As the summer months come to a close and cooler weather settles in, it is time to give your heating system its annual tune up. It doesn't make any difference what type of heating system you heat with they all require periodic tune ups. If your heating system is baseboard electric you have an easy task. But if your heating system is a force hot air furnace or a hot water boiler then there are a few things you need to do to insure maximum efficiency. An inefficient heating system burns more fuel that cost you money. A little DIY preventive maintenance can save on your heating cost. Here are a few pointers to insure that your heating system is operating efficiently.
Check to make sure your thermostat is accurate on the temperature reading. Depending on the age of your thermostat or the placement of the thermostat in the room it may not be accurate. Replace the thermostat if it does not function correctly. This is an easy DIY task.
Baseboard electric and hot water baseboard:
Clean inside the registers of all dust and debris that has accumulated during the summer. Dirty fins will not radiate heat as well as clean fins.
Forced hot air furnaces have at least one or more air filters. Inspect the filter(s) and change or clean as necessary. A dirty filter can significantly reduce the amount of air movement in the house making your furnace less efficient. The filter should be checked or replaced at least twice during the heating season.
Forced Hot Air Furnace:
Make sure any belts on the furnace motor are in good shape. Be sure to have an extra on hand in case of breakage and replace them on a regular basis to avoid a break. Make sure the motor is properly oiled according to your owner's manual.
Hot air furnaces use gas or oil as a fuel source to heat the air that circulates through the system. The heating unit, often called a "gun" requires annual cleaning. Most fuel suppliers provide this service. They typically clean the fuel filters, the fuel jet in the burn chamber, and adjust the burning efficiency of the furnace.
Forced hot air heating systems uses a series of air ducts to move the warm air throughout the house. Check to make sure there is nothing blocking air flow in the ducts, heat registers, or return registers. A couch, kids toys, etc. placed over a vent register will greatly reduce the effectiveness of your airflow and your furnace. Clean your heating and cooling ducts at every two years to insure efficiency. This will reduce your heating cost and is good for your air quality as well.
If your heating system is a baseboard hot water system, or hot air from an air handler, the boiler needs special attention at least annually to insure efficiency. Your fuel supplier usually provides this service as it requires technical skills and special tools. The burning chamber requires special attention as well as the fuel jet in the burn gun and fuel filters. When cleaning is complete the technician will adjust the burning efficiency of the boiler. A clean boiler will operate at approximately 86.5% efficient whereas a dirty boiler will only burn at approximately 80.0% or less. If your chimney is emitting black smoke your boiler need immediate attention.
Wood Burning Stove
Many homeowners in northern areas use wood burning stoves to supplement their heating requirements. Burning wood generates dust that will collect in the primary heating system filters. Insure that you check or replace the filters regularly. The chimney and stove pipe should be cleaned at least twice during the heating season to avoid chimney fires and optimum efficiency of your wood burning stove.
If you are using a wood burning stove for primary or supplemental heat, insure that you have smoke/fire detectors installed and that the batteries are fresh before the beginning of the heating season. Most of the suggestions offered here can be performed by the homeowner except for the cleaning of boilers and furnaces. These tasks should be performed by a trained technician.