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Winter Is Coming!

Updated: Jan 18, 2021

Out with the old and in with the new. Happy New Year folks!

Many of you have been hibernating in your homes for the winter months throughout this lockdown. Those of you that venture outdoors have probably said to yourselves..."I can't believe how nice the weather has been. This is the mildest winter we've had in years!"

Well that is all about to change...

The Polar Vortex is about to bring us the winter we Albertans are used to "weather" for the last half of January so there is no better time to start preparing for it. We're here to help make sure your heating system is in tip top shape so you can enjoy the Netflix and not worry about "the chill".

Key Furnace Maintenance Tips for Winter

During winter, the furnace is one of the most important components in your home. A properly maintained system will deliver maximum heat output without wasted energy or the risk of harmful emissions. On the other hand, if you defer maintenance for too long your furnace could become costly to run, harmful to indoor air quality or even break down when you need it most. And if a repair technician determines that your system failed due to lack of maintenance, then you could be stuck with the full repair bill. To ensure your home furnace operates optimally when it's cold outside, you should employ the following maintenance tips to prepare your furnace for winter.

Start Your Maintenance Early

The coldest nights always seem to present the perfect opportunity for a spontaneous furnace failure. Prevent this with a proactive approach by conducting your furnace maintenance while the weather is still warm or mild. Getting the jump on your annual maintenance will give you plenty of lead time if you discover the need for repairs. If you feel uncomfortable performing some of the following maintenance - give us a call to schedule an inspection and service of your heating system before the big chill arrives!

Administer the Eye Test

Before you start work on your furnace, give it a quick visual inspection. In gas furnaces, the venting pipe should be securely fastened and angled. Remember, for this task, duct tape is not the handyman's secret weapon (sorry Uncle Red!).

In addition, other piping – such as drainage tubes that may serve the air conditioning system should be securely fastened as well. This is also a good time to smell around the system's gas line, which is usually a flexible tube. If an aroma of rotten eggs is detected, it means the furnace has a gas leak.

Clear the Drainage Tube

Natural gas and propane furnaces produce small amounts of water as they heat. Some of this is blown out as exhaust steam, but the rest drains from the power exhaust manifold to a drip pan that is often shared with the air conditioner. This is a great time to inspect the drainage system for leaks, and make sure you don't have any contents from your stored near the furnace. If the drainage tube, water could fill the manifold and the flame sensor would shut the system down. If the joints are leaky, they could be spilling water on to floor which can be causing rot or mold. Keep the drainage tube clear by detaching it from the manifold and blowing compressed air through the tube and drain pipe. You can also pour a cup of white vinegar through the drainage tube and pipe to help prevent a filmy buildup.

Check your Thermostat Settings and Inspect the Wires

Many people don't take full advantage of their HVAC systems by programming their thermostats, fan settings and humidifiers seasonally. Take this opportunity to improve your families levels of comfort from the top floor all the way down to the basement! If you need some assistance with this, or have decided to improve your system with smart technology don't hesitate to give us a call to help make these adjustments. Often these small changes can result in a 5-15% reduction in your heating (and cooling) bill.

If your heating cycles aren't syncing up with your comfort levels then lets take a good look at your furnace. Once the power to the furnace has been shut off and the furnace doors removed, begin your furnace maintenance by giving the furnace wires a slight pull to ensure they are tight and properly fitted.

Dust and Vacuum

Dust, dirt and debris can cause a furnace to work sub-optimally or in some cases, not at all. To avoid this problem, use a soft-tipped paint brush applied gently against the inner components of the furnace to loosen dust and debris without damaging the furnace's interior. Once the brushing is complete, remove the material with a portable vacuum.

Clean the Flame Sensor

A dirty flame sensor in a gas furnace will stop the unit from working all together, so clean this part at least once a year. Unscrew the sensor from the furnace and then, holding it at the bottom, clean the sensor with emery cloth. Once the sensor is clean, it can be replaced, and the door reinstalled.

Maintain Your System However You Get Your Heat

While most North American homes are heated with natural gas, propane or electric furnaces, there are several other types of systems: steam radiator heat, air or geothermal heat pumps, radiant heat, baseboard heaters and more. Some of these systems, like radiant floor heating, are virtually maintenance-free. Others, like heat pumps, require annual tune-ups similar to air conditioners. If you have a heating system other than a gas or electric furnace and you're unsure about its maintenance requirements, contact us for some guidance.

Furnace Filter Maintenance

Changing your filter is the most important thing to do to ensure your furnace and air conditioner's longevity and performance, saving you up to 5-15 percent on your energy bill. One of the biggest culprits behind equipment issues are dirty filters which can:

  • Restrict airflow, which puts additional strain on the fan motor that after time can make your motor burn out, your system overheat or your equipment fail.

  • Force your fan motor to overwork which uses more energy, can cause damage to your system and significantly raises your utility bill.

  • Drastically reduce your indoor air quality which can aggravate allergies, asthma and other illnesses.

  • Clog ductwork with debris which can decrease your equipment's life span and lead to costly repair or replacement expenses.

The furnace's filter was likely replaced when it was last inspected, but it should be replaced every one to three months, unless otherwise instructed by the manufacturer of the furnace. Homes with smokers or pets will likely need to change their filters more regularly than other households. Keep in mind that there are also different levels of filtration that can be implemented into your home. Watch for another blog post regarding filtration.

Set a date on the calendar after the cleaning to easily remember when the filter should be changed. Some homeowners also find it easier to simply replace the filter on the first day of every month. In addition to the filter, you should keep the area around the furnace clean and free of obstructions, especially combustible materials. This allows the furnace to run properly and avoid potential damage to the unit, its performance or your home.

Contact us to discuss what filters may be right for you, or maybe you'd be interested in levelling up your game with an air purification system, which can eliminate germs and viruses, while improving your sleep!

Consider a Professional for any Mechanical Maintenance

Proper maintenance tasks relating to your home's furnace may be difficult if you don't have a mechanical background. If you feel uncomfortable handling any of these tasks, bring in a professional furnace maintenance technician. Even in cases where you feel you can accomplish most maintenance steps alone, it is still a good idea to hire a professional to thoroughly inspect the system and ensure it is running properly. A yearly preventative maintenance inspection by one of our qualified service technicians can keep your HVAC functioning at peak efficiency by identifying problems from thermal stress, movement or dust.

Common problems that a technician can address include:

  • Ductwork loosened due to normal thermal expansion and contraction

  • Blower motor bearings in need of lubrication

  • Replacing air filter and cleaning of dust from blower fan blades and AC condensing coil

An inspection can also find and repair less obvious problems like:

  • Loose blower belt

  • Improperly firing burners

  • Blocked condensate drain

  • Loose wiring harnesses

  • Slowly leaking coolant from the AC system

The best way to keep your furnace efficient and reliable is to have it inspected before you really need it. Its never too late - until it is! Before cold weather strikes, set up an appointment to have your heating system serviced and inspected by one of our experts. Regular maintenance can save you time, frustration, and money when it's done right. Our service includes a comprehensive diagnostic check to ensure that your furnace is operating safely, efficiently and to manufacturer's specifications. Some manufacturer warranties even state that annual maintenance is required for proper warranty coverage, and that any repairs required due to lack of routine maintenance are not covered by warranty.

Oh...and hey...we just happen to be running a few promotions until the end of January if one of your resolutions happened to be "to save more money". Act now and don't get caught out in the cold! Subscribe to our blog, reach out, or watch our social media channels for more information!

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