Here's What You Need to Know about Home Heating Systems
[fa icon="calendar"] September 28, 2018 / by Home Services Expert
Annual Maintenance is Important
It’s that pivotal time of year when your annual heating system service call is on your mind – or at least should be. This service call, which is also referred to as a furnace tune-up, is a safe and smart move that definitely pays off in the long run. But are you wondering if it's really necessary?
Skepticism can be healthy, so here’s an explanation of why an annual heating system service really is necessary.
A thorough inspection looks at things you can’t
There are some things you can do now to get your heating system ready. Once you check off that list, you're bound to feel a sense of accomplishment. But don't make the mistake of assuming that those tasks are all your furnace needs to function safely and reliably; it needs a comprehensive tune-up that includes:
- Inspecting the entire heating system, from the thermostat to the heat exchanger
- Cleaning and lubricating all the moving parts
- Setting the burners for proper combustion and ignition
- Tightening the electrical connections and measuring the voltage
- Inspecting the condensate drain, chimney, and flue
- Surveying the condition and tension of the fan belt
- Conducting a carbon monoxide test
What do all of these operations accomplish?
A tune-up helps ensure your safety
If your furnace is gas-fired, as most of them are, they emit a small but safe amount of carbon monoxide. Gas furnaces also present a fire hazard.
An improper gas connection or a crack in the heat exchanger can cause high and unhealthy levels of carbon monoxide to seep into your home. A heating system service technician combs your furnace for these problems and fixes them on the spot.
So annual maintenance is really necessary because it helps ensure your safety and that of your family.
A tune-up guards against breakdowns
People always seem to say that their furnace breaks down when they need it most, which is logical when you consider that it wouldn't break down on a hot day when you wouldn't have it turned on anyway.
Nevertheless, dirt and grime are your furnace's chief enemies. A Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service study traced nine out of 10 heating and air conditioning failures to dirt and dust buildup.
So annual heating system service is really necessary because it helps ensure that your furnace runs cleanly and efficiently and won't falter on the days you need it most.
A tune-up makes economic sense
A furnace that runs cleanly and efficiently will cost less money to run, just as vehicles that undergo regular tune-ups consume less gas.
Every month, you pay for heating, electricity and water, and heating probably accounts for the largest portion of your energy bill, or about 30 percent. You know how much you pay to heat your home, but why would you want to pay one dollar more than you have to?
So annual heating system service is really necessary if you want to keep your energy bill under control.
A tune-up can uncover lurking problems
Think of a furnace tune-up as an insurance policy in that technicians will identify and repair any minor problems with your furnace before they develop into bigger, more expensive problems – or even a costlier replacement.
So annual heating system service is really necessary if you seek economic peace of mind.
A tune-up extends your furnace's lifespan
Most furnaces last between 15 and 20 years, just like vehicles can if they're well maintained. Still, few homeowners actually get excited about investing in a new furnace (or, at least, not until a few months later, after they have reaped the benefits). Like vehicles, furnaces are expensive.
So annual heating system service is really necessary if you want your furnace to last as long as possible.
Pay Attention to these 4 Areas and Save Money
Changing your filter is probably the easiest thing you can do and also the most overlooked by homeowners. You should change your filter once a quarter.
Warm air comes through the filter and circulates through the vents. When it’s clogged, it limits the air flow coming through. This causes your heating system to use more energy to pull the warm air through. Less air coming through means your system has to run longer and work harder, which in turn leads to a higher energy bill.2) Thermostat
A lot of folks today, especially in older homes, still have manual thermostats. They are inefficient because you have to manually change the temperature.
A digital thermostat lets you program it for your lifestyle. For example, you can turn it down at night while you’re under the covers in bed but set it for a certain time to start warming your house before you get up in the morning. It sounds like a luxury, but it actually will significantly save you money because it’s regulated, especially if you’re upgrading from a manual thermostat.
3) Condition of equipment
Since your heating system is hidden from you, it’s easy to not pay attention to it. But there is a lot of wear and tear that happens.
For example, a filter that has been clogged for too long can actually wear out part of the motor. The key is maintenance. Your system should be serviced twice a year – once for your furnace and once for your air conditioning system.4) Age
If your system is over 10 years old, then it’s probably costing you more than you want to spend. If it’s in disrepair or just old and not up to date with the technology, it’s costing you money. There are things you can do and a heating system service company can help.
Is an Energy Star-rated heating system really necessary?
This is an entirely fair question, and it deserves both a short and longer answer. The short answer: No; other, less efficient furnaces are available.
The longer answer: There is no doubt that Energy Star furnaces represent the most efficient and reliable furnaces available, and since Experts In Your Home wants the very best for its customers, these are the furnaces we recommend. Here's the longer-still answer as to why.
A star is born
Energy Star has a broader scope today than it did when it was established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1992. In association with the Clean Air Act, the program's original mission was to develop and evaluate strategies and technologies to reduce air pollution.
Congress added greater luster to Energy Star in 2005, when it brought in the U.S. Department of Energy to identify and promote “energy–efficient products and buildings in order to reduce energy consumption, improve energy security and reduce pollution.”
This expansion ushered in a new era for Energy Star – and made it infinitely more visible to consumers. After rigorous, third-party testing, only products that henceforth met superior manufacturing standards and achieved high energy efficiency ratings were awarded the Energy Star “stamp of approval.”
The now-familiar star graces more than 50 types of products, including lighting, appliances, windows and heating and air conditioning systems.
Energy Star turns up the heat
Heating systems that earn the Energy Star feature several distinct advantages because they:
- Achieve higher annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) ratings. The EPA mandates that all furnaces achieve an AFUE rating of at least 80. It has signaled that it would like the minimum rating raised to 92 – perhaps because many Energy Star meet and exceed this standard (with some heating systems scoring 97s).
An average student might view these two-digit numbers cheerfully: An 80 is a low B, but it's still a B. But Experts In Your Home customers are way above average. A furnace with an AFUE rating makes good use of 80 percent of the energy it consumes but wastes the other 20 percent, which is significant. Energy Star heating systems close this important gap.
- Translate higher efficiency into lower gas bills. The EPA estimates that highly efficient Energy Star furnaces save many homeowners about $100 per year. Consumer Reports places the savings in another context: for every $100 you spend on gas, Energy Star furnaces can save up to $40.
- Offer greater reliability and longevity. The benefits of Energy Star furnaces take on added significance when placed in the context of a study conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center of more than 21,000 furnaces.
When furnaces failed, 77 percent needed significant work, with nearly one-third producing no heat for more than one day. Improved indoor air quality because they are designed to reduce the risk of dangerous carbon monoxide backdrafting.
These are the facts, and they're impressive ones, which is why Experts In Your Home makes its preference for Energy Star heating systems known.
It's equally true that “the price of a furnace generally rises in step with its fuel efficiency,” as Consumer Reports says.
So when customers ask, “Is an Energy Star-rated heating system really necessary?” Experts In Your Home respects the boundaries of the trusting relationships we've developed with our customers: Over the groans of furnaces and people alike, we make a recommendation but place the final decision exactly where it belongs.
What to Know When You Need to Hire a Heating Repair Technician
Experts In Your Home Prizes Credibility
Since we always have our eyes trained on building long-term relationships with our customers, we don't duck questions. In fact, we welcome them. One of the best and most basic questions of all is, “How do I know that your heating repair person knows his stuff?
Regular readers know that Experts In Your Home often turns to authoritative, third-party sources for information. The last thing we want is for people to think that we're trying to sell them a product or service. (Better that sources like the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency address the need for, say, regular heating and air conditioning tune-ups.)
To answer the know-your-stuff question, we turn to the Comfort Institute, an international research, training and consumer organization devoted to home comfort issues. It offers tips phrased in the somewhat negative parlance of “don't do this” and “don't assume that” (rather than the positive phraseology that Experts In Your Home favors). But we won't quibble. The Washington state-based institute says that you stand the best chance of finding a heating repair technician who knows his stuff as long as you:
Do Trust Your Gut Instinct
- Don't assume that all contractors are “pretty much the same.”They're not. Heating and cooling companies generate among the highest number of complaints with the Better Business Bureau. Check this source as well as a company website for clues about a company's track record in a community. A heating repair technician who knows his stuff also knows that it's to his professional advantage to join the staff of an established, reputable company.
- Don't trust a heating repair technician who won't explain your options. Unless it's a broken heat exchanger in a furnace – which presents serious health and fire hazards – a technician who knows his stuff will explain your repair-vs.-replace options. Certainly, he should make a recommendation. But if he knows his stuff, he will explain the reasons for his recommendation and let you decide. He knows that it is his professional responsibility to advise you of your options and not presume to make important decisions for you.
- Don't hire a heating repair technician who refuses to size your home for a new furnace or inspect your ductwork before installing it. These are two vital steps that Experts In Your Home explained in a previous article, “Steps to buying a new home home heating system.” A heating technician who knows his stuff will be conscientious and thorough – not steer you to an oversized (and inefficient) furnace that costs more money so that he can race out the door.
- Don't try to continue a conversation with a heating repair technician who doesn't ask you a lot of questions – and doesn't appreciate yours. Here's an Experts pet peeve if there ever was one. After all, if our customers didn't ask good questions – and if Experts In Your Home weren't committed to answering them in detail – how would we demonstrate that we know our stuff?
If you need to schedule home heating maintenance, repair or replacement services and are in the Chico, California area we're here to help you out. Contact us for a free quote today.