Heating Maintenance Archives

Heating repair, heating maintenance and unforeseen furnace issues can ruin even the most pleasant winter afternoon. There’s just nothing more pressing than being cold in your own house.

Scheduling a heating maintenance inspection is always a good idea, but there are a lot of simple heating maintenance tasks and look-sees that you can take care of yourself. You’ll spend a lot less time waiting and a lot less money. Here are a few things you should know to get going.

heating maintenanceGet the right furnace filter, read the manufacturers specifications, and make sure you change it every month or every six weeks at the longest. Some newer thermostats will even tell you when to change the filters. Remember: if you change your filters often enough you’re furnace should keep running and performing just as you expect it to and help avoid a costly heating repair.

Every furnace is connected to an electric power supply that runs the blower and other moving parts. You need to make sure that this power supply is completely disconnected before doing any of your heating maintenance or repair tasks. You don’t want the motor coming on while you’re working. Check how to cut the fuel and how to get the pilot light re-lit, and cut both fuel and electricity to be safe.

An important and often forgotten during heating maintenance is to vacuum the furnace fan and the easily accessible areas of the furnace. It’s good to do at the beginning of the winter, but particularly important if you live in an urban area or if you notice dust around your home. Dust will collect anywhere, including on fan blades, so you may also want to experiment with slightly finer filters if you notice a build up inside the fan housing.

If the furnace blower is powered by an electric motor and a V-belt you’ll want to check that belt for fraying, dryness or cracks. Replacing a furnace belt and checking the alignment of the motor pulleys at the same time will give you a quieter furnace and mean you’re not replacing belts as often. They’ll wear out much faster if they’re not aligned correctly, but you may need to loosen the pulleys to align the belts correctly. Newer furnaces won’t need any of this kind of attention.

Heating maintenance for oil furnaces should be a similar process. You’ll also want to replace the oil filter and you may even need to bleed any air out of the fuel line. In such a case, you’ll either need to check the owner’s manual or give us a call. Oil furnaces tend to leak oil a little if you don’t look after them, so keep an eye on the fuel lines and any pipe connections for oil.

Periodically check all your outside vents and chimneys. Blockages from snow or debris can create a significant number of problems every year and those can include dangerous situations with carbon monoxide leaking into a house. You’ll want to be sure there aren’t any cracks in your outside venting, or around the connections with walls or roofs.

Heating maintenance for older gas furnaces can also be actually prevented by regularly oiling the motor and the blower shafts. A couple drops should do it every year. Newer models should be OK without the oil but check your manual. And if you haven’t got one, give us a call.

Whatever type of system is heating your home, consider updating your thermostat this year, too. We can show you models that will not only save you energy and money year round but that will keep your home warmer and safer all winter long.

Heater Safety Remains A Top Concern Of Fire Departments

heater safetyIf you’re using a portable heater, then heater safety needs to be one of your concerns too. Year after year and winter after winter, there is always one terrible fire or other serious heater related tragedy. No matter how safe portable electric heaters are designed, there’s always somebody willing to test the limits by ignoring basic heater safety guidelines. While professionally installed and vented gas heaters or similar devices are generally going to be safer and more cost effective, we know that, often enough, cold homeowners or apartment dwellers are simply going to stick with portable electric heaters. The problem is not that they are too inefficient or too expensive, but rather, that they’re too portable! That can lead to almost all of the heater safety concerns we’re going to list below.

As portable electric heaters go, a unit that’s circulating heated oil in a self contained radiator style is going to be far safer than one with radiant coils or halogen lamps. With an electric oil heater there is no more danger of accidental combustion than with any other electric appliance in your home.

While electric oil heaters are the safest, lots of people prefer the warm glow of a radiant or halogen heater. If you’re going to use one, read the complete manufacturers operating instructions first and bear these heater safety tips in mind.

Every time you move any portable heater, you’re going to need to review this heater safety list again.

Any heater needs to be placed squarely and soundly on a floor. Cables or cords need to be exposed and thus avoided rather than buried or hidden under a rug or anything else. Portable electric heaters are major appliances and they need to be treated like the fridge or the washing machine, i.e.; with respect.

Make sure you’re plugging into a secure, grounded outlet. Anything else, or a plug that is loose, can overheat and increase your risk of fire. Check the temperature of the outlet from time to time. Just place your on the face with the unit unplugged. Stop using the heater if it feels hot.

Don’t operate any heater in the same room with paints, solvents or any other flammable liquids.

Portable electric heaters with labeling by Underwriter’s Laboratories Inc. (UL), are going to give you the safest operation.

Keep three feet of space between any heater and combustible objects like drapes, furniture, shirts hanging from furniture or anything that might be set down in front of the heater. Put it somewhere else, and don’t put anything on top.

Don’t run your heater in any wet or damp room unless you bought a unit specifically designed for such an area. Usually these are labeled as bathroom heaters and they are suitable for use in a more humid environment.

Don’t run any space heater unattended or while sleeping.

You also need to be extra attentive to children when running a portable heater.

A portable heater can be a great way to provide supplemental heat in a cold space or anyplace where your home’s central heat is not reaching. But every portable heater poses some risk of fire. Operating your portable heater safely should remain in the forefront of your mind every time the unit is plugged in, or moved.

Is Heating Maintenance Really Worth The Cost?heating maintenance

Heating maintenance makes lots of people think of that old maintenance man in their building or school when they were kids. No one really knew what he did or where he did it, but the idea of crawling around duct work or pipes still scares people, even all these years later.

But let’s put it this way; even the simple heating maintenance regimen we’re going to outline below will save you big on heating bills and more. Here’s how.

  • Fewer repairs – Keeping things running right, and watching out for tell-tale signs mean that you can schedule an inspection or service call – now, when it’s cheaper. With just a little bit of knowledge about how your heating works, you can take care of this stuff and predict when you’ll have a problem.
  • Fewer emergencies – These are just plain expensive. They can be scary, and they’re the last thing you want to deal with when the weather is actually cold. Who knows what you’ll pay if you end up desperate.
  • Lower fuel costs – Every furnace, heat pump or boiler is going to age and lose efficiency. Just a little bit of regular heating will put your heating system back in shape. Moving parts get cleaned, lubricated or replaced and filters start sending clean air back into your house.
  • No new furnace necessary! – That’s right! Regular heating maintenance almost always delays the inevitable – and always expensive – replacement of the whole heating system. Small problems always grow into bigger, usually more expensive issues. These can bring down your heating, and even cause dangerous or life-threatening conditions. Again, they’re always a lot more expensive, too.

During the winter months when your furnace is in regular use, the filter needs to be changed monthly, but you won’t need a maintenance man just for that.

Heating Basics

If you call in a heating specialist, and we recommend that you do, this is what he or she will do. Remember, you’ll always pay a lot less for this heating maintenance visit than you will for a repair visit.

Your HVAC service technician will check for any sign of gas or carbon monoxide leaks. These can be among the most dangerous problems, but you should also be aware of any issues with electrical connections, or water leakage near the unit.

Outside there can be blockages from leaves, snow or similar debris. Inside, there can be soot or sediment built up on the burners. The pilot flame needs to ignite properly and all the gas valves need to be checked that they’re in good working order. They’ll want to check your belts and fan, as well as the duct work leading in and out of the fan and they’ll lubricate the fan and some other moving parts.

Accompanying a technician while they inspect and review all of these heating maintenance steps is the best thing you can do to get to know your own heating system. Your technician will also tell you exactly what heating maintenance step you can easily take care of yourself.

 

How Important Is A Furnace Inspection?

An annual furnace inspection is more than just checking and changing your furnace filters. But do you really need to pay for a professional furnace inspection or can you do it yourself?

furnace inspection

Furnace filters and simple cleaning are important parts of maintenance, but a thorough furnace inspection is something you should understand if not actually perform. Most manufacturers will recommend an annual professional furnace inspections in part because it often includes maintenance that most homeowners will simply not do.

The important thing to remember is that while any newer equipment is under warranty, improper maintenance may very well void that furnace warranty. That still doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to pay a heating contractor for a professional furnace inspection every year. Every other year is often recommended for newer units under warranty, and then every year after the first ten years.

Most heating contractors’ furnace inspection contracts cannot easily be compared with others. They’re not often interchangeable and include a wide range of services and furnace inspection points that will vary widely depending on the heating contractors and what they’re actually offering.

Industry standards are a bit better for a natural gas furnace inspection than they are for commercial boiler and HVAC systems. There are fewer parts, options and variations. Still, being familiar with your own equipment, its weaknesses and strengths, is all going to be to your advantage.

Heating contractors may or may not include any of the following services. Your job is not to do them all yourself, but to check which of them you are paying for, and to pay the least for as many of them as possible. All of these are in addition to changing your furnace filters.

You want to closely check which of the following your heating contractor is offering to do:

  • The fresh air intake grill and vent system needs to be checked for blockage and leakage. Connections at the furnace and inside the furnace need to be checked particularly closely.
  • Check the heat exchange assembly for any corrosion or signs of problems.
  • Check the door of blower assemble for sealing and be sure it seals tightly. A professional may want to remove, clean and lubricate the blower wheel. They may also compare the results of an amp-draw test on the blower motor with the manufacturers specifications.
  • Proper ignition, flame height and flame sense need to be checked. Flame sense needs to be checked by a professional who will use an device (a sensor) to measure the quality of the fuel being burned and how well your system is handling it.

Likewise, a professional heating inspection might include an analysis of the combustion gases and a comparison with what the manufacturer recommends.

Importantly, a good heating contractor is also going to check the the wiring for corrosion. This is often related to problems or blockage in the drainage system or related hoses and pipes. These must always be included in your own or in a good professional furnace inspection. The price for a visual inspection like this, though, won’t likely be very significant.

More exotic items on a furnace inspection checklist might include checking the gas or static air pressure and the temperature increase within the unit, but you should ask your heating contractor before paying for any of them.

Furnace filters need to be replaced, not annually, but somewhere between every one and every three months and you should ask your heating contractor if you have any trouble replacing them. But remember, professional furnace inspection is not just about checking your furnace filters. A professional furnace inspection is also about catching and preventing an interruption in the normal, safe and comfortable operation of your entire heating system. This should also prevent the much higher emergency service charges that many heating contractors have to charge for unexpected visits.

If you have any questions about furnace maintenance  please don’t hesitate to call, we are more than happy to help. Call now, 646-783-2475

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