Preparing Your Home For Fall

As we say goodbye to summer, it is also time to say hello to all things fall!  Cooler temps, college football, apple orchards, pumpkin spice lattes, AND fall home maintenance.  Considering the minimal time investment and ease of the projects listed below, I’d say that our 5 steps for Preparing Your Home For Fall are well worth your efforts before the cooler weather is here to stay!
 
1. Clean out the gutters.
It is the job of your roof’s drainage system to shunt rainwater and debris away from your home’s foundation and exterior. For this reason, it is of the utmost importance to keep this system draining smoothly. Clogged gutters can lead to costly damage and a little fall-time forethought can ensure peace of mind and a well-functioning drainage system.  Take the time to remove leaves and other debris from drain pipes and gutters in an effort to prevent clogging.  This is also a wise time to invest in gutter mesh guards to prevent future accumulation.
2. Turn up the heat!
Start with making an appointment for an annual heating system check-up.  It is extremely important that your heating system is working correctly and safely! Be sure to take the time to make sure all of your heating vents are free of furniture, carpet, or curtains. This is also the time of year to replace your heater filters and continue to do so as the cool temperatures continue.
3. Freshen up the fireplace!
Even if your fireplace isn’t used on a regular basis, you should still always inspect it annually for damage or hazards. Be sure to look for flue blockages (birds and squirrels can get trapped!), chimney damage (loose or broken joints on a brick fireplace), and don’t forget to clear out ash and charred wood.  OR, if you’re like me, save yourself the trouble and call in a professional! But don’t forget to remind your chimney cleaner to check the damper for a tight close.
4. Check for drafts!
Seal Cracks and gaps around windows and doors with caulk and weather-stripping.  This is an extremely cost-effective way to keep those heating bills in check.
5. Remove and store air conditioners.
Any window air conditioners should be unplugged and removed during the cooler seasons.  Go the extra mile and dust and clean them before covering and storing.  You’ll thank yourself in the springtime!

Fall Furnace Maintenance: 8 Signs Your Furnace Has Called it Quits

If your building’s furnace has been there for 10 or 15 years (or more), you may be wondering how much life it has left. You don’t want to shell out thousands of dollars for a new one if you don’t have to yet, but you also don’t want to be in a position of having to make a quick decision to buy a new furnace when it suddenly fails and you have no heat. How can you predict when it’s likely to fail so you can replace it proactively?
If you’ve noticed many of the following warning signs, it’s time to call a certified HVAC service company for an evaluation of your system and recommendations for replacement options.

1. It’s a teenager

Most light commercial furnaces are built to last 15 to 20 years, so if your furnace is up there in its “teen” years, it’s actually an old-timer in furnace years, and things are bound to go wrong in the near future. You should also take into account the furnace maintenance history. If you haven’t done routinely done your fall furnace maintenance, or had it regularly cleaned and tuned up by a Green Apple Mechanical expert, the expected life span may be reduced significantly.

2. It’s driving up your utility bills

Have you noticed your energy bills going up in the last few years? It may be more than just rate increases. Check your bills to determine if your usage is increasing. If so, your HVAC system may be losing efficiency as it ages. Your old system is probably not more than 60 to 70 percent efficient. If you replace it with a new one rated 97% efficient, you can save 30% or more on your energy usage.

3. It’s getting less reliable

Your old furnace is like an old car. As it ages, more and more parts start to break down. You may have had a number of repair issues over the past few years, but you’ve been lucky and they were fixable without breaking the bank. But once your furnace reaches that stage, you will continue to have frequent breakdowns until a major component fails and the unit has reached the end of its life.

4. It provides inconsistent heat

Does your building have hot and cold spots? Are some people wearing winter coats and others opening the windows? There are many possible causes of temperature variance. Your furnace may no longer be adequately sized for the needs of your space. You may have re-arranged the layout without changing the ductwork, or there may be holes in the ductwork. The fan motor may no longer be blowing adequately. HVAC companies in NJ are trained to get to the bottom of it, so call in a professional.

5. It’s actually making people sick

An inefficient HVAC system can cause a drastic reduction in indoor air quality leading to unpleasant and even dangerous symptoms. Are people complaining of headaches and nausea? You could have a crack in your furnace’s heat exchanger that’s leaking low levels of carbon monoxide throughout the building. Has there been an increase in cold and allergy symptoms? Your ventilation system could be spreading pollen, mold, bacteria and viruses. Obviously, this is a situation that needs immediate attention.

6. It’s making a mess

When your furnace is no longer working effectively, you will notice an increase in dust, humidity and condensation on the windows, and even mold problems throughout your building.

7. It’s making weird noises

Is your furnace making noises that are driving everyone in the building crazy? All those bumps, clanks and rattles are a sign that your furnace is worn out. As your furnace ages and parts get worn, it can get progressively nosier. Think of it as a wake-up call. It’s time to think about a new unit that will give you both peace of mind and peace and quiet.

8. It’s broken!

If your furnace has broken down, and you’ve already noticed most of the above warning signs, it’s probably time to consider a replacement.
Even if your furnace is still working and you’ve noticed these issues, it’s in your best interest to start researching replacement options. This gives you time to find the right equipment at the right price for your needs.
Are you facing a decision about whether to repair an ailing furnace or spring for a new one? It can be a challenge to know who to trust. There are many factors to consider, including the age and condition of the equipment, what exactly is broken, as well as other soft costs and intangibles that you might fail to think about.

9 fall heating maintenance tips

As the winter fast approaches, it’s time to start thinking about heating your home. Before you just turn your system on, performing proper maintenance can ensure that it runs efficiently, so you don’t spend any more than you have to heating your home. Here are nine tips to make sure you heating system is ready for the winter:

  • Thermostat. Check your thermostat to make sure it’s operating properly. If it’s defective or older, consider upgrading it to a newer, programmable one. Not only do they provide better temperature readings, but they can be set to go on or turn off at specific times, ensuring you only pay for the heating that you use.
  • Air filter. Air filters make sure the air that is pumped throughout your heating system is clean. Clogged or used filters can hinder that process, adding air contaminants into your home. In addition, because they are dirty, your heating system will have to work harder to pass air through the filter, using more fuel and costing you more money. Replace the filters as needed.
  • Vents. Walk through your home and check all of the air vents. Blocked air vents will make your system work more than necessary, and will also prevent rooms from getting warmer. As you’re clearing the vents, remove the vent cover and clean both it and directly inside of the vent, as dust and sediment can gather there when not in use.
  • Ducts. As ducts age, gaps can form in joints, causing air to escape from the system, which is another cause of inefficiencies. Inspect the ducts thoroughly. Get some metal tape or high temperature silicone and plug any holes you find.
  • Dampers. If your home uses the same ducts for both heating and cooling, make sure to reset the damper during your duct inspection. This is especially important in two story homes. Because hot air rises, the dampers regulate airflow to send more cold air upstairs in the summer and more warm air downstairs in the winter. Set the damper to the proper season.
  • Burners. Turn your furnace’s electrical system off and remove the door of your furnace and inspect the burners. Once you find where the burners are, turn the electrical system back on and slowly raise your thermostat until the they come on. The flames should have an even consistency and be blue. If the flames are yellow, that indicates the burners are dirty and need maintenance. For safety, contact an oil furnace repair professional.
  • Blower. Use a ratchet and appropriate sized socket to remove the blower so that it can be cleaned. Once removed, clean with a vacuum and small brush. Be very careful when cleaning around the blades, as it is possible to cause an imbalance and damage the fan.
  • Bearings. Typical furnaces require the internal motors be properly lubricated annually. Clean around the oil caps before removing them. Then, apply two to three drops of lightweight machine oil in each motor. Be careful not to add any more, as over lubricating is just as bad as not using enough.
  • Fan belts. Over time, fan belts may shift or become damaged, causing them to break or work less efficiently. Locate the fan belts to see if they are properly in place and check them for any cracks or frays. If they look like they’re in good shape, simply readjust them. If damaged, install a replacement.

9 fall heating maintenance tips

As the winter fast approaches, it’s time to start thinking about heating your home. Before you just turn your system on, performing proper maintenance can ensure that it runs efficiently, so you don’t spend any more than you have to heating your home. Here are nine tips to make sure you heating system is ready for the winter:

  • Thermostat. Check your thermostat to make sure it’s operating properly. If it’s defective or older, consider upgrading it to a newer, programmable one. Not only do they provide better temperature readings, but they can be set to go on or turn off at specific times, ensuring you only pay for the heating that you use.
  • Air filter. Air filters make sure the air that is pumped throughout your heating system is clean. Clogged or used filters can hinder that process, adding air contaminants into your home. In addition, because they are dirty, your heating system will have to work harder to pass air through the filter, using more fuel and costing you more money. Replace the filters as needed.
  • Vents. Walk through your home and check all of the air vents. Blocked air vents will make your system work more than necessary, and will also prevent rooms from getting warmer. As you’re clearing the vents, remove the vent cover and clean both it and directly inside of the vent, as dust and sediment can gather there when not in use.
  • Ducts. As ducts age, gaps can form in joints, causing air to escape from the system, which is another cause of inefficiencies. Inspect the ducts thoroughly. Get some metal tape or high temperature silicone and plug any holes you find.
  • Dampers. If your home uses the same ducts for both heating and cooling, make sure to reset the damper during your duct inspection. This is especially important in two story homes. Because hot air rises, the dampers regulate airflow to send more cold air upstairs in the summer and more warm air downstairs in the winter. Set the damper to the proper season.
  • Burners. Turn your furnace’s electrical system off and remove the door of your furnace and inspect the burners. Once you find where the burners are, turn the electrical system back on and slowly raise your thermostat until the they come on. The flames should have an even consistency and be blue. If the flames are yellow, that indicates the burners are dirty and need maintenance. For safety, contact an oil furnace repair professional.
  • Blower. Use a ratchet and appropriate sized socket to remove the blower so that it can be cleaned. Once removed, clean with a vacuum and small brush. Be very careful when cleaning around the blades, as it is possible to cause an imbalance and damage the fan.
  • Bearings. Typical furnaces require the internal motors be properly lubricated annually. Clean around the oil caps before removing them. Then, apply two to three drops of lightweight machine oil in each motor. Be careful not to add any more, as over lubricating is just as bad as not using enough.
  • Fan belts. Over time, fan belts may shift or become damaged, causing them to break or work less efficiently. Locate the fan belts to see if they are properly in place and check them for any cracks or frays. If they look like they’re in good shape, simply readjust them. If damaged, install a replacement.