HVAC experts discuss heating systems
We spoke with three highly rated companies on Angie’s List to find out what homeowners need to know about their heating systems.
Who we talked to
Ronald Martin, owner/manager
Expert Air Advice
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Krummann: The most important thing people can do is to know where their filters are and replace them frequently. The heating system is also the air filtration system for the entire house.
Martin: If you have a dirty filter, it makes your system work that much harder. You can lose a lot of efficiency just to dirt.
How often should you perform maintenance on your heating system? When’s the best time of year to do this?
McCoy: We recommend checking it once a year, in the fall. At that point, we can have the system on and see what the problem is without heating someone right out of the house. It’s better to do it before the cold season begins when it’s absolutely critical to get the system working right away.
Martin: Here [in Florida], sometimes people will go two or three years without running their heating system. But [in warmer areas] you should turn it on once a month or so to make sure it’s activating and working well. I’ve gone into systems that have gone a few years without maintenance and flushed the condenser coils, and you literally get mud coming out. All this dust and dirt buildup in both the heating and air systems can result in an expensive repair, where regular maintenance would have saved a lot of money.
What are some ways to save energy?
Martin: Maintenance is crucial. People put a new unit in, and they think because it’s new, they don’t have to do anything. If you have a car, you have to change your oil, even if it’s new. Your heating unit is the most expensive appliance, and you want to make sure it’s working at its highest efficiency.
Krummann: People should open all the supply vents in their home. It’s a misconception that closing them saves energy. The system is created to pump through the entire building and it doesn’t save energy to shut off certain rooms. It just creates more inefficiency in the system, forces the motor to work harder, and can lead to more frequent overheating.
McCoy: Make sure you aren’t covering up returns with furniture, couches or beds. If you have a humidifier, make sure it’s well-maintained and operating. Humid air feels warmer, so you can feel more comfortable with less heat.
What safety concerns should people keep in mind?
McCoy: A lot of the newer systems have devices to make sure the system doesn’t overheat or will shut it down entirely if a critical component isn’t functioning. With the older furnaces, make sure all the air and gases are going where they’re supposed to go.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, potentially fatal gas that can be generated by improperly vented heating systems.
You can have a furnace producing carbon monoxide, but it’s no problem if it’s going into the flue and out of the house. But if that flue is blocked or the heat exchanger has a failure, you can have carbon monoxide going into the living space, which can be poisonous.
Krummann: People who use gas heating should use carbon monoxide detectors. It’s a very inexpensive way to keep the home safe.