Show Notes: Getting your Furnace Ready for Winter, Radon and more
Don’t get caught without heat on the first chilly day of the season! This week we are talking home heating and furnace maintenance.
Our thanks to our guest Mr. Ray Dias, Vice President of Service Champions.
Scary Good And Simple Halloween Safety Tips
For a frightfully safe Halloween here are some simple safety tips:
Parents remind your little ghosts and goblins to walk between homes – no running! Nothing is worse than a skinned knee or worse to ruin the Halloween fun.
It’s out with candles and in with led candles, tea lights and strings of Halloween lights strung around you porch. The U.S. Fire Administration says to make sure a recognized lab has tested any decorative lights you plan to use, and also to make sure the lights’ sockets; wires and connectors are in good working order before use. Make sure the walkway to the front door is well lit.
Clean up your yard, make sure there are no obstacles to trip up little feet. Make sure any yard décor is well lit and out of the pathway to the front door.
Protect your pets from the festivities: leaving your dog or cat in a back room of the house will keep them calmer throughout the evening.
Check your smoke alarms to help make sure they’re in good working order. Decorations can be flammable, so keep them away from open flames.
Radon Action Week
This week is designed to bring about awareness about the dangers and public health issues associated with radon. Radon is a naturally occurring, invisible, odorless gas that causes lung cancer when exposed to at elevated levels.
Radon is estimated to affect as many as one in fifteen homes in the United States, so it is a particularly widespread problem. There are many people who may have elevated radon levels in their home, but may not even realize it. It can be important to get your home tested for different radon issues, which will help you decide to take action.
You might notice that your home smells strange, which could be an indication that you have radon gas present. Other people will note that they are simply getting sick more often. This could be a big warning sign that radon levels are increasing in your home. This could be happening, because radon is a gas that can easily seep upwards from the top soil that is underneath the foundation of your home.
Testing for radon in your home is easy and inexpensive, and if discovered, can be fixed. Testing is as easy as opening a package, placing the detector in a designated area, and sealing the detector back in the package and mailing it to the lab.
Having carbon monoxide and radon detectors are important for everyone’s safety. You can purchase these detectors at most hardware and big box, do-it-yourself stores.
Radon Hotline 1-800-SOSRADON (767-7236)
It’s Time For Furnace Maintenance
With cold weather rapidly approaching, it’s a good idea to inspect your home heating system to make sure that it’s safe and in peak operating condition.
Ideally, the furnace should be inspected by a heating professional at least once annually just before its initial start-up for the season. Many heating companies offer annual maintenance contracts, which accompany the purchase of a new furnace.
This service is also available for older furnaces, which often tend to require a bit more maintenance. Even if you do your own annual maintenance, the system should be inspected by a heating professional every three to five years.
The first step in a furnace tune-up is filter replacement. Always be sure that the power is turned off to the unit before attempting repairs. The filter acts to protect the blower from airborne dust and dirt which would otherwise damage the motor. The filter also helps to reduce the amount of dust discharged throughout the house. When the filter becomes clogged it makes the furnace motor work harder and results in increased utility bills and decreased efficiency.
The filter is typically located where the cool air enters the furnace — just behind the grille at the cold air return or at the entrance to the blower chamber or sometimes at both locations. For most furnaces the filter slides in and out.
Filters come in many shapes and sizes. Hence, it’s a good idea to bring along the old filter when shopping for a replacement.
Be a smart buyer. Don’t just buy one filter; buy a full case which generally consists of about a dozen. The “per” filter price drops significantly and you’ll have replacement filters handy as you need to replace them every one to three months of blower use.
Homes with pets or homes that are located in dusty or heavily trafficked areas will require more frequent filter replacement. Check with your local utility company for rebate coupons which will further reduce the cost of replacement filters.
Once you have the furnace filter removed and before you install the replacement filter, it’s a great opportunity to tidy up the blower compartment. Use a vacuum cleaner with an upholstery brush attachment to remove dust and debris. Then, again using the vacuum, remove soot and other debris from the interior of the fire box or burner chamber. Use caution when working at the interior of the burner chamber since many are lined with a fibrous material.
Good housekeeping should not be limited to the filters, the blower compartment and burner chamber. It should extend to the ducting and cold air return as well. This is more of a health issue than one that relates to furnace efficiency. This is of special importance to people with respiratory ailments or allergies.
Dust, dirt, pollen, animal dander and other airborne contaminants are pulled into the ducting each time the blower is operated. These contaminants build up inside the ductwork over time and can make the duct system an ideal breeding ground for mold spores, bacteria and foul odors.
Duct cleaning is not something that can be done effectively by the do-it-yourselfer. The process which costs approximately $300 to $500 for the average home uses a powerful portable vacuum along with an “air snake” which is fed through all of the ducting. The air strips the interior of the ducts and feeds the debris into the special vacuum. This process should be performed every one to five years depending upon accumulation. Check with a heating contractor for a referral.
Loose fan belts not only make the furnace operate less efficiently, they can also make quite an annoying racket. For most furnaces fan belt tension can be adjusted at the motor brackets. A properly adjusted fan belt should “give” about half-an-inch. A badly worn belt should be replaced with a new one. Consider having a replacement belt around in the event emergency replacement is needed.
If the furnace is oil-fired, the bearing at the pump motor should be oiled with a few drops of fine machine oil. The fuel filter in the main oil line should also be replaced annually. The burners should be checked every two to five years to make sure that they mix the correct amount of fuel and air for proper combustion.
Smoke emission tests should be made for oil furnaces. Black smudges surrounding the door to the burner compartment are a sign of poor combustion and the need for burner adjustment.
The replacement of the fuel nozzle on an oil-fired furnace with a smaller nozzle can greatly diminish its fuel consumption. This technique is known as “derating” and will cause the furnace to run for longer periods and at the same time consume less fuel. Derating can cost in the neighborhood of $50 and is especially effective on “energy-guzzling” older furnaces.
As with an oil-fired furnace, the burners for a gas-fired furnace or boiler should be checked for proper combustion every two to five years by a heating professional. The heat exchanger should be inspected once each year for leakage or dangerous combustion gases. Many local utility companies will perform this service at no charge or for a modest fee. Whenever the smell of gas is present around the furnace, the gas supply to a gas-fired furnace or boiler should be turned off and the utility company or a heating professional should be notified. The system should not be used until it is inspected and repaired.
One way to make your gas-fired furnace more fuel efficient is by replacing the pilot light with a new electronic ignition system. This can cost between $200 and $300, but will ultimately pay for itself in energy savings.
For homes with forced air heating, the ducting has a great deal to do with the overall effectiveness of the system. Many older homes have ducting which is rusted through allowing heated air to escape into attics, basements and crawl spaces. Poorly sealed connections and non-insulated ducting are other big energy wasters.
Damaged ducting should be replaced with new material. All joints and connections should be secured with screws and sealed with silver duct tape. Non-insulated ducts should be wrapped with insulation. Use one-inch-thick fiberglass duct insulation. The material can be secured at the with silver duct tape.
And, that’s all there is to it.
Install A New Setback Thermostat To Help Save On Your Energy Bills
A programmable thermostat offers the most control of your heating and cooling comfort and saves energy expenses. It will allow you to set different temperatures for different times of the day, different times on different days like a weekend. In the winter you can set it to automatically lower the temperature when you leave for work and raise it an hour before returning home. The same is true for the summer. Running your furnace or air conditioner does not operate all day and waste fuel or electricity when no one is home.
Select a thermostat that is accurate Most thermostats will vary one degree from the temperatures you set. If your thermostat is not operating properly it will significantly reduce your furnaces efficiency, comfort and will cost you money.
Is It To Late To Prune My Trees?
For most trees, the dormant season, late fall or winter, is the best time to prune although dead branches can and should be removed at any time. Pruning during the dormant period minimizes sap loss and subsequent stress to the tree. It also minimizes the risk of fungus infection or insect infestation as both fungi and insects are likely to be in dormancy at the same time as the tree. Finally, in the case of deciduous trees, pruning when the leaves are off will give you a better idea of how your pruning will affect the shape of the tree. Some fruiting and flowering trees should be pruned at other times of the year, depending on whether they flower on the previous year’s growth or not. After pruning, it is always a good idea to give the tree a good fertilizing so that the tree can naturally close the pruning wounds and to reduce the stress placed on the tree.
Thank you to our friends at TreeHelp.com
IHANDY CARPENTER APP Gets 5 Stars
By iHandy Inc.
The lightest, prettiest and most handy carpenter tool kit in the world, right on your iPhone! Get 5 professional tools in ONE app at only half the price of buying each!
There are 5 tools in this Carpenter tool kit:
A plumb bob, the easiest way for you to verify the verticality of lines or walls -
A surface level, the best tool to level any flat surface -
A bubble level bar, exactly as you can see in carpenter tool kit shops, and more beautiful! -
A steel protractor, measuring angles from 0 to 180 degrees.
A steel ruler, supporting both inches and centimeters. By swiping it left and right, the ruler is capable to measure things much longer than your iPhone!
Once calibrated, the plumb bob, surface level and level bar can also be used as an inclinometer/clinometer by reading the angles on the screen.
Mag-Erad Non-Toxic Cleaner, 1lb Can