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Service Clearance in Basements: What You Need to Know for Your HVAC

Service clearances are important for the safe operation of your HVAC system. Learn more and how to fix any issues if your basement isn’t meeting the guidelines.

Service Clearance in Basements: What You Need to Know for Your HVAC

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Roger Bakies


October 10th, 2022

Are you in the process of finishing your basement and are curious about what service clearances are required? If so, there are things you should know before finishing to avoid mistakes that could cost you costly repairs to your HVAC later on.

At Fire & Ice, we’ve helped customers with concerns around clearance issues on many jobs and even come up with solutions for homeowners when it seemed impossible.

Service clearances are incredibly essential, so your machine can be repaired and serviced easily without having to complete a costly re-renovation of your basement you finished. If these guidelines are not followed, there’s a good chance you won’t be up to code for the requirements in your area either.

Before we get into service clearances, we have to discuss what clearances are and how they apply to HVAC systems.

What is a Service Clearance, and Why is it Important for Your HVAC?

A service clearance is the space around your HVAC unit that allows it to be serviced and run at its optimal best. There are different clearance lengths for outdoor and indoor units. Without the clearance, your HVAC unit is technically not set up to code, and you might have to pay a significant amount of money for renovations to the area of your home where the unit exists.

But where can you find accurate information about the difference in service clearances for a brand of machine or machines?

Where Can I Look to Find Service Clearance Information for my Heating and Cooling System?

The best place to look for service clearance information is inside of the manual for your machine. Generally, the service clearance information should be relatively similar based on the location and type of unit between different brands, but it is always a good idea to check the manual just in case. You can also ask the current homeowner for either the manual for the machine, or the contractor who installed your equipment.

If you know the model number and brand of your HVAC system, frequently the manufacturer’s websites will have a PDF copy of the manual with the service clearance information inside of its own section.

But what are the typical clearances needed to be able to service a machine.

What are the Typical Clearances Needed for Service?

The typical service clearance needed for a furnace inside your home or basement is 24 inches. Carrier brand equipment, which we sell here at Fire & Ice, uses 24 inches as the minimum service clearance.

There are different clearances required for an outdoor condenser unit and other equipment, but check your manual for further information on what these are.

But what if you currently have a furnace or part of an HVAC system that has too short of a clearance? How can you resolve an existing issue?

How Can I Resolve My Service Clearance Issue if I Have One?

If you currently have a service clearance issue with your system, there are a few options you might have to resolve it. The problem is that they are all likely expensive.

If your machine is located in a basement and cannot be serviced because of the lack of clearance, you can either have a hole cut inside of the drywall or have the entire system taken out, serviced outside of the location and then reinstalled. Both of these will be high in cost but can be done if no other option is available.

Always talk with your HVAC technician and the contractor who helped you finish your basement or home and see if another simpler fix can be completed. I’ve even seen one situation where the homeowner installed a door with a doorway so their HVAC system could be accessed for service. See if you can get creative to solve issues, you might be surprised what you come up with.

Considering the information above, getting regular service and diagnostic on your furnace and air conditioner can help with catching these issues before it is too late. If your service clearance issues are not caught and resolved when a technician comes to perform a routine tune-up, they could become a huge issue and lead to an inability to correct serious issues with your system.

Keep Your Heating and Cooling System Running Smooth With Regular Maintenance

Once your service clearance issues are resolved, it’s important to treat your HVAC system with a high level of care to prevent ongoing issues. Just like tune-ups and oil changes for your car, your HVAC system deserves the same level of care. Tune ups for your HVAC system include various components.

What Does a Furnace Tune-Up Include?

A furnace tune-up with Fire & Ice consists of many different steps, including:

  • Test for carbon monoxide (CO)
  • Test for gas leaks
  • Check air filter
  • Test & adjust safety & operating controls
  • Inspect flue pipe
  • Check for combustion leaks
  • Test gas valve operation
  • Check blower motor (& belt if applicable)
  • Test & tighten all wiring & connections
  • Adjust burner for maximum efficiency
  • Clean burners & inspect heat exchanger
  • Clean & adjust thermostat
  • Lubricate all motors, bearings, fans & circulators
  • Clean & adjust pilot assembly
  • Clean flame sensor

Additionally, for both furnace and air conditioners, you will see us perform:

  • Lubricate all moving parts
  • Check refrigerant, record pressures/temp
  • Check air filter
  • Measure superheat to fine-tune the refrigerant level
  • Flush condensate drain to protect against overflow
  • Clean the outdoor condenser coil
  • Check blower motor (& belt if applicable)
  • Test temp drop at return & supply air
  • Amperage readings on all motors, test bearings
  • Test operation & condition of compressor contacts
  • Inspect capacitors & relays for rust & leaks
  • Tighten and test all wires & connections
  • Clean thermostat & confirm proper operation
  • Check outdoor disconnect (if applicable)

With any HVAC contractor inside your home, these steps should be completed during a tune-up. If they are not completed, you may not be getting the full value of your service.

At  Fire & Ice, we recommend a maintenance agreement to all our customers to help them make timely appointments and get ahead of issues before they become a hazard. Check out our maintenance agreement page for a complete list of services in our available maintenance agreements.

Below we talk about a few essential aspects of the plans and why they exemplify the desirable traits you want in a maintenance plan.

Priority Service

All our maintenance agreement customers get access to priority service when placing a call for tune-ups or service. Depending on your level, you can select which technician you have or pick a time on a Saturday.

Lifetime Workmanship Guarantee

Workmanship warranties are hard to come by in the HVAC industry. Ours states:

“We guarantee the following items for the lifetime of the equipment against defects in materials or workmanship from the date the system is installed:

  • All ductwork we install
  • All ductwork insulation we install
  • Other items we install include sheet metal straps, clamps, fasteners, hangers, locks, drivers, drain piping, and fittings.
  • All high-voltage electrical wiring, wire nuts, straps, ties, and connectors we install
  • All refrigerant piping we install (does not include the cost to gain access to underground or other inaccessible piping)
  • Refrigerant insulation we install
  • All equipment pads, stands, jacks, and vibration elimination devices we install

Proper maintenance is what allows us to offer this unique guarantee. The only requirement to keep this protection in force for the lifetime of the equipment is to renew your annual maintenance program when due.”

And if you think these are empty words, I can again promise you that we’ve honored this agreement on those rare occasions when the work is done improperly. We pride ourselves on attention to detail, but no HVAC contractor is beyond fault. Having a guarantee like this is a protection for the customer.

Repair Warranty

Repair warranties for replacement parts sometimes last as little as 60 days from the manufacturer. With our three maintenance agreements extending this warranty to one, two, and three years, there’s peace of mind knowing that a repair wasn’t done just to collect a paycheck and get it running for a short while. If we aren’t confident the repair will last for years, we won’t do it, and you’re covered either way.

Save Money on System Costs

Air filters, evaporator and blower cleanings, and equipment tune-ups add up fast. Your maintenance agreement will ensure you have them on time and at a reduced cost, saving you both money up front and in the long run.

No Overtime Fees

If the job pays a contractor, you risk them doing a quick, poor job simply to rush to the next one. But if they’re paid hourly, a homeowner might worry about extended time. Protections like this are designed to hold any contractor you might hire accountable.

Take the Next Step Towards Improving Your Home Comfort

At Fire & Ice, we understand that keeping your HVAC system in mind when completing projects on your home can be difficult to remember. That’s why we are here to answer any questions you might have. If you’re ready to take the next step towards your home comfort, check to see if you’re in our area by using the zipcode map below.

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