From the Montreal Gazette:
Mike Holmes: Winter means it’s time for a furnace checkup
An HVAC technician can keep you warm on long, cold nights
Temperatures are getting dangerously close to freezing — in some cases they have already dropped below — and the last thing you want is to turn on your furnace and find it doesn’t work.
Newer furnaces have light indicators on them that can tell you if there’s problem. The lights will start to flash differently depending on what the issue is. On the furnace itself there should be a sticker that tells you what the different flashes mean. It might be behind a panel, so check your owner’s manual.
That way you can tell your HVAC technician that there’s an issue with something specific in the system, and they can bring the right tools and parts when they come to check it out. That can save crucial waiting time in between repairs — something that will definitely matter on a cold winter night.
If you haven’t already had your furnace serviced by a licensed HVAC technician, now’s the time. They’ll check all the different components of the furnace and make sure it’s up for the challenge of meeting your winter heating demands.
For example, they will check the thermostat, the registers (make sure they’re clean and not blocked by anything), the flue, vents and fan. And if your furnace is gas, they will check the igniter. Sometimes sediment or dust can accumulate on the igniter, which stops it from working. Some homeowners think they need to replace the whole system when all it needed was a little clean up.
A pro will also check the ducts to make sure they’re properly sealed and that there are no air leaks. HVAC pros or an energy auditor can tell you how much air your system is losing, which could be up to 20 per cent.
If the ducts are accessible, like in an unfinished basement, they can be sealed with heat-resistant caulking, aluminum or metal foil tape — not duct tape — or the original mechanical seal can be rebuilt.
But stopping an air leak isn’t always easy. And often finding it is a challenge.
If it’s in the ductwork that’s behind a wall or in the ceiling, the drywall will need to come down. Then it becomes a matter of stopping the air leak and making it look like the repair never happened, which means replacing, repairing and repainting the drywall.
Then you keep your furnace in good shape by replacing the air filter. At least once every three months is standard, but every month is better — every two weeks if you’re renovating.
You especially want to replace it every month in the cold season because your furnace works harder during these months. It pushes and filters more air, which means the filter gets clogged faster. A clogged filter doesn’t work, and it can wear out your furnace prematurely.
Gas is still king when it comes to forced-air heating systems. But it has its safety issues, like gas leaks.
Every level in your home should have a carbon monoxide (CO) detector — there should be one directly outside bedrooms — and you should test them every month. Plus, testing is easy.
Every CO detector has a test button. To test the system, hold the test button down for two to five seconds. You should hear a loud beep. If it sounds weak it’s time to change the batteries. Regardless, the batteries need to be changed twice a year. A good time to do it is when we change the clocks back and forward.
Some newer homes have CO detectors and smoke alarms that are hardwired directly into the home’s electrical system. But they must have a battery back up, no exceptions. That’s why you need to test your alarms, hardwired or not.
Is hiring a pro to check your furnace worth the time, effort and money? Absolutely. If you don’t have hundreds of dollars just lying around, you might not see it that way, and I get it.
But if you think about the money you could be losing every month because of an air leak or because your system is too old or inefficient — or worse, risk a very cold winter — it might help put things in perspective, and make them right.
Catch Mike Holmes on Holmes Makes It Right, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on HGTV. For more information, visit hgtv.ca. For more information on home renovations, visit makeitright.ca.
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