Houston Heating, Cooling, and Electrical

What Should Homeowners Do To Make Sure Their Heat Works?

Homeowners should have their heating system inspected at least once a year by an experienced technician, and ideally before it’s time to turn up the heat. In Houston, a cold night may seem like a refreshing change, but don’t wait until the winter to get a heater looked at. According to industry data, more than half of HVAC system repairs are required due to lack of maintenance. Get the system looked at before a repair is needed and it can save money and keep the system working when you need it most.

During a heating system inspection, the technician will check:

  • The thermostat, to verify it is calibrated carefully and set for optimal heating and efficiency.
  • The air filter, to ensure it is unsoiled and not obstructing airflow.
  • The motor, to ensure all components are properly lubricated. Also, the technician may test the motor’s amp draw and compare it to its listed specifications. This is critical for prolonging the life of the furnace.
  • The heater’s electrical connections, for any signs of corrosion or damage to the wiring.
  • The heat exchanger, to look for any cracks or corrosion. As a broken heat exchanger can leak dangerous carbon monoxide, this is a critical safety consideration.
  • The burner, to verify it is igniting properly. The flame sensor is also checked to ensure it is operating accurately.
  • The vents, to spot any leaks or blockages. Air leaks are common in older venting systems, and they are often the culprit when the system is running inefficiently or ineffectively.
  • The blower, to verify it is clean. If it isn’t, the technician will clean it and remove the blower wheel for cleaning as well.
  • The air intake grills, to spot any blockages that could impede air flow.
  • The flue, also to spot blockages. If the flue is obstructed, it could allow dangerous fumes to gather inside the home and reduce air quality.
  • All safety controls, to verify they are working properly and will prevent the system from overheating.

Why should a homeowner schedule heater maintenance?

Annual inspections are recommended for both heating and cooling, and for the same reasons. Here’s why regular maintenance is a must:

  1. It fortifies the heater before heavy use – During the winter, the home’s furnace may run around the clock to keep the house comfortable. That’s a lot of wear and tear to place on the system, and scheduling maintenance ensures it is prepared for the load. This minimizes the chances of the heater suffering a failure and leaving everyone inside out in the cold.
  2. It extends the heater’s life – Maintenance is the surest way to get the most out of your heating system, and this could mean several years of additional performance. System replacement is much more expensive than maintenance, so a small investment now will put off the larger investment for later.
  3. It optimizes the heater’s efficiency – If a heater isn’t doing its job, it’s not just a comfort problem—it’s likely an efficiency problem too. Airflow restrictions, air leaks, uncontrolled cycling or poor burner performance could all lead to reduced heating and efficiency, so homeowners are paying for heating they aren’t getting. Regular maintenance fixes both problems, which means a heater checkup could save money right away.

There’s a lot involved with inspecting the home’s heating system, but sometimes, a home has trouble heating due to issues that don’t originate from the system.

What else could cause heating deficiencies?

If the home is having heating issues, but the heater is running just fine, it could be due to a couple of reasons, including:

Problems with insulation – The home’s insulation is what keeps the warm air in, and even a small gap can produce a big leak. Insulation is placed in the attic and walls, but it’s common for builders to leave gaps behind. It’s also important that insulation depth be consistent throughout the attic, without any shallow spots as this will undermine the insulation’s ability to trap warm air.

If additional insulation is needed, it’s best to measure the existing insulation’s depth before proceeding. Placing too little or too much insulation will not be cost-effective.

Problems with air leaks – There are many places where cold and warm air can leak into or out of the home. Sealing these leaks is usually inexpensive and can provide immediate returns on heating power or efficiency. Check the windows, vent fans, dryer vent, outdoor faucet and any crawlspaces for air leaks. In the attic, check around duct registers, soffits, recessed lights and the attic hatch. Some leaks may be difficult to feel, so bring a smoke pencil and hold it around areas where you suspect a leak. If the smoke is blown away or sucked out of the home, there’s a leak.

The last thing on your mind during the Houston summer and fall is getting the heater looked at, but it’s essential you do so before the cold season arrives. Heating systems take on a lot of wear during the winter, and regular maintenance is the only way to ensure the system lasts for many more winters.

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