Heater and Furnace Maintenance: Tune Up and Test Out Your Heating System

furnace maintenanceMost of us in the region noticed some cool temperatures this month–much cooler than usual for September. Fall is coming to Sacramento, and it’s got many folks thinking about their heaters. It makes sense to be more worried about cooling than heating when you know the summer heat isn’t over yet, but don’t let that fool you into neglecting heater and furnace maintenance. There are several kinds of heaters for the home, all of which present their own maintenance concerns that are important to examine before you’ll be needing heat this winter.

Most homes are heated by heating air and sending that hot air through ducts, just like air-conditioning a home. In fact, most modern heating systems use the same ducts and vents as the AC uses in the summer. The actual heating of the air happens several ways, either with an electric heater or a gas burner (furnace) using natural gas or propane.

If you don’t have ducts installed then your heat comes through radiators instead, either baseboard or old-school upright ones, or underfloor (radiant) heating tubes, that use hot water or steam to send heat into the room. These systems require a boiler, which, like a furnace, can be gas or electric.  

Don’t Wait for the Weather to Turn

Whatever your heating system, now’s a great time to test it out. You may not want to turn it on all night, but take a minute to turn it on for a few seconds. Does it start right up? Does it shut on and off with your thermostat? Does it make any funny noises? Funny noises are a great diagnostic tool, and they mean you need to get your heater checked out by a professional. If your heater isn’t working optimally you should definitely have it looked at.

Gas systems can be especially temperamental–when they work, they’re wonderful, but even the smallest bit of debris can clog up the gas and make the heater nonfunctional. We’ve spent long nights rebuilding them, and it’s always a process.

Duct issues can also cause problems, and most folks don’t think about them. But improperly sealed ducts will leak hot air and the system will lose efficiency. It’s important to install ducts right and inspect them from time to time–any air lost out the ducts is money lost as well.

If you’re having any trouble with your heater–or if it plain doesn’t start up–the first step is to call a professional. Heaters are tricky at best and figuring out exactly where the problem (or problems) lie is difficult even for the pros. If your heating system involves gas of any kind, it’s not just tricky–it can be dangerous as well. Gas leaks escalate quickly; it’s not uncommon to evacuate a whole block when one happens.

Upkeep is Just as Important as Maintenance

But professional help isn’t just for broken systems. Having a routine check-up can prevent issues in the future; it’s a good idea to get your system checked over once in awhile. In addition to preventing trouble down the line, having a professional look at your heating system allows them to calibrate it for maximum efficiency.

Efficient heating translates to a cheaper utility bill, and that’s money back in your pocket every month. This is especially true of getting your ducting sealed up tight; if your heater uses the same ducts as your air conditioning system then you’ll also save money on your air conditioning in the summer. That’s year-round savings and we love saving people money.

Unfortunately, not all systems are destined for repair. Almost anything can be fixed but after a certain point the cost is prohibitive–or it’s going to be in the future. If your heating system is over ten years old or you’ve been spending more and more on repairs over the years, it may be time to consider a new heater. It’s very important to consult a professional when making this decision because of the potential for costs and the potential complications of installation.

Working with a contractor is the best way to save yourself money and time, both immediately and in the long run. A bad install will cost a lot to fix, and have a much shorter life than a quality heater installation. But that’s not how it has to be. In fact, with the right contractor, your install can be smooth sailing. So if you are thinking about a new heater, or just need some help with the one you have, Bell Brothers would love to hear from you.  Contact us today to schedule an appointment.