Fixing a problem before it happens is often easier said than done.
When it comes to preparing your heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system for the coming winter months, it can be as easy as a simple phone call.
“The cost of after-hours, unexpected repair could've instead paid for a few years of maintenance without the inconvenience of the furnace breaking down,” said Bill Hagmaier of Armstrong Comfort Solutions.
Hagmaier is the HVAC service supervisor, and he recommends getting your system serviced twice a year in the spring and fall.
This goes especially for first-time homebuyers and if you just bought a new system for your home.
Your HVAC system makes up almost half of your energy costs to begin with, and a clogged filter can cause about a 15% uptick in energy use.
“The first thing I would say is check your filter,” Hagmaier said. “See if it's a 30-day filter, three-month filter or a six-month filter. Check it once a month and that will put you on a schedule. It might not be full, but you can gauge how often it will need changed.
“Every house is different with the traffic in it.”
It can take just a tenth of an inch of dust to reduce your furnace's efficiency by 20%.
This also causes damage to the system which can cause it to shut off, most likely at a very inconvenient time.
“Most of our after-hours emergency calls are for when the furnace shuts off,” Hagmaier said. “We'll get there and it's locked out on a safety. The flame sensor over time can build up if not tended to and it can't sense the flame and shuts the furnace off.”
Even if your system seems to be working with no maintenance, the buildup will instead cause a damaged part in the furnace and can cause the buildup to leak into the duct work of your home.
This could cause you to feel sick, nauseated, and even deadly.
“It only takes a couple minutes to clean that flame sensor,” Hagmaier said.
Check for leaks
Most importantly Hagmaier said to get your furnace checked for gas leaks and make sure the heat exchanger is running smoothly. This is where carbon dioxide can be an issue.
Safety should be a priority, especially with loved ones around.
“If you watch the news, you see people have carbon dioxide problems with their furnace,” Hagmaier said. “This can cause the house to catch on fire, which is the biggest concern that we have.
“It's worth having a maintenance checkup versus losing your home or someone's life.”
Armstrong Comfort Solutions is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with a majority of their time spent out on service calls late at night.
In the thick of winter, and on a very cold week, Hagmaier says he and his co-workers can expect multiple calls for emergency service a day in the dead of night.
“None of us like being on call for 24-hour service,” Hagmaier said. “Probably about 90% of our after-hours calls is due to lack of maintenance.”
“You can work your normal eight hours during the day, but if you're on call at night, you might not get home until one or two in the morning, then might get another phone call shortly thereafter. It can get brutal sometimes, but it's just the way it is.”
Armstrong Comfort Solutions provides maintenance programs. Most of the programs offer maintenance checks during the fall and spring months.
“It's more tailored to the equipment that you have,” Hagmaier said. “The more equipment you have, the more we discount it. Oil furnaces require more time and maintenance. With a gas furnace, there is less you have to take apart and clean.”