Is regular maintenance of HVAC worth it on a rental

7 Replies

The common thought on this seems to be that you should schedule regular maintenance on your HVAC systems in rentals.  I wonder if anyone has ever really dug into this to know.  I don't really do that and I do get calls every so often from tenants about an HVAC system that is not working.  At the same time, I save the cost of the maintenance visits and I don't have to bother scheduling them and inconveniencing the tenants until there is a real need.

I imagine that there are people out there with so many rental properties that they actually have the data on how many emergency service calls they get per year despite having regularly scheduled maintenance in place and the cost of those emergency service calls.  There are likely also people out there who have many rental properties who don't have regularly scheduled maintenance in place who also have records of expenses.

I am wondering if any of these people can share their experiences. 

I imagine there is a third group of people who have really, really, strong feelings about this issue either way, but don't really have much in the way of data or experience to back their feelings up.

I am interested in hearing from anyone, but it would be helpful if you could first share the basis for your take on this issue.  

I am a very firm believer in the hvac maintenance aspect of the rental. This has the ability to be a large ticket item if not maintained properly. We even take it one step further and add in our lease an hvac maintenance fee. Included with this fee we ship out the exact filters needed for the property, through a company called Second Nature, to all of our tenants. Nationwide, it has been proven that just changing the filters regularly can save a tenant 15-30% per month on their energy bills. More importantly, regular replacement of air filters has been proven to reduce HVAC maintenance costs by 30% or more for landlords nationwide. If you add that with regular maintenance on the unit, you can extend the life of the unit drastically. Another thing to keep in mind, is if you aren't properly maintaining the units, and you own/manage a large portfolio, you will be dealing with a lot of unexpected service requests for repairs or replacement at the same time, each year.

I used to be an HVAC contractor before I became a real estate investor. For the most part, I agree with what Jenni Utz said. For the standard residential system changing the filters regularly and cleaning the condenser/outside unit coil surfaces and fan blade regularly is probably all you need to do. The evaporator/inside coil can get clogged too, but changing the filter regularly eliminates that problem. Restricted air flow across those surfaces increases energy consumption and puts unnecessary stress on the moving parts.

However, A/C systems are sealed systems and should not have to topped up or recharged unless there is a leak. Also, for more modern systems (talking the last 15 -20 years) all have permanently oiled bearings that take a very long time to wear out. Of course, as the years go by, rotating parts should be looked at more frequently. There are other small parts such as relays and capacitors that can and will go out, but those should be replaced as they fail.

I'm a firm believer in having the furnace serviced and cleaned once the cold season kicks into gear. I leave (2) 3-packs of filters at move-in, and during my visits throughout the year will replenish them for the tenants. It seems to work just fine.

We schedule annual service and checkup on all of units in order to be sure that the units are safe and operating in safe and efficient manner before heating season.

I'm in agreement with

@Jenni Utz and we utilize the same filter program in our business. We don't do regular maintenance but we do maintenance during every turnover. Our HVAC vendor offers a maintenance tune up special every year during the off season and about half of my clients take advantage of that and my vendor will typically give me that same special price for turnovers anytime of the year. All of this together has cut down on my emergency calls dramatically.

I started as an A/c tech before working up the ladder to being a regional facilities maintenance director. I've seen regularly scheduled maintenance reduce the number and damage caused by blocked drains (which is usually accompanied by tech OT, water damage to that unit and the unit below, etc), I've scheduled run cap replacements every season, so that is also a frequent work order, filter changes and coil cleans reduced the frozen evaporator calls, (which is always found with 2 in of ice on it, and had been running for 2 days straight.) Overall, properties that had 10+ year old units saw a reduction in compressor change outs, fan motor replacements, and tons of OT and contractor costs. I think that I calculated it, per unit, to about 3 hrs per year and less than $100 in supplies.

I have HVAC serviced 2 times a year, Fall and Spring. Its not very expensive and it gives me the peace of mind knowing they are in good working order and drains are cleaned. I don't know the data but regardless, I will still continue this way.

@Jenni Utz that is an awesome idea about adding that fee to the lease. May have look into that for mine also.