects the cost of the repair. Boiler/furnace repair contractors typically charge an average of either $50 - $200 per hour or a flat call-out fee of $100 - $250. Therefore, tougher jobs like boiler/furnace replacements inevitably cost more than simple component replacements. Note that this labor fee is exclusive of the costs of purchasing any components required for the repair.
What Qualifications Should Boiler/Furnace Repair Contractors Have?
Boiler/furnace repair contractors are generally required to have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Some boiler/furnace repair contractors also further their education at community colleges and vocational, technical, or trade schools.
Many of these contractors learn on the job through employer-provided training and apprenticeship programs that usually last for two to four years before they become licensed boiler/furnace repair contractors. Finally, some professional boiler/furnace repair contractors also obtain certifications from organizations like the National Center for Construction Education and Research and the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute.
Do You Need a Handyman or a Boiler/Furnace Repair Contractor?
You should never hire a handyman to handle any boiler/furnace issues that you have. Boiler/furnace repair should only be handled by a licensed and professional boiler/furnace repair contractor that is also insured and bonded. These contractors have been specifically and adequately trained to repair and replace boilers, furnaces, and other types of heating equipment. On the other hand, any handyman near you does not have any specific training or experience in boiler/furnace repairs and are therefore not equipped to handle these types of issues.
What Are the Common Post Boiler/Furnace Repair Expenses?
After you repair or replace your boiler/furnace, you will need to carry out routine maintenance on it to ensure that it continues working properly. It is recommended that you service your boiler/furnace at least once a year. A boiler/furnace inspection to check for potential issues can cost you between $50 and $100, while servicing your boiler/furnace will cost you an average of $200 - $500. You can ask your boiler/furnace repair contractor whether post-repair/replacement inspections and servicing are included in your cost estimate for repairing your boiler/furnace or whether you will have to pay for them separately. It is also a good idea to retain the same boiler/furnace repair contractor to carry out this servicing, provided that you are satisfied with the contractor's repair job.
Does Homeowner Insurance Cover Boiler/Furnace Repair Expenses?
Your homeowner's insurance will cover the cost of repairing or replacing your boiler or furnace only if it was damaged by a situation that is covered in your policy. If your boiler/furnace requires fixing or replacement for reasons like improper initial installation, lack of maintenance, or years of use, then your homeowner's insurance will not cover these expenses. According to the Insurance Information Institute, over 98% of the homeowners' insurance claims filed in 2018 were due to property damage caused by situations like fire outbreaks, lightning strikes, water damage, wind, hail, and theft.
It is always a good idea to obtain a comprehensive list of the types of situations that an insurance company covers before you buy insurance coverage from them.
Can I Use Digital Payment to Pay My Boiler/Furnace Repair Contractor?
Yes, you can. Many contractors accept digital payments. This form of payment has become even more common in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Transactions carried out digitally are generally more secure, more convenient, and faster than cash transactions. Digital payments also have the advantage of providing instantaneous receipts, which makes record-keeping easier.
Note that you should always find out your boiler/furnace repair contractor's preferred payment method before initiating any digital payments. Also, you should always collect receipts for any payments that you make via cash.