Fall & Winter Seasonal Maintenance Guide

Certain home maintenance tasks should be completed each season to prevent structural damage, save energy, and keep all your home’s systems running properly. What maintenance tasks are most important for the fall and winter? Here are the major issues you should be aware of and critical tasks you should complete. For a comprehensive list of tasks by season, refer to the to-do list in this article.
Keep your  home free from damage by preparing for the constant cycle of freezing and thawing that occurs throughout fall and winter. “In fall, it’s important to do seemingly minor things that can have disastrous consequences if not done early,” says experts.
Key maintenance tasks to perform
Disconnect hoses from outside faucets. This keeps water inside the hose from freezing and splitting the casing, and it also allows the pipes inside the wall to drain completely so that water doesn’t freeze and crack them. Most outside spigots now are self-draining, but if you have an older home, you may have to manually turn off the valve inside the house to shut off the water so that it drains completely (this valve is usually in the basement or crawl space near where the pipe goes to the outside).
It’s important to remember this task, because you may not notice that these pipes have burst until you turn the faucet on in spring and water leaks into your exterior wall. If you’re lucky, Lesh says, you’ll have a major leak that will be noticeable right away; it’s actually worse to have a slower leak that allows water to drip slowly into the wall, where mold and rot can do extensive damage without your even seeing it.
Seal coat blacktop driveways. The heat of summer may cause asphalt to expand and crack. If these cracks aren’t repaired, water gets into them and freezes, widening the cracks. Eventually, big chunks of asphalt will break off and repair will become more difficult and expensive, so applying sealant (generally every two to three years) is an important preventive step.
On a warm, dry day in early fall when you don’t expect rain for at least 24 hours, you should clear the driveway of debris, clean up any oil stains with detergent and a scrub brush (be sure to rinse the entire driveway well with a hose), and apply asphalt crack filler to individual cracks larger than 1/4 inch wide. Allow the filler to dry for at least an hour and then spread a coat of sealant over the entire driveway. Don’t use the driveway for at least 24 hours. Expect to pay $100 for the driveway detergent, crack filler, long-handled roller, and sealer needed to do the job.
If you have a concrete driveway, you don’t need to maintain it—unless it’s less than a year old. It’s very important that during the first year of curing, no salt come into contact with the surface; don’t salt your driveway and clear any roadway salt that gets thrown onto it.
Clean your gutters. In the Midwest, this task is especially crucial because of freezing and thawing. “After a snowfall it’s typical for the sun to come out just long enough to melt the snow on your roof, which then drips into the gutters,” Lesh says. “But the water freezes before it’s all drained.” If your gutters are clogged with debris, standing water freezes and forces its way up under the roof shingles or into the eaves, which introduces moisture that can eventually rot the roof decking. Trapped ice and frozen debris can also bend your gutters so that they don’t drain well, or even pull them away from the house.
Schedule your annual furnace checkup. Your technician should be able to tell you exactly what he’s going to check to keep your furnace maintained. Lesh recommends asking open-ended questions (“What specifically will you be cleaning?”) and making sure the contractor is checking fuel connections, burner combustion, and the heat exchanger. In the meantime, you should be checking your furnace filters monthly and changing them whenever they’re dirty. Inspect floor grates and return ducts regularly and clean them out with a vacuum cleaner brush. You may want to enroll in a yearly maintenance agreement with an HVAC professional that includes a fall furnace service and a spring air conditioning service. Otherwise, expect to pay $50 to $100 for a furnace tune-up.
You don’t need to prepare your outside air conditioning unit for cold weather because it’s designed to withstand snow and cold. In fact, if you cover your unit with plastic to protect it, you provide a place for mice to overwinter and gnaw through the unit’s wiring. If your unit sits in a spot that’s vulnerable to falling ice or heavy tree limbs, place a sheet of plywood over the top and cover with a loose drop cloth for protection; just don’t enclose the space completely.
Make sure deck and porch boards are secure. Loose or warped boards are hazardous. Prop up low spots with wooden shims and fasten loose boards with galvanized deck screws
Insulate your whole-house fan. If you use a whole-house fan to help cool your house, be sure to cover it when not in use with an insulated box or other cover. “If you don’t, heated air—which you’ve paid for—will enter the attic,” Lesh says. Introducing warm, moist air into the attic will then cause frost to form on the cold surface of the roof decking, which melts and drips onto the attic floor—your ceiling, in other words. Mold and staining can result.
You can make a simple fan cover from a batt of insulation; make sure it fits snugly over the opening with no gaps. For about $30, you can buy duct tape and a piece of 2-inch-thick polystyrene foam and make a foam box to fit over the top; 2-inch foam has an insulating value of about R-10.
Attic fans, designed to remove super-hot air from attics, are usually installed in the roof or gable ends of an attic space. Unlike whole-house fans, attic fans don’t require insulation, but fall is a good time to investigate whether animals have tried to force their way in through the screen covering the vent. Replace the screen if necessary.
Scrape, prime, and paint. Lesh recommends painting wood surfaces early in the fall before the weather gets too cold and before winter’s moisture has a chance to do any damage. Scrape peeling paint even if you can’t get to the painting this season—water actually sheds better off bare wood than wood with peeling paint attached, which traps moisture.
Prune back trees. After leaves drop, prune any nearby trees or bushes, especially if snowfall will cause them to bend and rub against the house. This can shorten the lifespan of your roof and siding.

Call “Green Apple Mechanical NJ toll free at –

  • (888) 611-7191

Don’t Let Furnace Water Leaks Ruin Your Holiday

Isn’t it just the last thing you need during the crazy rush right before the holidays? Your maintenance guy tells you there’s a puddle of water under your furnace. Oh, great… there goes your dream of a profitable December and starting off the New Year with a trip to the tropics. Will you have to shell out thousands for a new furnace instead?
Don’t cancel your plans just yet! There are a number of reasons that can lead to your furnace leaking water, and most of them don’t mean an untimely death for your heating system.
Start by identifying what type of heating equipment you have, and check out these possible causes for water leaks.

1. High-efficiency furnace

If you have a newer high efficiency furnace (with an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency or AFUE rating of 90 percent or more), these systems extract heat from the exhaust which produces condensation. Normally, the condensation is drained through a tube to a pan or floor drain. If there is a clog or a break in the drain line, or if the floor drain is clogged with debris, you could end up with a puddle under your furnace.
Check the drain first and clear it if necessary. If the drain line appears compromised, this is an easy fix for an HVAC service technician.

2. Furnace with a humidifier

Do you have a furnace with a humidifier attached? If so, the humidifier could have a leak, or it could be clogged and overflowing into your furnace. If you catch this early, it may not be a major expense to clean out or even replace the humidifier. But if the leak goes on for a while, it can cause major damage to your furnace. Call an HVAC expert as soon as possible to inspect your system.

3. Combined heat and air conditioning heat pump system

If you have a combined heating and air conditioning system with a heat pump, the water leak could actually be coming from the air conditioning. These systems have a combined drain line which could be clogged. If you are still using the air conditioning occasionally, the coils could be frozen or the condensate pump may have failed. Even if you suspect the water is coming from the air conditioner, don’t neglect this issue because water leaks can ultimately cause damage to your building’s walls, ceilings and floors.
This may turn out to be a minor repair, but you need to call an HVAC service company with expertise in combined heating and air conditioning systems.

4. Newly-installed gas furnace

If you’ve just bought a new gas furnace and it’s already leaking, you’re probably pretty steamed. Chances are, you went with the lowest bid and got installers who are not the most experienced (or just trying to cut corners so they make money on the job).
There are several installation mistakes that can cause water leaks from a gas furnace. The flue pipe that exhausts the toxic gases from your building could be the wrong size, or there could be a leak in the joint between the furnace and the outside vent pipe. Also, the exhaust pipe may have been incorrectly installed; it needs to slope slightly downward toward the exterior so that water drains out of the building rather than back into the furnace.

5. Hot water boiler

If your heating system is a hot water boiler with baseboards or radiators, anytime you have a leak you should immediately close off the valve that feeds water to the system. If your slow drip is the precursor to a major leak, you’ll save yourself from a big mess by limiting the amount of water in the system until you can get an HVAC repair guy in there.
The problem is likely to be just a faulty valve. Especially if you’ve recently had a repair done, it’s possible that air was introduced into the system which increases the pressure on the valves. You’ll have to get the repair technician to come take another look. In the worst case, you may have a leak in your boiler, and there’s a chance it will need to be replaced. Call “Green Apple Mechanical NJ” toll free at

  • (888) 611-7191

What Does It Mean If My Furnace Won’t Turn On?

This isn’t a scenario you want to encounter on a chilly day: you don’t hear the familiar noise you expect from your furnace as it kicks in to combat the cold. Instead, it sits silent and no warm air comes from your vents. Obviously, something is wrong—but what?
There are a number of reasons that your furnace might refuse to turn on. Some you can resolve yourself quickly. Others will need the assistance of repair technicians to analyze and remedy. You’ll want this issue dealt with as soon as possible, so make sure you keep contact information handy for an experienced HVAC contractor like “Green Apple Mechanical NJ”.

Reasons Your Furnace May Not Turn On

Thermostat error/malfunction: One of the first things to do when your furnace won’t turn on is to see that the thermostat is set correctly. An error with a programmable or digital thermostat could mean the furnace doesn’t think the house is cold enough to require it to provide heat. The thermostat could also have faults so it is sensing the indoor temperature incorrectly. This latter problem will need professional repairs.
Tripped circuit breakers: This is an issue not only for electrical furnaces but also for many gas-powered furnaces that use an electric igniter. A power surge along the line could trip one of the circuit breakers without you realizing it. Check the electrical panel to see if you can restore the power.
Failed pilot light/ignition: The pilot light can go out on a gas or oil furnace, which means the burners will not be able to ignite. If you can’t relight the pilot light on your own, you will need an HVAC technician to examine the burner unit and discover if there is a gas flow problem or excessive dirt along the burner. For electric-powered furnaces, ignition failure will prevent any of the heating elements from activating.

Preventive maintenance

There is also the unfortunate reality that eventually a furnace will become too worn and suffer a complete shutdown. This may require installing a replacement system. However, you can help make sure your furnace lasts for many years with regular preventive maintenance; it only requires an annual visit from a technician to keep your furnace in its best running condition.
If you need heating repairs in the New Jersey area to get your furnace to turn back on, contact “Green Apple Mechanical NJ” . We offer furnace repair and maintenance services and know furnaces of all kinds from the inside out, so we can help make sure yours works down to its smallest component.

DIY HVAC Repair? Don’t Even Think About It

DIY HVAC repair is tempting

Have you always been handy? If you can fix your car and lots of things around your home, you may be tempted to take on the challenge of DIY HVAC repair. Or maybe you’re a business owner with a maintenance staff that handle cleaning and minor repairs around your premises. They should be able to tackle DIY HVAC repair, right?
Wrong! DIY HVAC repair is not only dangerous, but it can lead to some very expensive consequences. Read on to learn why DIY HVAC repair is a temptation you should not give in to.

Why DIY HVAC repair is a bad idea

There’s a reason why HVAC service technicians need to complete years of training and apprenticeships in order to become qualified (and ideally, certified) to maintain and repair your heating and air conditioning systems. They also must continue receiving ongoing training to keep up to date on new technology so they stay qualified.
Actually there are quite a few reasons to avoid DIY HVAC repair:

Working around high voltage electricity

You already know this: handling electricity can kill you! Your HVAC systems use high voltage electricity, so don’t try it unless you are a trained electrician or HVAC tech. The small amount of money you may save with DIY HVAC repair is just not worth the potential consequences of making a mistake.

Handling dangerous refrigerant chemicals

The refrigerants in your air conditioning system can be deadly if you don’t know how to handle them safely. Not only to the person handling them, but to everyone in the building. That’s why it’s critical (and it’s also the law) that only HVAC technicians with EPA 608 certification work on your air conditioning system.
EPA 608 certification is required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for technicians who perform maintenance and repair services and disposal of refrigerants. If you’re attempting DIY HVAC repair without this training, you could face deadly consequences.

You don’t have the right tools

Especially when you may be dealing with a refrigerant leak (which is a common cause of air conditioning problems), there are specialty tools and gauges that are required to properly diagnose and find the leak. Purchasing all those tools for a DIY HVAC repair, especially if you’re not sure what the problem is, can cost you more than calling in a professional in the first place.

DIY HVAC repair is more complex than you think

Heating, air conditioning and ventilation are complex systems with many components that can cause problems. Not only are there many interrelated parts, but they look different and are located in different places depending on the type of system you have and even the brand you have. As a result, trying to make a DIY HVAC repair after watching a YouTube video is just a disaster waiting to happen.
Here’s something else to consider about having an experienced tech inspect your system. In addition to fixing the current problem the right way, he is also trained to spot failing parts and looming problems before they cause major breakdowns.

DIY HVAC repair can make things a lot worse

As we said, your HVAC equipment has many components, and quite a few of them can be damaged with incorrect handling. These include electrical components and coils. Coil fins, in particular, can be fragile and are easily damaged if you use the wrong methods or tools to clean them.
Or, you might accidentally install the wrong part and cause the compressor to fail. The compressor is the heart of the system and a very expensive part to replace. You might even find yourself having to shop for a new unit if you screw up a DIY HVAC repair.

A few safe DIY HVAC repair tasks

All that being said, as a homeowner or business owner, there are some DIY HVAC repair troubleshooting steps you can take before calling in a professional.
In addition, you can and should be doing these tasks to keep your HVAC systems running well and in good condition:
CHANGING THERMOSTAT BATTERIES. Whenever you change the batteries in your smoke detectors, do the same for your heating and air conditioning thermostats. It’s a simple and inexpensive preventative measure that eliminates problems down the road.
CHANGING YOUR FILTERS. Your heating and air conditioning systems have filters that are designed to keep dust and debris out of your equipment to prevent damage. If your air conditioning system is running 24/7, those filters can get clogged in a hurry, especially in New York City where air quality is poor. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations for how often to change your filters, but check them even more often since your conditions may require you to change them more frequently.
 
KEEPING AIR FLOW CLEAR. Clear any clutter from the areas around indoor equipment like furnaces and air handlers, and regularly remove debris like trash and leaves from around your outdoor air conditioning unit. Check registers and vents to make sure they are open and unobstructed.
INVESTING IN REGULAR PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE. Just like you change your oil to keep your car running smoothly, your HVAC systems need the same kind of regular care. Investing in a preventative maintenance agreement with an experienced HVAC service provider can prevent many of the problems that may tempt you to try DIY HVAC repair.

Heating Equipment: Repair or Replace?

It happens eventually in every home. On a particularly frigid morning, you wake up and crank the thermostat just like usual, but there’s no response: No comforting sound of the system firing up and no warmth rising from the air vents or radiators. Hopefully it’s a simple problem that’s a quick and inexpensive fix, like a tripped circuit breaker or a clogged filter. But occasionally the repair is so big and costly that it raises an age-old question that’s been asked about everything from station wagons to vacuum cleaners: Is it more cost effective to fix what you have or replace it? Here’s how to decide.
Think safety first
If the problem presents a safety hazard, replacement is a no-brainer. For example, if your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger—the metal wall between the burning fuel and the air it’s heating—poisonous carbon monoxide gas could work its way into the household air supply, something you don’t want to risk. Other problems, like faulty electronics and stuck valves, can be repaired, which means you’ll need to do a cost-benefit analysis.
Consider the typical lifespan
A 2013 study by the National Association of Home Builders and Bank of America found that furnaces for forced-air systems last an average of 15 to 20 years; boilers for hot-water radiators and baseboards last 13 to 21 years. So start by dating your system. Some technicians write the year the equipment was installed directly on the unit. Otherwise, when the machine is off and cool, look for a metal identification plate, usually on the inside of chamber door. Record the model and serial numbers from the plate, then call the manufacturer’s customer service number to get the date of manufacture.
Keep in mind that a 25- or even 30-year-old system isn’t necessarily ready for the scrap heap. The published lifespans are averages, which means half of all systems are spent by that time, and the other half are still working well. Use these numbers as ballpark guidelines only, suggests Gopal Ahluwalia, the NAHB study’s lead researcher.
Assess the costs of repairing versus replacing
To decide your system’s fate, you need more data: the cost of your repair or replacement options, which your service provider can give you. Depending on the size of your house and the brand of new equipment you choose, a new hot-air furnace typically costs $1,500 to $4,000, while a boiler for a hot-water system might run $4,000 to $8,000.
As a general guideline, consider replacement if the equipment is beyond three-quarters of its life expectancy and repairs will cost more than a third of replacement. It’s probably not worth spending $700 to repair a 15-year-old furnace you could replace for $2,000.
Consider your heating plant’s efficiency
In these days of high fuel costs and concerns over our carbon footprints, you should also consider your heating plant’s efficiency. Its Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency number (AFUE) measures the percentage of the fuel that’s converted to heat rather than being lost up the chimney or through other inefficiencies.
“If your system is 20 years old, its AFUE is probably about 70%,” says experts. Today’s minimum AFUE is 80%, which means you’ll burn 10% less fuel—and therefore spend 10% less money on your heating bills. You can go as high a 95% AFUE with new equipment, dropping your bills a whopping 25%. That kind of efficiency raises your equipment costs to $3,500 to $6,000 for a furnace and $8,000 to $10,000 for a boiler, but will also earn you a tax credit of up to $300 from the federal government. And there are many incentives.

 


 

Got allergies? Check your furnace

The autumn leaves are falling and there’s scarcely a plant in your area to be found blowing pollen particles into the air. So why are you still sniffling, sneezing and wheezing? It could simply be your heater, experts say.

Each fall, when people crank up their forced air heating systems for the first time of the season, houses can be flooded with dust and other throat-clogging gunk, experts say.
Heating ducts have the whole summer to accumulate dust and other allergens. And, “sometimes when people turn their heat on in mid- to late October, for the first week they find themselves coughing and sneezing,” says Dr. Marjorie Slankard, an associate clinical professor of medicine at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City. “That’s especially true if the heating ducts have not been cleaned for a while.”
One way to cure this problem is to have the heating ducts cleaned prior to firing up the system for the first time, says Dr. Adrian Casillas, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of clinical immunology and allergy at the University of California, at Los Angeles, School of Medicine.
Casillas suggests leaving the house while the ducts are being cleaned.
“When they’re being cleaned, a lot of dust and mold particles will be released,” Slankard agrees. “So it’s better to be out of the home for several hours during and after the cleaning.”
Once the ducts are cleaned, it’s important to make sure your heating filtration system is up to snuff, experts say.
Try using HEPA filters
Slankard suggests using permanent HEPA type filters in your heating system.
“These filters remove over 90 percent of particulate matter,” she says. “They’re much better than disposable filters.”
It’s important to remember to clean the permanent filters, though.
“Once the filter gets saturated, it impedes the flow of air,” Casillas says. “Then the heating system is less efficient and the filter won’t work.”
Another strategy is to block dust and other allergens at the outlets of the heating vents, experts say. If you live in an apartment and have no control over the filtration at the furnace end of things, this may be the only way to clean up the air coming into your home.
“We used to recommend that people fasten a piece of cheesecloth over the ducts’ outlets,” Slankard says. “But there now there are companies that make devices that have a filter you can Velcro over the duct cover.”
Is your air too dry?
Allergens aren’t the only problem for irritated throats and sinuses during the fall and winter. Forced air systems can also overly dry the air, which leads to parched and irritated mucous membranes, Casillas says.
In some people, mucous membranes become so irritated that people end up with frequent nose bleeds, Slankard says.
To avoid this, humidity should be kept moderate — between 35 percent and 50 percent, Slankard says.
In most cases, a humidifier will solve the problem, experts say.
But some people will end up with nose bleeds even with a humidifier. For them, Slankard recommends a few squirts a day with a saline solution nasal spray.
The New York physician also recommends that people make sure they’re consuming enough water to counter the dry air.
Another problem with forced air heating systems is that they stir up any allergens already hanging around your home.
If you’ve got mold, or spores or pet dander lying around, the blast of air from the heating system will set it in motion, Casillas says. “So then these allergens will be available to humans for a bit longer,” he adds. “That’s just one of the outcomes of a system that blows things around.”

Fall Is the perfect time for Installing a New Central AC in Your NJ Home

As we adjust to the autumn weather in New Jersey, it’s easy to push the idea of installing a new central A/C to the bottom of your to-do list. After all, next summer is a long way off, and you have more pressing things to do with your time and money. But fall is actually the best time of year for having serious A/C work or installation done in your New Jersey area home. Keep the following things in mind as you plan your fall home maintenance projects, and consider moving installing a new central A/C system to the top of your list.

Why Fall Makes Sense for A/C Installation

Saving money is the best reason for upgrading to a new air conditioner in the fall. Manufacturers cut prices on this year’s equipment models to clear their inventory in time to gear up for meeting the demand for furnaces, boilers and related equipment as winter weather approaches. Your local HVAC contractor can get great deals from suppliers trying to clean out their warehouses, and can pass those savings along to you.
By early fall, your HVAC contractor is winding down from the summer cooling crunch and has crews and equipment available for installing a new central A/C system or performing other cooling and heating work around your house. The contractor’s calendar is no longer dominated by emergency A/C repair calls due to the heat of summer, so you don’t have to wait as long to schedule your air conditioning project.
Autumn weather is ideal for A/C installation work or other renovation projects that require having your HVAC systems shut down for a few days. Your family can stay comfortable with the window open and enjoy the fresh fall breezes moving through your home while the installation work is going on in your basement, utility room or attic.

Combine A/C Installation With Other Home Energy Upgrades

Work with your HVAC professionals to consolidate several energy projects around your home so that you can save money on labor costs and minimize the number of days your family has to deal with construction noise and other disruptions. You are probably making a significant investment in installing a new central A/C system that is more energy efficient than your existing cooling equipment. Get the most out of your money by improving the energy efficiency of the rest of your home at the same time.
If you reduce your home’s cooling and heating demand by tightening up your house, you will save money not only in installing a more efficient air conditioner, but also by having to run it less than you would otherwise. In addition, those energy improvements will reduce your winter heating costs.
Here are some ideas to discuss with your HVAC contractor for improving your home’s energy efficiency at the same time you’re installing a new central A/C system. You may want to do some of this work yourself, but much of it can be done more cost-effectively by your HVAC technicians while they’re already at your house installing your air conditioner:

  • Seal air leaks. Reducing the amount of air moving into or out of your house can reduce your energy bills significantly. Caulk around door and window frames and anywhere utilities penetrate your home’s exterior walls. Replace weatherstripping to ensure tight seals when doors and windows are closed.
  • Be sure you have adequate insulation. If your attic insulation is insufficient for our climate, upgrading it can reduce your cooling and heating loads significantly. Have your HVAC contractor inspect your ductwork, anywhere ducts run through unconditioned spaces and add insulation to those sections if they’re not insulated. You will recover the money you spend on insulation quickly via reduced energy bills.
  • Inspect your furnace and perform seasonal maintenance on it. During your A/C installation, have your technician clean your furnace burner, inspect the heat exchanger and lubricate the air handling equipment. Have your ducts inspected and cleaned, if needed, and have any leaking seams and joints sealed. Change your air filter so your system is ready to go when the first cold front arrives.

Contact us at “Green Apple Mechanical NJ” for installation, repairs and maintenance of your cooling and heating equipment. We serve customers throughout the New Jersey area. Call us toll free at 888-611-7191

FALL FURNACE MAINTENANCE PREVENTS BREAKDOWNS IN WINTER

We’re now in the fall season, which means cooler days, pumpkin-laced foods, and football season. It also means it’s time for winter prep-work. Fall is when you want to double check all your winter defenses so they’re ready to go before the first cold snap. Having a furnace that works and is operating at maximum efficiency is key to ensuring a warm and inexpensive winter. An annual pre-winter maintenance of your furnace or central heating system does both. There’s a lot that you can do to get ready by yourself, and some things you should hire a professional for.

Fall Furnace Maintenance: What You Can Do

Change your filters

Dirty filters will restrict airflow and reduce the efficiency of your system. Once a filter becomes too clogged for proper operation it will decrease air quality and can even prevent operation of the unit. Newer heating and air conditioning systems even have a safety shut-off mechanism if the air filter becomes too dirty and there’s not enough airflow.

Move items away from the furnace

During the warm-weather part of the year, the space around your furnace might seem like a good spot for that box of excellent flammables, but you’ll want to move any objects to at least three feet away before you turn on the furnace. Excess heat buildup is dangerous. Modern furnaces should turn off but it’s not a risk you want to take. Blocking off a furnace air intake will also reduce efficiency, so be mindful of where you store your things in the winter.

Check your fuel level

Whether you use propane, natural gas, or a wood-burning stove, fuel is needed to create heat. If you’re not using an electric furnace or heat-pump, check the fuel level in your tank and make sure it’s ready for the winter.

Test your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors

You should be doing this regularly but, if you haven’t recently, test all the safety sensors in your home. They’ll detect any unsafe substances flowing through your vents before they become a problem.

Fall Furnace Maintenance: What a Professional Should Do

In the fall, you should hire a professional service technician to inspect your heating unit before you start it up for the year. At Green Apple Mechanical NJ, we do full service and maintenance checks for your furnace to make sure you’re ready for the winter. Regardless of who you call for your professional furnace maintenance, your technician should check the following things:

Clean the burner

That really bad smell when you turn on your furnace for the first time each year is due to dust and carbon buildup from the past year. A full professional cleaning makes sure the first time you start your system is both safe and burnt-dust free. The burner is also inspected for cracks, age-related stresses, and any other damage, preventing dangerous carbon monoxide and other issues.

Inspect the fuel system

From feed line to regulators, everything about the fuel system needs to be inspected to make sure that seals are intact and no holes have formed in the lines.

Lubricate, clean, and inspect the motor

A well-oiled fan with a quality belt improves air flow and ensures efficient use of your heating system.

Inspect the ventilation system and ensure proper airflow

The filter is only one place where airflow blockages can occur. A technician will check flowrates throughout the entire system to make sure there aren’t any problems with leaky ducts or damaged vents and registers. Your technician should check your vent connection pipe and chimney.

Calibrate your thermostat

Everything else in your home can work properly, but if your thermostat is misreading the temperature you’ll waste energy overheating your home. A quick calibration of your thermostat will ensure that the temperature you set is the temperature you’ll get. And you can always call “Green Apple Mechanical NJ” toll free at (888) 611-7191

 

10 SIGNS YOUR FURNACE NEEDS REPAIR

As temperatures begin to drop in the evenings it is natural to be giving a lot of thought to how you heat your home. If you are like many homeowners, you have a furnace as part of a HVAC system, and you typically keep an eye on it and maintain it as best you can. How can you know if you should take care of a little furnace repair before the weather really turns cold? Besides the obvious sign of a furnace simply not working any longer, there are some warning signs that you can watch out for and hopefully use to catch a major problem before it gets out of control!

1 – Your furnace sounds like it’s possessed

While it’s true that no furnace is going to be whisper-quiet, it is also not normal for a furnace to be making all manner of strange noises. If you hear sounds that sound like something out of a horror film (groaning, banging, and whining noises) your furnace repairs might include replacing a loose belt, correcting an ignition problem, or replacing a component that is about to fail.

2 – Cranking up the thermostat isn’t cutting it anymore

When you’re cold, your natural response is to try to warm things up. Usually all you need to do if you have a furnace is go bump the heat up a few notches at the thermostat…but what if this isn’t working? Your thermostat may be faulty, or you may have leaking ducts, or a problem with your pilot light.

3 – Your electric bills have gone sky high

Higher than normal electricity bills often indicate inefficient performance, which can be caused by a variety of problems. It is best to have a qualified professional diagnose the issue rather than trying to do so yourself.

4 – Your pilot light is yellow

When you check on your furnace and notice that your pilot light is burning yellow, you may not think anything of it at first. The trouble is that a yellow flame indicates that the gas combination of your furnace is not in good condition. A blue flame is the ideal because it indicates an ideal balance of gases. Yellow can indicate problem gases such as Carbon Monoxide.

5 – Your furnace has trouble getting started and staying on

Furnace repairs that might be needed to correct this problem are replacing a thermostat, faulty wiring, repairing a pilot light, or fixing a fan motor

 6 – Your family isn’t doing so well in the air quality department

If your furnace needs repairs, you can often see a rise in the frequency that you and your family experience breathing-related troubles such as asthma, allergies, and other illnesses. A poorly-functioning system can be putting dust, mold, and other irritants into the air that circulates through your home.

7 – Chills everywhere and ice where it shouldn’t be

If constant drafts are the norm, it is likely that your furnace is not able to heat your entire house anymore. If ice is forming on your roof, it can be a sign that furnace repairs are needed because the heat from your home is leaking up through your attic as opposed to staying down in the living areas where it belongs.

8 – Condensation is common

Furnace repairs might not be needed if you are seeing condensation on the insides of your windows, but it is a sign that you should call in a professional to take a look at your system.

9 – Your furnace could give fossils a run for their money

The average life of a furnace is between 10 and 20 years, with most units lasting into the upper end of that range. If your furnace is beyond 15 years old, it is time to start planning to replace it sooner rather than later.

10 – You have repaired in within the last 2 years

If you have needed furnace repairs more than once in the past two years it may be time to consider replacing it. Furnaces are like cars in that they tend to break down more as they age. The average lifespan for a Furnace is approximately 12-15 years.

14 low-tech ways to keep your house warm over the winter

There’s growing concern about price rises from energy companies. Here are cheap ways to save money when heating your house.

Householders are regularly being advised to install double glazing, thorough insulation and overhaul their inefficient heating system. But apart from those often expensive tactics, what can be done cheaply and quickly to keep your house warm?
1. Use tin foil. One way to prevent unnecessary heat loss from radiators, particularly on those attached to external walls, is to use heat reflective aluminium foil behind the radiator. This prevents heat disappearing through the wall by reflecting it back into the room, says Sophie Neuburg, energy campaigner for charity Friends of the Earth. Foil specially designed for the purpose can be bought for under $5.00 “You can even use good quality kitchen foil,” says Carl Brennand, assistant manager of website Moneymagpie, although it’s generally not as effective.
2. Thick curtains are one of the main ways to protect your house from losing heat through the windows. Curtains with a thermal lining are a relatively cheap option, says Brennand. “The thicker the better,” adds Archna Luthra, consumer analyst at moneysavingexpert.com. If you don’t want to splash out on new curtains you can line them yourself with materials like cheap fleece, says Brennand. “You can even use PVC shower curtains,” he suggests. And it’s not just windows that can have curtains. Placing a curtain in front of doors to the outside adds another layer of protection. And it doesn’t even need to be a curtain. “My grandma used to have an old rug that she used to pin up over the back of the front door,” says interior designer Claire Potter.

3. But let the sunlight in during the day. It’s important to try to use as much natural – and free – heat (in the form of sunlight) as possible. Window shades and curtains should be kept open during the day. Closing your curtains as soon as dusk falls will maximise your house’s potential to retain that heat.
4. Double glazing is heat-efficient but it’s relatively costly. If you can’t afford it, why not fake it? “There’s a special film that you can put across [single-glazed] windows” that can imitate the same effect, albeit to a lesser degree, says Neuburg. You can attach the film to the window frame using double-sided tape and then fix it using a hairdryer, she says. There’s a downside. You won’t be able to open your windows without breaking the seal. But a pack to cover a medium-sized house would be about $30.00, estimates Potter, so it could just be redone from time to time. Potter, who has no heating system in her house, says one batch of film has lasted about two or three years as she has small windows. Alternatively, self-adhesive foam strips can help seal any gaps in the edges of windows. Metal or plastic strips with brushes or wipers attached cost a bit more but will last longer as a result, according to the Energy Saving Trust. These can also be used as draught excluders around the hinges and frames of doors.

5. Stop heat being lost up the chimney. It’s now fairly common to have fireplaces that are merely decorative. If you’re not using yours then you should consider a chimney balloon, says Potter. “There’s an amazing amount of heat that can be lost through an open fireplace,” she says. A chimney balloon, made from a special laminate, can be bought for about £20 and works by being placed inside the chimney hole, just out of sight. It’s then inflated until it completely shuts out any incoming cold air or escaping heat. Just be sure not to start a fire without removing it. There are also woollen chimney insulators on the market. But again, make sure you remove them before starting any fires.

6. Watch out for mini-draughts. “Lots of draught comes through the letterbox,” says Potter. It’s worthwhile putting an extra barrier there in the form of a “brush”. They may be a nightmare for junk-mailers trying to force through that 15th pizza takeaway offer, but they could prevent a chill breezing through the house. The same goes for keyholes, which can be protected with “simple circular (keyhole covers) that slip over the top”, says Potter, especially with the older, wider keyholes. Cat or dog flaps can also be filled with some sheep’s wool insulation or pieces of blanket. “It’s amazing how even a small draught can make a room a lot colder, so if you can cut that bit of air out it immediately makes a difference,” says Potter.

7. DIY draught excluders are one lesson people can learn from previous generations. “Old-fashioned draught excluders work well,” says Potter. “In the past it wasn’t unusual to have a ‘sausage dog’,” says Potter. For the uninitiated, “sausage dog” draught excluders are vaguely reminiscent of the shape of a dachshund and typically rest at the bottom of doors, stopping heat escaping through the gap between door and floor. Anybody who’s ever been smoking inside a room that they shouldn’t will probably be aware that almost any material or piece of clothing can be used to wedge the space. And simple draft excluders can be made from cutting an old pair of tights and stuffing them with socks, says Luthra. But the more ambitious can go further. “If you really want to go all out you can decorate them,” she says. The stuffing can be almost anything from rice and lentils to gravel, suggests the website Singerdiscount, which also provides a relatively simple guide.
8. Clear your radiators. Try and avoid placing large pieces of furniture in front of them. At least in the short-term, the sofa you love by the radiator is absorbing heat, says Neuburg.

9. Putting a shelf above the radiator, especially if you have high ceilings, can also help channel the warmth, adds Neuburg. But it’s important not to place things on the radiator itself, she says, “You can put a shelf above it to stop the hot air rising directly above it.” This is particularly the case if the radiator is below a window with curtains, where warm air would be trapped between the window and the curtain.
10. Shut up unused rooms, says Neuburg. Keeping doors closed will prevent cold air moving into the rest of the house and contain the heat you’ve generated in a smaller area.
11. Cover bare floorboards. Floors account for as much as 10% of heat loss if they’re not insulated, according to the National Energy Foundation (NEF). Carpets came into being for a reason, says Potter. Those with wooden flooring have to deal with heat loss. Rugs and blankets can help mitigate this and have the added bonus of keeping your feet warm. “Sometimes it’s just the psychological element,” says Potter. But if there are cracks or gaps in the flooring it’s a good idea to squirt some filler into them, advises the NEF. “Floorboards and skirting boards can contract, expand or move slightly with everyday use, so you should use a filler that can tolerate movement,” suggests the NEF. These are usually silicone-based.

12. Insulating your whole house professionally can seem expensive to some. But DIY loft insulation is a possibility. Rolls of foam insulation are cheap, says Brennand, and three rolls of 8in deep foam should be enough to give most lofts an important layer of protection. Mineral wool (such as Rockwool or Rocksil), glass fibre and recycled paper products all work well, according to the NEF. But remember to wear a facemask, goggles and protective clothing if you do it yourself, and leave sufficient gaps around the eaves to avoid condensation, the NEF warns.

13. Don’t undo your work by having an inefficient loft hatch, says Potter. “Some people might have a lovely insulated loft but the loft hatch might be an old timber one that’s not insulated,” she says. Insulating it can be done with same self-adhesive strips as for window and doors. It’s also worth checking that none of your roof tiles is loose or missing. “If you have loose tiles or a damaged roof then you’re going to get water that can get into your loft and as soon as the insulation gets wet it loses its efficiency,” she says. Although the difficulty of checking may be the biggest obstacle, if it’s safe to do so then a single tile or so can be relatively cheap to replace.
14. Setting timers on heating is important. “It’s a myth that keeping it on all day is better,” says Luthra. If it’s very cold, the timer should be set to switch the heating on earlier.