With the heating season upon us, it's important for the more than 60 million U.S. homes heated by natural gas or propane to have their gas appliances checked now. That will ensure their efficient, reliable and economical operation in cold weather.
In fact, GAMA, the national trade association representing manufacturers of appliances used in residential space heating, recommends that homeowners have their heating systems inspected by a qualified, NATE (North American Technician Excellence)-certified technician or their local gas company every year prior to the onset of the heating season.
When a furnace operates properly, it is more efficient. That means it saves consumers money and provides safe and reliable comfort during the winter.
However, there are a number of steps consumers can take on their own to help their heating systems operate optimally. Consumers should inspect the duct work and venting of their heating systems. Look for cracks or openings around the flue or vent pipes. If you find signs of rust, it may be caused by excessive condensation inside the flue or vent that could indicate a potential problem. In this case, a qualified technician or the local gas company should be called to make any repairs.
Any heating system inspection by a consumer should include checking the blower motor and fan and well as examining the blower belts, if any, for signs of wear. A qualified repairman should replace them if they are cracked or frayed. The burner chamber and pilot also need to be inspected.
When homes are cleaned, GAMA advises that dust, lint, animal hair, etc. be vacuumed from all registers, vents and baseboard heaters. While working with registers, remember that heat will rise up through the house, so upper floor registers can be closed in the winter and opened in the summer to allow cool air to descend. If ceiling fans are used, reverse the cycle from summer and point the draft upward. This will improve the circulation of warm air in the room.
Also check the chimney for bird or squirrel nests, leaves or loose brick, which can obstruct its airflow and prevent proper venting of the appliance.
With rising heating costs, GAMA recommends that consumers also take simple weatherization steps that can save money such as caulking around windows and doorframes, and adding weather stripping to doors and windows.If the house has unheated seasonal rooms, the doors need to fit tightly and should be kept closed.
If heating equipment is old and needs to be replaced, consumers should call a contractor who is properly licensed. It's always advisable to ask for a NATE-certified technician. If you cannot find a contractor, call your local utility company or the Better Business Bureau. Note that new furnaces are the most efficient way to heat a home and save money on heating costs.