Furnaces and Maintenance
During long, dreary nights you need a fully functioning, efficient furnace to keep you warm. Spending a night tossing and turning in a cold house with a broken heating system will make you really appreciate that particular equipment. It may not take a complete furnace failure to make you think about how your furnace works. It might be the system’s noise or the fact that it simply doesn’t work all that well.
How Your Heating System Works
In some ways most heating systems work pretty much the same way. First, the furnace receives a signal for heat from the thermostat. Provided the pilot is burning and all the safety features are in place, the main burner will fire. Or, if it is an electric unit, the burner will be turned on. The system then the furnace heats up until it reaches the correct temperature and engages the blower, which circulates the air through the duct system into the home. The colder air in the home is pushed into the return ducts where it is returned to the furnace to be reheated. When the interior temperature of the home reaches the thermostat setting, the furnace switches off and the blower continues to run until the heating elements are cool. The system is on standby until the thermostat again makes a call for heat.
A forced-air heating system is simple and versatile. Your home heating system is comprised of different components that control the air flow and temperature. A humidifier, air cleaner or evaporator cooling coil, air duct system maintain the indoor air’s temperature, humidity and cleanliness. Air in these systems moves at about 700 ft per minute through the house in the air duct system. Most ducts are rectangular ducts made from galvanized 30-gauge sheet steel. Flexible, round insulated ducts connected to an insulated trunk are becoming increasingly popular. In all cases, the joints in the duct system need to be meticulously sealed to prevent air leaks and energy loss.
Most homeowners need to be familiar with the system parts. Knowing how the system operates properly allows you to know immediately when something is wrong. Broken or damaged heating systems can be dangerous. They pose health, fire and safety hazards. You need to know how to turn off your system in the event of a problem. Have your professional HVAC technician show you the different parts of the furnace and shut off procedures for your specific system. The main components are:
- Burner Emergency Switch cuts power to a gas- or oil-burner circuit.
- Main Shutoff Valve controls gas flow from the meter to the building for maintenance or emergencies. The valve is turned with an adjustable wrench.
- Propane Tank Service Valve controls gas flow from the tank to the building for maintenance or emergencies.
- Circuit Breaker provides a means to automatically or manually cut power to heating-equipment circuits.
To keep your system running efficiently and safely, Wolfer’s recommends annual furnace inspections or boiler inspections. Small issues can become life threatening if not repaired by a highly trained, experienced HVAC technician.
During your annual inspection, your HVAC technician will address:
- The vent system will be checked for blockage and/or leakage. This includes the outside termination and the connections at and internal to the furnace.
- Combustion gases will be analyzed and compared to the unit specifications.
- The blower access door will be checked to make sure it makes a tight seal at the furnace.
- The fresh air intake grills and louvers will be checked for blockage.
- The heat exchanger will be inspected for rust and corrosion.
- The burners will be checked for proper ignition, burner flame and flame sense.
- The drainage system will be checked for blockage and/or leakage. This includes the hoses internal to the furnace. The condensate drain and trap will be cleaned, and the water replaced in the trap.
- The blower wheel will be checked for debris and cleaned if necessary, which requires complete removal of the blower wheel.
- An amp-draw test will be conducted on the blower motor and compared with what is listed.
- The wiring will be checked for corrosion and damage.
- The filters will be checked and replaced if necessary. But filters should be replaced every few months by the homeowner too.
Annual furnace inspections aren’t just about safety; it’s also about preventative maintenance and consistent efficiency. Catching a problem before your furnace quits working in the middle of the night can help prevent an expensive emergency service call. Annual furnace maintenance is also about keeping your energy costs down. Heating systems decrease their efficiency due to wear and tear. When your system has to work harder to keep your house warm, you’re paying for more energy to keep your system running.
D-I-Y Maintenance Tasks
Not every maintenance task requires a professional HVAC technician. There are some you can do and save a few dollars.
- Check HVAC air filters every month. Hold your filter up to the light. If you can see through it, it is safe to use another month. If you cannot see through, it is time to replace. Clogged filters make your system work harder.
- Remove leaves and debris from around the outdoor unit and trim back foliage to at least 18 inches from the outdoor unit to prevent blockages
- Hose down the outdoor unit when dirt begins to accumulate on it
- Keep supply and return registers unblocked by drapes, rugs or furniture
An important part of owning a home is having a complete home service contractor with the right skills and experience for the job you need completed. For over a century, Wolfer’s Home Services has been the contractor of choice for quality-minded customers. We offer complete HVAC and indoor air quality services as well as complete plumbing services, and water treatment designed specifically for your home or business. Besides the fact that we have earned a reputation for being the best in the business, there are many more reasons to choose Wolfer’s for all your home service needs. Call us today at 503-220-1901 or request your appointment online and work with a company that’s dedicated to ensuring your complete satisfaction.