Before you run out for milk and toilet paper in a pre-snow panic, you’ll want to ensure that your home is ready for a day or two of hunkering down. Here’s what experts say you should do now:
1) Protect your outdoor faucets, which are particularly vulnerable to plunging temperatures. Shut off the inside valve leading to any outside faucets and unhook hoses. Run the outside faucet to drain any water from that pipe and then close it.
2) Watch out for your water pipes. If yours are prone to bursting, keep cabinet doors beneath sinks open so warm air from your home can reach the pipes more easily. Use a blow dryer to warm up exposed pipes instead of space heaters, which can be a fire hazard. If you’re in an older home, consider keeping your thermostat up a bit higher than usual, even up to 74 degrees. Even a few degrees makes a difference, plumbers say. “You’ll spend a little more on your heating bill, but you’ll save your pipes,” said Tom Nicholson, president of Kensington-based Nicholson Plumbing Co.
3) Use space heaters with care. Keep them at least three feet from any curtains or clutter and turn them off when you go to bed.
4) Plan for a possible power outage. Stock up on flashlights and batteries. Charge cellphones, laptops and the tablets you might want to keep the kids entertained. Don’t burn a candle unless you remain in the room with it. Don’t use a gas stove or burners for heat — they are a burn hazard and a source of potential carbon monoxide. Don’t use a gas grill indoors, including in your garage, because of the carbon monoxide risk. Don’t run generators in garages or outside where it’s close to windows, through which carbon monoxide can seep into a home. If the power goes, unplug appliances to prevent them from succumbing to a surge when it comes back on.
5) Keep snow clear from outside drains and vents from your home. You’ll need the drains, including for sump pumps, clear when the snow starts to melt, and indoor heating systems can shut down if the vent gets clogged.
6) Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Anything that uses combustion to produce heat, including gas appliances and wood-burning fireplaces, can produce carbon monoxide if not vented properly.
7) Keep an eye on what you’re flushing. Having a home full of people home all day means lots more flushing than usual. Make sure everyone goes easy on the toilet paper, as this will be a tough weekend to get on a plumber’s call list. “If this is as bad as they’re saying, no plumber will be able to get around in it,” Nicholson, the plumbing company owner, said of the storm.
8) Clear snow from area fire hydrants.
9) Make sure your furnace filter is clean. A clogged filter can shut it down.
10) Make a “personal disaster kit” that includes water, food and medicines. This is where the milk and toilet paper come in.
11) Lastly, take a deep breath and watch the flakes fall. As Pete Piringer, spokesman for the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, put it: “Just have fun and relax. With a little bit of planning ahead of time, the experience will be wonderful for most of us.”
The following are recommended gas furnace maintenance procedures. The furnace owner should be urged to have a professional service contractor check the performance and operation of the furnace every year. This ensures the furnace owner of receiving the best possible performance and comfort from the equipment.
Warning: Disconnect the main electrical power to the unit before attempting any maintenance. Failure to turn off the electrical power may result in shock, causing personal injury or death.
1. Keep the air filters clean. A new home may require more frequent filter attention until dust from construction is removed.
2. How to clean filters:
Plastic filters – Vacuum clean; wash with detergent and water. Air dry thoroughly and reinstall.
Cardboard and fiberglass – Discard when dirty and replace with a like-sized similar filter.
3. If using an electronic air filter, remove the filter furnished with the furnace and follow the maintenance instructions furnished with the electronic air filter.
Important: Do not operate the furnace without filters. Dust entrained with the air can lodge in the blower wheel, in the cooling coil fins, in furnace controls, in air ducts, and at the supply registers. Any recirculated dust particles are heated and charred by contact with the heat exchanger. This residue soils ceilings, walls, drapes, carpets, and other household articles.
Important: If replacing the factory filter with an aftermarket filter, always check the furnace temperature rise to be sure the airflow is adequate.
Note: Some filters must be resized to fit certain units and applications.
For example, some units require removal of a segment of filter and frame for proper width for a bottom or side filter.
The indoor blower motor sleeve bearings and induced draft motor are prelubricated and should not require attention for an indefinite period of time. However, these are some recommendations for service technicians:
1. Motors without oiling ports – prelubricated and sealed. No further lubrication is required. In case of bearing problems, the service technician should replace the motor.
2. Motors with oiling ports add 10 to 20 drops of electric motor oil to each bearing every two years for somewhat continuous duty, or at least every five years for light duty. Do not over-oil.
Excessive lubrication can damage the motor.
3. To access oiling ports or to relubricate sealed indoor blower motor bearing, remove the blower assembly and motor.
A. Remove the wiring from the control board compartment.
B. Remove the screws from the blower housing that secure the assembly.
C. Slide the blower assembly out.
D. Loosen the set screw(s) securing the blower wheel to the motor shaft, remove any motor ground wire, and remove the screws from the motor mounting bracket legs.
E. Slide the bracket assembly from the housing.
F. Lubricate the motor bearings.
G. Reassemble using the reverse procedure outlined above.
Exercise care when sliding the blower assembly back into the unit and be sure that it is reinstalled properly.
The service technician should clean the motor periodically to prevent the possibility of overheating due to an accumulation of dust or dirt on the windings and the motor exterior. If the motor needs cleaning, clean the blower wheel also. A blower wheel loaded with dirt or dust limits airflow, eventually causing furnace damage.
As suggested earlier, clean or replace the air filters. Dirty filters restrict airflow and adversely affect blower and furnace operation.
Burner And Heating Components
The furnace should operate for many years with no malfunctions. However, the service technician should inspect the heat exchanger passages, the venting system, and the burners for correct operation, and for any signs of corrosion. The heat exchanger passages and vent system should be inspected (and cleaned if required) by the technician annually.
It is recommended that the heat exchanger be removed for inspection. However, with some products, this may not be feasible. If the heat exchanger is removed, the technician should follow these procedures.
1. Turn off furnace electrical power and set the thermostat to its lowest temperature.
2. Shut off the gas supply to the furnace either at the meter or at a manual valve in the supply piping.
3. Remove the burner door. On downflow and dedicated horizontal models, the blower door and burner door flange must also be removed.
4. Disconnect the gas supply piping from the gas valve.
5. Remove screws connecting the burner tray to the center panel.
6. Mark all wires on the gas valve for proper reconnection and disconnect the gas valve wiring.
7. Remove the burner tray and manifold assembly from the unit.
8. Remove all screws in the unit top plate. Remove the wires and tube from the pressure switch. Remove the top plate with the pressure switch attached.
9. Remove the draft inducer wiring. Remove screws connecting the draft inducer to the center panel. Take care not to damage the gasket behind the draft inducer.
10. Remove screws on heat exchanger perimeter. With hot surface ignition, remove the connecting screws along with the associated wiring.
11. With an upward and forward motion, lift the heat exchanger from the unit.
12. Clean or replace the heat exchanger, if necessary, and reinstall.
13. Reassemble the furnace in reverse order.
Warning: Holes in the vent piping or heat exchanger can allow toxic fumes to enter the home. Replace the vent pipe or heat exchanger if leaks are found. Failure to follow this warning may cause products of combustion to circulate into the living space creating potentially hazardous conditions, including carbon monoxide poisoning.
It is recommended that at the beginning of the heating season and about midway through the heating season the service technician visually inspect the main burners and pilot burner for proper flame characteristics.
Any furnace using existing high-temperature plastic vent piping must have the vent inspected annually for any cracks, pipe separation, or other deterioration of the vent material.
Important: At the beginning of the heating season, the flame sensor on electronic ignition units should be cleaned with steel wool by the technician.
During the holidays, you can’t match the feeling of stepping out of the cold and into a loved one’s home. Now that the summer BBQs are over, it’s time to prepare your house for your fall and winter guests. Tune up your home heating systems with furnace maintenance and prepare the your rooms and fixtures for the upcoming chilly weather before a cold front hits.
Home Maintenance Tips
Reverse Your Ceiling Fan – Hot air rises. When you want to keep a house warm, reverse the way the blades turn on your ceiling fan. Have the blades turn in a clockwise motion to create an upward draft that forces the warmer air near the ceiling down into the living space. This trick has also been known to cut heating costs by up to 10 percent.
Seal the Cracks Around Doors and Windows – Gaps wider than the edge of a nickel along window and door frames let warm air escape from your home. Replace the weather-stripping around doors and windows as needed. If necessary, seal the exterior of windows and doors with silicone caulk, and use window-glazing putty if you need to seal the glass to the window frame.
Inspect Your Roof – Hire a roofing contractor to inspect your roof for shingles that are damaged, missing or loose. The roofer should also inspect the flashing shield around chimneys and vent stacks.
Clean or Change Your Air Filter – You use your home heating system the most during the fall and winter. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, clean and change the air filter to reduce the amount of dust in your home, improve its air quality and reduce energy costs.
Inspect Your Attic – If your home gets lots of icicles or ice dams during the winter this may be due to poor insulation in your home’s attic. Have a weatherization or home-energy auditor inspect your attic for air leaks.
Clean Your Chimney – A dirty chimney is a health and fire hazard. Before the cold weather hits, hire a sweep certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America to inspect and, if necessary, clean your chimney.
Furnace Maintenance Tips
Just as you would maintain your chimney and start the holiday season with clean air filters, it’s equally important to inspect your home heating systems with the help of a heating and air conditioning contractor. The furnace maintenance process involves:
Inspecting the Furnace and Heat Pump – The technician will ensure the components are clean, in good repair and do not leak carbon monoxide into the home.
Inspecting the Gas and/or Oil Connections – Connections that don’t work properly can cause health problems and are a fire hazard.
Inspecting the Electrical System – When electrical connections are tight, they promote the safe operation of your heating system. A technician will also make sure the system starts, operates and shuts down properly, and verify that the thermostat works well.
Inspecting the Heat Exchanger, Gas Pressure and Burner Combustion – When such elements are dirty or cracked, your system operates less efficiently and poses a safety hazard.
Verifying the Furnace Achieves Its Manufacturer-Rated Efficiency– If a furnace doesn’t work as efficiently as it should, you may be spending more money than necessary to heat your home. Reasons that a furnace may work inefficiently can include its age or a component that’s in need of repair or cleaning.
Don’t wait until the weather gets cold to maintain your home and furnace. The holiday months are the peak season for some contractors, and you don’t want to get stuck at the bottom of a list of 50 other homeowners who have the same emergency as you. Take action now to protect your investment so the only things you have to worry about are the baked goods in your oven for your guests.
A properly working heater is the key to a comfortable home this holiday season. Peak functionality also keeps your heating bills down, an important consideration when other costs climb around the holidays. To ensure you and your guests stay comfy and cozy while the wind whistles outside, perform the items on this checklist prior to the holidays.
Change the Air Filter
This is the first and one of the most important tasks to prepare your heater for winter. A dirty air filter blocks airflow, reduces efficiency and overworks the equipment. On the other hand, replacing the filter regularly promotes cleaner indoor air, lower your energy bills and helps your equipment last longer.
Plan to change the filter at the start of the heating season. Then, check it once a month during the winter and change it when it begins to appear dirty, waiting no more than three months between changes. Make sure you choose replacement filters of the proper size and efficiency for the best results.
If you run an electronic air cleaner in the winter, be sure to clean the unit’s air filter according to manufacturer directions.
Check for Gas Leaks
If your heater runs on natural gas, a leak could develop and create risk for you and your family. Before relying too much on your heater this season, inspect the furnace for worn or damaged connections. Be aware of natural gas odors. If you discover a problem – either with your eyes or your nose – call a professional for further investigation before you turn on the heater.
Check the Air Vents
Supply registers deliver heated air while return registers send cooled air back to the furnace for reheating. If these vents are blocked, heating efficiency declines and you tend to experience hot and cold pockets throughout your home. This can create great discomfort during a holiday get-together.
To promote better airflow and a more even temperature, walk around your home and check that all air vents are unobstructed. Move area rugs, reposition furniture and tie curtains back if necessary to allow for ample airflow.
Test for Proper Operation
Switch the dial on your thermostat to “Heat” and turn the temperature up a degree or two to trigger the furnace. Listen for any strange sounds coming from the heater or the ductwork. If you hear anything odd, it may be wise to contact a heating technician for a repair.
Place your hand over various registers in your home, including those located close to the furnace and those farther away. Make sure the air is plenty hot and exiting the registers with ample force.
Schedule an Annual Tune-Up
A complete furnace inspection includes other tasks that only a qualified technician should perform. That’s why the final item on your checklist should be to schedule preventative maintenance from Green Apple Mechanical NJ. We have the knowledge and experience needed to check fuel connections, test the gas pressure, clean the burners, inspect the heat changer, test system controls and more.
If you experience trouble with any of the items on this checklist, please contact Green Apple Mechanical to speak with a knowledgeable technician. Call your friends at Green Apple Mechanical NJ at 888-611-7191
At some point, you will probably need to replace your current heating system. If you live in a colder climate, you will probably choose some type of furnace over a heat pump because heat pumps do not perform as well as furnaces in cold climates. Once you have determined that you will purchase a furnace, you will next need to decide whether to purchase an electric or gas furnace. There are pros and cons associated with both types of heating systems.
Pros and Cons of an Electric Furnace
There are several pros and cons for purchasing an electric heating system. First, the purchase price of an electric furnace is generally lower than a gas-powered system. Your initial investment will be lower if you purchase an electric unit. However, the cost to operate the furnace will be higher than the cost of operating a gas unit.
Another pro of the electric system is that these systems are quiet and usually more durable than gas units. The lifespan of an electric furnace is between 20 and 30 years. The installation process is generally faster than with a gas unit. Therefore, an electric unit is often the choice for many homeowners because the household experiences only minimal disruption during the installation of the unit.
Maintaining an electric unit is very straightforward and does not require a great deal of effort. Many times, the homeowner is able to troubleshoot and resolve issues without the assistance of an HVAC professional.
Finally, electric units pose a lower risk to inhabitants of the home. Gas furnaces emit a low level of carbon monoxide and the homeowner must ensure that the unit is functioning properly at all times. Electric units do not need as much attention.
Pros and Cons of a Gas Furnace
A gas heating system is less expensive to operate than an electric unit. Natural gas is a cheaper form of energy than electricity and over the past few years, the cost of natural gas has actually decreased. However, a gas-powered unit will require a larger initial investment than an electric unit.
Gas heating systems generally heat the home faster than electric units. Gas systems tend to be more effective and efficient in very cold temperatures because gas systems will achieve a higher temperature than electric units in extreme temperatures.
Additionally, the lifespan of a gas unit is about half of that of an electric unit. The lifespan of a gas heating system is generally between 10 and 20 years. The installation process can be more involved than the installation of an electric unit.
Gas furnaces must be regularly and judiciously maintained. Because these heating systems emit a low level of carbon monoxide, the homeowner must ensure that the furnace is well-maintained for the safety of the home. Regular professional maintenance by an HVAC professional for your gas-powered furnace is essential.
If you have additional questions about the type of heating system that would be ideal for your home, contact “Green Apple Mechanical NJ” toll free at (888) 611-7191 for more information.
Alice H. Parker was an African-American inventor who filed the first United States patent for the precursor to a central heating system. Parker was highly educated compared to most Americans during the early 1900s. She was a graduate of Howard University, a historically African-American university that accepted both male and female students since its founding in November 1866, shortly after the Civil War. While little is known about her life, her design for a heating furnace is a definite forerunner to what was developed decades later as a means of heating residential and commercial structures.
Parker was officially granted her patent on December 23, 1919, while she was a resident of Morristown, NJ. The drawings included in the patent filing show a heating furnace that was powered by gas. To heat an entire house, there were several heating units, each controlled by individual hot air ducts. The ducts were then directed to different parts of the building structure.
Although this design was never used in an actual structure, using gas to power a heating furnace was a revolutionary idea since coal and wood dominated at this time. This patent also marks the first time that a patent documents the idea that duct work could individually deliver heat to different areas of the house.