Is your gas furnace ready to keep your home warm and cozy — ALL WINTER LONG? Don’t be trapped under a pile of blankets this season! Be sure your heating system and insulation are in tip-top shape.
For season-long dependability, you may want to have your gas furnace inspected by a licensed professional heating contractor before the first cold snap. You don’t want to walk in the door to a frigid home on the coldest night of the year!
Gas Furnace Maintenance
To make sure your heating system is ready for those cold winter nights, a licensed professional HVAC technician should inspect your central heating system. While there is not an industry-wide standard checklist for maintenance, your HVAC contractor may examine the following critical gas furnace components during their annual maintenance visit:
Return Air Filter Check
Your contractor may also check the return air filter to see if it needs to be replaced. A new return air filter may minimize the accumulation of dirt and/or dust on the blower motor and other HVAC components.
A homeowner should routinely replace the return air filter as directed by the manufacturer’s guidelines. If you cannot easily locate your return air filter for your central heating system or have questions about the specific type required, talk to your licensed professional HVAC dealer for assistance.
You pay hard-earned money to heat your home, so be sure you get your money’s worth! Homeowners should take the appropriate measures to efficiently block out the cold from entering their home. Any opportunities to save energy over the winter season may help you save a little more on your monthly energy bill!
When your home does not have enough insulation in the walls, crawl spaces, attic or basement, cold outdoor can leak into your home, and heated air can escape outdoors – compromising your heated, warm spaces and your indoor comfort. Ideally, your insulation should provide complete and uniform coverage. If you notice drafts even after you’ve closed all of the doors and windows, it’s a good time to have a professional inspect your insulation.
However, insulation may not be enough to contain your heated indoor air. Every gap, doorway, window seam, air duct or hole in the wall has the potential to leak warm air. The Department of Energy says that the average home’s air leaks could be equivalent to a two-foot hole! That’s like leaving a window open 24-hours a day. Weather stripping and caulking may help seal those small areas where warm air can potentially escape.
For assistance in evaluating your home’s insulation, call in an licensed professional HVAC dealer to help out!
Three Good Reasons to Replace a Gas Furnace
No one gets excited about having to replace their gas furnace. However, the idea of freezing in your home isn’t too exciting either. Despite efforts to prolong its life, there may come a time when it is better to replace your furnace rather than repair it. The decision to replace your current gas furnace often depends on one, or a combination of, age, condition, and performance.
Perhaps you have been there! You think your HVAC system is working well, only to have to call your professional licensed HVAC contractor again, and again and again for repair after repair. Even with proper maintenance and the dedicated efforts of a highly skilled HVAC contractor, an aging furnace may start to show its age.
Continuous repairs can get expensive for a homeowner. As discussed in “Eliminate Indoor Hypothermia - Furnace Repair or Furnace Replace?” you should determine your repair spending cut off point. If your repair estimate is close to your predetermined budget threshold, it may be best to start researching a new gas furnace before you experience a breakdown.
How expensive does a furnace repair need to be before it’s not worth repairing it? If key parts fail, such as the heat exchanger or control module, or repair costs are more than 50% of the cost of a new product, it may be better to replace the unit. However, you should always discuss repair vs replacement options with your HVAC technician to get a clearer assessment of the price tag of repairs and the predicted longevity of your existing gas furnace.
Heating and Comfort
The indoor comfort of your home and family is probably one of your highest priorities. Gas furnace systems can have a complicated arrangement of gas and electricity working together. However, if one or more parts involved in delivering heat is damaged or not working as intended, your heating system has the potential to become a comfort hazard.
According to the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute, older furnaces that do not comply with current standard codes may pose a higher risk due to their earlier technology. “Newer gas furnaces are equipped with many features that shut the furnace off when a problem is detected, but older furnaces may not have these devices. “
Preventive maintenance and professional inspections are important aspects of the operation of your gas furnace. While evaluating your gas furnace, an HVAC dealer may uncover small cracks, leaks, rust, rot, soot, frayed wires or corroded electrical contacts that can lead to furnace failure.
Energy.gov estimates that heating and cooling account for up to half of a typical home’s total energy use. As a result, a homeowner should make every effort to increase the energy efficiency of their HVAC equipment.
To determine your home's annual energy use compared to similar homes in your area, Energystar.gov provides a simple online assessment tool. Energystar.gov suggests that a score below a five means that your home’s energy use “is above average and you're probably paying more than you need to on energy bills”.
While there are a variety of reasons and potential fixes that can increase your energy efficiency, a licensed professional HVAC contractor may reveal that the AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) of your gas furnace may be the primary cause of these excessive costs.
An older gas furnace with an AFUE rating of 70% would mean that only 70% of its fuel is used to heat your home. The remaining 30% may escape through the chimney or exhaust. That means that up to 43% of the energy used to run your furnace may be wasted. A high-efficiency model can offer higher AFUE ratings, potentially providing significant energy efficiency and savings on utilities.
While every homeowner’s HVAC situation and budget is unique, SmarterHouse.org, a project of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, states that replacing a furnace with a modern high-efficiency model may be a good investment.
Seasonal Heating and Air Conditioning Maintenance
It’s an annual rite of passage – flipping the thermostat or control system from “heat” to “cool” or “cool” to “heat!” As the seasons change, so do your indoor heating and cooling needs. You want to be sure that your HVAC system is working properly and ready for that switch. No one likes to make that dreaded HVAC emergency call on coldest or hottest weekend of the year!
Why Schedule Pre-Season Maintenance?
HVAC systems strive to meet your desired indoor temperature expectations! Creating a comfortable temperature in your home is a delicate balancing act between equipment, air flow, and mechanics. Proper HVAC maintenance can help maintain this balance despite the system’s consistent starting and stopping, and on-demand operation.
Seasonal preventive maintenance on your heating and cooling system may guard against many unexpected failures and could maximize the lifecycle of your heating or cooling unit. Preseason inspections may uncover leaks, rust, rot, soot, frayed wires and/or corroded electrical contacts on your air conditioner or heat pump that can lead to bigger equipment failures if left untreated.
Proper maintenance may also keep your system running at peak performance levels. “Effective maintenance can reduce HVAC energy costs by 5 to 40 percent depending on the system or equipment involved.”
When do I Schedule Seasonal Maintenance?
HVAC dealers can get very busy when summer temperatures spike and cold, bone-chilling weather takes hold. It is a good idea to plan seasonal maintenance prior to these peak service call times. Many dealers offer preseason specials on inspection packages during their typical slow times of the year, usually in the spring and the fall depending on the climate.
What Does HVAC Seasonal Maintenance Include?
There is no industry standard for what is included in an HVAC preseason “tune-up,” so specific work may vary greatly from contractor to contractor. Preseason specials may not include all of the suggested maintenance recommend by your system’s manufacturer(s). As a result, it’s important to understand what maintenance your system will be receiving, and the total cost for the job.
Depending on the agreement, your HVAC technician may perform a complete system check that includes inspection and necessary cleaning of HVAC equipment, parts and components. Be sure you understand what you are getting in your season maintenance package!
Air conditioning system maintenance may include, but is not limited to:
Gas furnace system maintenance may include, but is not limited to:
Don’t Ignore Sitting Ducts
Ducts are an important part of your entire HVAC system and shouldn’t be ignored. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that a typical U.S. home loses 20%-30% of duct system air due to leaks, holes, and poorly connected ducts. That can sacrifice your indoor comfort and may increase your energy usage. Although it may not be included with a seasonal maintenance package, your professional licensed technician can inspect your ductwork.
Filtration technology has made significant advances in residential air filters over the past decade, but dust may still find its way into your home's ducts. If you are concerned about indoor air quality issues, the culprit could be dirty ductwork. After a ductwork inspection, your technician may recommend duct cleaning, sealing or specialized indoor air quality accessories.