Heat Exchanger Inspection in Akron, Cuyahoga Falls & Stow
Do you have a question about why some heating companies check heat exchangers differently than other heating companies? Or why you should have your heat exchanger checked? Or what it means if your heat exchanger has a crack or a hole in it? Or why one heating company says the heat exchanger needs replaced and another heating company said your heat exchanger is just fine? Then read on.
Why Do We Perform A Video Inspection on your Furnace?
A heat exchanger in a residential gas fired furnace is a metal container that keeps the products of combustion (Bad air; i.e. carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and combustion byproducts) away from the hot air your furnace sends out into your home. This is the air you will breathe in your home. This heat exchanger is a very important part of your furnace. Often, we in our industry may refer to your heat exchanger as “the heart of your furnace.”
Heat exchangers are so important that the manufacturer of your furnace often warrants the heat exchanger for 10, 15, 20 or 25 years. Some better furnaces may even come with a lifetime heat exchanger warranty. Top rated furnaces may even come with a warranty that should your heat exchanger ever fail, the manufacturer will provide you with a new furnace at no charge to you.
Did you know? ASHRAE, a governing agency in the heating and cooling industry says the average life expectancy of a gas fired furnace in the United States is 18 years. We are in the north, so that may be a little high, but this number gives you an idea of how long you may expect your furnace to last.
The manufacturer of your furnace (Lennox, Trane, Carrier, Amana, etc.), Dominion /East Ohio Gas & our company all recommend an annual inspection of the safety mechanisms of your furnace, the general operation of your furnace and an inspection of your heat exchanger on your furnace annually. This inspection does not need to be preseason, just annually.
We find that our customers employ us to perform this inspection, which is part of our “Precision Tune-Up” (or PTU for short) not only to make sure everything is running correctly, but to make sure they are safe in their home.
A Historical Approach to Heat Exchanger Inspections
In the Greater Akron Area, the heating industry has historically used a “Smoke & Mirror” approach to checking heat exchangers for cracks or leaks. The technician will heat up the furnace, place a smoke bomb inside the heat exchanger and then look for leakage above the heat exchanger.
Did you know? The American Gas Association, states, “Any visible crack or hole in the heat exchanger is a reason for requiring replacement of the heat exchanger.” Not recommending. Not encouraging. Requiring!
The problem is the smoke does not always fill the entire heat exchanger or flow through a crack. Also, with an air conditioning evaporator coil mounted on the top of the furnace, it is often virtually impossible to visually see the smoke escaping from a crack.
The tech will also use a flashlight and mirror to visually inspect what part of the heat exchanger he can see. The problem here is simple, the tech can usually only inspect up to 20% of the heat exchanger. Leaving 80% or more of the heat exchanger still out of visual range of the tech!
That is why this inspection has earned the dubious nickname, “Smoke & Mirrors”.
Did you know? The American Gas Association does not accept a low carbon monoxide reading as evidence the heat exchanger is good. If your heating technician depends on a carbon monoxide meter to insure your safety, find another heating technician that abides by the American Gas Association’s recommendations.
A high definition-high resolution camera inspection system was first offered to our industry in 1987. It was called The InspectorTM. The InspectorTM for the first time offered a technician the ability to virtually inspect the entire heat exchanger for cracks or holes. Thousands were sold to heating companies throughout the US and Canada.
Next, a two day training school was made available for technicians to learn to properly use The InspectorTM to check heat exchangers. Later, audio and video recording were added to The InspectorTM.
Unfortunately, very few heating companies utilized The InspectorTM with the training. Probably due to the cost.
Recently, inexpensive low definition cameras have come onto the market. These low definition cameras do not come with any professional training. We will compare them to The InspectorTM later in this report.
Tools & Training & Time
We have discovered that even though a technician may have graduated from a two year heating and cooling training program, the “tech” rarely has sufficient training to properly check a heat exchanger in your furnace. Therefore, we will not let a newly hired tech go by themselves on any service call until the tech has gone through a two day school that teaches the tech how to properly perform a heat exchanger inspection.
This school is located outside Chicago, Illinois and is taught by one of America’s leading heat exchanger inspection experts. There is not only classroom instruction, but there are usually 40 or more old furnaces of all makes, models & ages for the student/technician to inspect. The student/technician must be tested on and certify on every single heat exchanger there in order to pass. Only 100% is acceptable!
Every one of our techs are also equipped with The InspectorTM. The InspectorTM is a very expensive tool that our company provides to each tech. Properly outfitted, The InspectorTM cost us between $3,000 to $4,000 each. Training each tech costs our company an average of $3271 per tech.
As to time, it takes our techs a significant amount of time to thoroughly inspect your heat exchanger with The InspectorTM. Far more time than the “Smoke & Mirrors” heat exchanger inspection we performed years ago and most of our competitors still perform. We do not charge any more money for our inspection of your heat exchanger, the inspection is already paid for in the Diagnosis Fee or the PTU cost.
Why do we make such a large investment while other heating companies don’t? Simple, we believe our customers want us, as a professional, to be able to make every reasonable effort to insure their safety. We believe The InspectorTM in the hands of a trained technician offers us the best opportunity to insure their safety!
What is The InspectorTM Camera?
The InspectorTM camera is the ONLY furnace inspection camera on the market today that utilizes a high definition – high resolution camera and monitor. All other cameras use a basic modified home security camera that is low resolution and never intended to see small cracks inside of furnace heat exchangers.
For about seven years the InspectorTM camera system was the only effective inspection system on the market. However, in recent years the market has been flooded with extremely cheap knock-offs and the resulting drop in inspection quality has been a disaster. More and more professional inspection services are denouncing video inspections as ineffective and such poor quality that they actually don’t recommend video inspections at all.
That’s a real shame because The InspectorTM properly paired with a well trained technician stand alone as the best way to use infrared technology and high resolution imaging. Combine this with a true macro lens to see an extremely high quality and close-up view of the hidden conditions of furnace heat exchangers.
Inferior Cameras Don’t Protect the Homeowner
One of the major universal results of the companies utilizing the cheap knock-off cameras is that nothing happens. That’s right, not much of anything happens because the cameras are such low resolution that they don’t clearly show the image detail that allows homeowners to basically trust what the technician is showing them. The InspectorTM image speaks for itself and it is quite literally very clear as to what the homeowner is seeing. On the other hand, with a cheap knock-off camera, the technician is almost always in the position of trying to explain or even interpret what the homeowner is seeing. This puts the homeowner in the awkward position of either taking a leap of faith in the technician and believing what he is telling them, or simply ignoring what the technician says about heat exchanger failure in the belief that the technician is simply trying to sell them a furnace they most likely don’t even need.
Did you know? A coin collector can use The InspectorTM to grade and appraise an old coin, but with one of those cheap knock-off cameras available to a tech, a coin collector may or may not be able to tell if the coin is a dime or a nickel!
Basically two main trust gaps are created in the scenario of a technician assuming that a homeowner will blindly trust them. The obvious problem is a visual one. With the cheap low-res cameras, there is no true detail in the image, so the homeowner is not sure at all of what they are viewing. This problem is eliminated when using the Inspector? camera because the image the homeowner is shown is true high resolution. Another aspect of the clarity of the image a homeowner sees with the InspectorTM camera is the fact that the image is true infrared. The ability of infrared imaging is in the way an image is able to be defined. The US military uses infrared imaging for the very same reason that the InspectorTM camera does. They use it because infrared much more clearly defines the contrast of a portrayed image.
For example, if looking at rust and corrosion with an infrared camera, the details are clearly presented in brightly contrasted shades of what is called “Duotone” or halftone reproduction of an image (in this case one of black and gray contrasting pixels). Competitors wrongly try to cheapen the value of infrared imaging by claiming that the InspectorTM is merely a black and white camera. The InspectorTM is anything but a black and white video camera. This is a dishonest attempt to devalue a superior product and throw up a smoke screen as to the fact that their inferior resolution cameras fail to show a clear enough image for the average homeowner to believe in and trust.
The InspectorTM camera is a true infrared camera system. Others may tout that their system is a color system, and while that would be a good thing if this were a television, it is the worst thing possible for a heat exchanger inspection camera. Here is the key – infrared photography shows corrosion within a furnace heat exchanger very dramatically, but color cameras completely miss the corrosion. The InspectorTM is not a black and white camera. The InspectorTM is a true high resolution infrared camera, and infrared can only be viewed on a “Duotone” monitor (as previously explained).
Safety Inspections & Ethic
Common sense dictates HVAC companies need to do a very thorough and complete safety inspection of a homeowner’s furnace and heat exchanger. Only about 20% of the surface of a heat exchanger can actually be viewed with a flashlight and a mirror. With today’s technology, claiming to have done a complete examination of a heat exchanger without The InspectorTM camera operated by a trained technician, borders on fraud, or at the very least, it would be incompetent. This is why Keith Heating & Cooling protects our customers by performing a TRUE safety inspection with The InspectorTM.
We have been serving our customers in the Greater Akron Area for over 30 years. Once in awhile a customer asks why we found a defective heat exchanger when another company didn’t find the defect. I can’t speak for other companies, but again the reason we can properly inspect a heat exchanger has to do with Tools, Training & Time.
We buy the right Tools, The InspectorTM, not a cheap low definition camera.
Finally, we give our technicians the Time they need on every job to properly check the heat exchanger.
We built our business by caring about our customers. Should you have any questions regarding heat exchanger inspections, or any other concerns, please call us at Keith Heating & Cooling, Inc. 330-633-4949!