Furnace Maintenance 101: The Basics

So, you know that you have a furnace and you hope that it’s working properly, and, until it stops working properly, that’s just about all you know about your furnace?

You should know the basics of your furnace so that you can know when schedule a tune-up BEFORE it breaks down!

Some are gas-operated and some are electric.

That’s the first thing you should know! If you have a gas furnace and haven’t been keeping an eye on it regularly, you could be missing some signals of serious trouble.  

What’s the difference? Electric units are usually less expensive to install, quieter, and have a longer lifespan than gas furnaces. They do, however, contribute to higher electric bills during cold months.

Gas furnaces can reach much higher temperatures in severely cold temperatures and can usually achieve warm temperatures throughout the home much faster than an electrical unit can. They require much more regular maintenance and pose the risk of exposing the home’s inhabitants to low levels of carbon monoxide.

Though it may seem that a gas furnace could operate even if a winter storm shuts down electricity to your home, that is not the case. Both gas and electric furnaces require electricity to operate.

There are pros and cons to each option – depending on factors like your climate, the size of your home, and what you’re able to afford.

If one part malfunctions, the whole system malfunctions.

…which is why it’s so important that you clean your filters! If your filters aren’t clean, not only will unclean air be dispersed throughout your house, but it will inhibit the efficient flow of air through your system.

If you’ve never done it before – here’s how to clean your air filters.

In addition to clean filters, here are the four other, most basic ways that you should regularly maintain your furnace:

  • Keep the furnace itself clean.
  • Get to know your pilot light. Sometimes, all you need to do is turn it back on for your system to start working again!
  • The thermostat. Seems silly, we know. But thermostats do go bad and you should know how to tell if yours has. Here are some tips!
  • Get regular inspections. We know that this just sounds like an HVAC company telling you to use our services, but we promise this is the best move. We take care of furnaces every day and can spot trouble in a cinch!

Are you worried about your furnace?

Making life easier for homeowners is what we do best. Go ahead and call us today to schedule your inspection, before it’s too late!

What’s Broken? Thermostat or Furnace?

Ask yourself:

  • Is the temperature unsteady?
  • Rapidly changing from cold to warm and back again?

Is the thermostat reading a temperature that’s not matching the room’s actual temperature? Bring in a secondary thermometer to test this one!

Is the heat not turning on when you raise the temperature considerably?

Try this:

  • Change the thermostat battery. We know – so simple! But it should be the very first thing you check because it’s the easiest fix! Here’s how.
  • Flip your circuit breaker. Be very careful when dealing electricity, but do give this a shot! The circuit that your thermostat operates out of may just need resetting.
  • If you notice that the area outside of—or maybe even inside of!—the thermostat has collected dirt and dust, you may want to call an expert to dig into the situation for you. The thermostat is a very sensitive instrument, and trying to clean it yourself could be harmful.

Nothing’s working?

It’s time to call in the professionals at BNG Heating & Cooling for an expert inspection. You may need a more serious thermostat repair – OR – it could be time to upgrade to one of our energy-efficient, wi-fi-enabled thermostats!

And if we find that the thermostat is just fine how it is, your furnace may just need servicing. Give us a call, so that we can get your home back to a comfortable temperature as quickly as possible!

How Homes Kept Warm Before Central Heat

It happens at the worst times: your central heat goes out right before or during the coldest storm of the year. While you wait for your HVAC repair savior, you light the fireplace (if you’re lucky enough to have one), you bundle yourself, your kids, and your pets in layer upon layer of sweaters and blankets.

You make soup!

You do all you can, and you’re left to wonder: How did our ancestors survive without central heating?

As this article explains, homes built before modern conveniences like air conditioning and heating were designed in a way that promoted self-heating and energy conservation – it was simply necessary for survival!

Of course, fireplaces (and other ingenious mechanisms like the hypocaust) played a big part in creating warmth inside the home, but the home still had to be constructed in a way that maintained that warmth.   

Here are a few of the structural prerequisites for homes providing cold-weather shelter:

Low Ceilings

We’ve all heard that “warm air rises,” but we don’t usually feel the effects of that until we’re in a high-ceiling room in the winter, feeling too much open air.

In homes built in cold climates (before modern heating comforts), you’ll find lower ceilings and smaller rooms – less space for warm air to escape!

If you have trouble keeping warm in a high-ceiling room, even in your modern home, try turning your ceiling fan settings backwards, so that it will pull warm air back down into the room!

Minimal Windows

Windows are really great for pulling heat into houses in the summer, but run the risk of pulling heat out of the house during the winter!

Because of this, old homes in colder climates usually kept windows small, and southern-facing, so that the home could pull in direct heat from the southern sun.

Thicker Walls

While we have space-age efficient insulation to keep our homes warm, our ancestors relied on thick walls of stone or brick to hold the heat from the sun and keep the home warm from that heat into the night!

They also had their own methods of insulation, often in the form of mud and straw.

Overhangs

Overhangs were an important element of homes that existed in climates that experience both freezing and warm climates, and are still a popular element for modern homes designed for passive heating and cooling.

The overhang is positioned in such a way that it provides shade from direct sunlight coming from the higher-positioned sun in the summer and creates an opening for direct sunlight from the lower-positioned sun in the winter.

In some climates, a trellis covered with leaves is sufficient to shade the home in summer, and those leaves fall away to provide sunlight in the winter!

Interested in owning an historic home with central heat?

If you already own or are looking to buy a home built before modern heating and air conditioning, you may have potential for energy savings as a result of these architectural elements.

You should consult both an architect and an HVAC professional, like BNG Heating & Cooling, to learn more about the ways you can maximize the energy efficiencies of historic homes with modern materials, all while maintaining the home’s original style.

Smart Tech for the Home

Not too long ago, today’s consumer expectations for smarter products sounded like science fiction. But, as technology is becoming increasingly accessible and interconnected, consumer demand is fueling the rise of intelligent products in the HVAC marketplace!

Intelligent products, including a variety of smart thermostats that are already on the market, give consumers more personal control over their home’s comfort through the use of technology that “learns” on its own or through an app on their phone. As heating and cooling systems trend towards including more electronic components in addition to the mechanical, consumers have more nuanced ways to control that perfect temperature from wherever they may be.

Many times, the purchase of the cheapest HVAC system ends up as the most expensive proposition in the long run, due to poor temperature management. Additionally, if your thermostat isn’t properly programmed, you could be throwing away hundreds of dollars annually. With increased regulations on energy efficiency, and more informed consumers, many heating and air-conditioning units can be equipped with smart controls and sensors to keep homes, and offices, cooler in the summer and warmer during the winter.

Sensors that can communicate with the thermostat, a smart meter and apps accessible on the web or smartphones are key to lowering those utility bills. Smart HVAC systems can net up to a 20 percent increase in energy efficiency upon installation, and even notify homeowners, building managers or HVAC service providers in real time if the efficiency drops below a certain threshold, indicating a problem. Whether a part breaks, or refrigerant leaks, the ability of sensors and software can pay off with huge savings–not to mention the comfort we desire at home or in the office in the first place.

Smart thermostats, like the popular Honeywell and Bryant Thermostats, can be controlled from your phone (so you don’t have to get out of bed just to adjust the temperature), but also learn where your heating and cooling systems are least efficient, and works to correct them. In fact, every time you make a heating or cooling change in your home, the thermostat’s software is learning, so that it can schedule and activate your preferences itself.

If your concern is rising utility bills, or you want to take advantage of the latest technology on the market, let us give your system a consult to see what upgrades are available!

Bring on the FALL

With cooling temperatures, fall is a great time to tackle some home maintenance tasks that you may have been putting off. Getting these done now will help you get ahead of holiday crunch-time and bad winter weather; once you’ve checked these off your list, you’ll be able to enjoy your fall weekends guilt-free!

Prepare your home for Winter Outdoors…

As much as fall is about getting some holiday decorations and events underway, it’s also the time to inspect the interior and exterior of your home. Outside, look for any cracks in the foundation, or openings around windows, doors, and where pipes and wires enter your home. Caulking is an inexpensive fix, but can save you a lot of money from air leaking in or out of your home. This is also the time to clear away any dead tree branches or shrubbery before a winter storm comes to knock them into your home. Since plants go into winter hibernation, fall is a great time to prune without damaging any of your favorite foliage.

hand for the Indoors…

This is the time to get your holiday decorations up and get a head start on your event planning. Decor items like pumpkins and gourds and fall flowers work all season long, so you won’t have to switch out any decorations between Halloween and Thanksgiving. If decor inspiration is what you seek, MidWest Living  has some easy projects to get you started.

Prepare for Winter Emergencies

While we hope you never have to face any winter emergencies, you should always be prepared. October is National Fire Prevention month, so use that as a yearly reminder to ensure all of your smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and smoke dampers are fully-functional. Smoke dampers are placed into your HVAC system and in the event of a fire, close off ducts to prevent smoke from spreading throughout the house. Make sure you have a working fire extinguisher on hand, and check your home for radon gas, which can come from the soil and rock beneath your home and potentially cause cancer. With windows and doors shut all winter, this could build up in your home. Learn more about radon from Houzz.

While you’re checking your safety devices, take the time to schedule your furnace’s routine maintenance before the weather gets too cold. It’ll save your time before our technicians get too busy, but it’ll also save you from facing a cold-weather HVAC emergency. We always suggest having your furnace and HVAC systems’ inspected regularly to keep cost low and ensure your system is operating at max efficiency as much as possible.

We have maintenance plans as low as $15/mo. that can keep your home or business HVAC system operating smoothly. Finally, you should check your winter preparedness kits in your home and car in case of a storm. If you don’t have kits, here are some good ideas for what should be in your car and your home.

Make the most of fall and winter but make sure your AC unit and furnace are up to the tasks by giving us a call at 812-858-4000! BNG serves the heating and cooling needs of Evansville, Boonville, Newburgh, and Richland in Indiana.

Do A Preseason Tune-Up To Prepare Your Heating System For The Onslaught Of Winter

If you are such a busy person, then you will be surprised when winter approaches yet you have not confirmed whether your heating system is in proper condition. The best time to verify whether your heating system is working properly is during autumn well before the cold drafts kick in. This article gives you a check list to refer to for your preseason check.

Before the winter sets in and you switch on your system. The inspection and tune-up of your heating system needs to be done thoroughly. There are specific things that have to be done whether you are using a heat pump, natural gas, or oil.

You need to check for leaking pipes. It is easier with a heat pump because the signs of leaking will be clearly visible in form of oil stains. It is more difficult when it comes to a gas heating unit. You will have to find a way to notice any bubbles from the pipe. One way to do this is by using a soap solution or a gas leak detection fluid. For an electrical system, you need to verify the integrity of the wires to make sure they are not frayed or corroded in any way. This is one reason why it is advisable to use a technician to perform a routine heating maintenance procedure because he or she comes with all the tools needed for the job.

One of the best components of any home during winter is the ventilation system. The ventilation of your heating unit needs to be working properly to prevent buildup of poisonous carbon monoxide in the home. You need to make sure that the vent pipes are intact and not broken in any place. It is also a good idea to have a carbon monoxide detection tool to help you notice any leakage in the system throughout the winter.

The next component that needs your inspection is the air filter. You need to be sure that you are starting the winter with a fully functional and clean filter. If you have not changed it in the past 3 months, then it is advisable that you buy a new one. While checking out the filter, make sure that you take this opportunity to remove any debris, dust, and dirt from the whole unit. This will make the preseason system check easier and faster.

It is a good idea to have a professional to check your heating system before winter sets in. This way, when you switch on and test the unit the technician will be able to tell you the condition of the unit. If it is not in good shape, the necessary steps will be taken to rectify the problem. If you want to guarantee your warmth throughout the cold season without any worries, then have your heating system checked before winter.