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Solving Common Heating Problems

Winter has dropped like a bomb for most of the country. January’s blizzard conditions certainly reminded everyone of the importance of their home heating systems. So, let’s talk about some problems homeowners can encounter with heating during cold weather and how they can be resolved.

Heat Cycling

Does your heat keep turning on and off over short periods of time? This is known as “heat cycling,” and it can wear out the mechanical parts of your furnace over time. It can be caused by something as simple as a malfunctioning thermostat.

If you have a digital thermostat, check the batteries. Running out of juice means the thermostat will stop functioning. On analog versions, you can also check whether dust has collected inside the thermostat. Just remove the cover, which can be as simple as removing some screws, and carefully clean the internal components with a soft brush or compressed air. You can also check for loose wiring and tighten any connections.

Consider whether the thermostat is in a bad location. If it is near a vent, it can register higher temperatures from the heat and shut off too soon. It can also happen if it’s near an oven or a window.

Other causes could be coil overheating, which can result from dirty air filters or a problem with the blower. The former can be taken care of easily by the homeowner by replacing the air filters on a regular basis. Call a licensed professional to inspect your heating system if you suspect the latter.

Furnace is Blowing Cold Air

So, you’ve turned on your heating system, and there seems to be a constant flow of cool air, when the heat is not kicking on. Check the thermostat and make sure the fan is set to “Auto” instead of “On.” It’s a simple oversight. “Auto” means the fan will only turn on when the furnace is running. “On” means the fan will run at all times.

If you own an older gas furnace, and it seems to only be blowing cold air, the problem could be that the pilot light has gone out. Simply, re-light the pilot light to solve the problem. If the problem keeps reoccurring, contact a professional. The furnace might need a little maintenance.

The cold air could also be caused by a dirty flame sensor in the furnace, which prevents the burner from remaining lit. Call a professional to clean the sensor as part of an annual furnace maintenance.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a silent killer, and homeowners owe it to themselves and their families to take common-sense precautions to protect themselves from the potential of poisoning during cold weather.

CO is an odorless and colorless gas and undetectable to the nose or eyes. It can be produced by operating a stove or a heater in an enclosed space. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include nausea, dizziness, headaches, breathlessness and loss of consciousness.

  • Install carbon monoxide detectors on every story of your home.

  • Make sure all natural gas appliances are properly vented.

  • Gas and kerosene space heaters need to be properly vented. They should also be cleaned and inspected prior to operation.

  • Never use a charcoal grill or camp stove inside your home or near a window.

  • Make sure that your fireplace is properly vented before lighting a fire.

  • Only use generators outside and keep them at least 20 feet away from doors and windows.

Poorly maintained heating systems can also allow the gas to leak into your home. Call a licensed professional for an inspection and tune-up of your heating system.

High Heating Bills

Does the cost of heating your home keep burning a hole in your bank account each winter? It could be time to upgrade your home boiler if it’s older than 10 years old. Although regular maintenance and repairs can keep it running, older boilers simply can’t keep up with new models when it comes to energy efficiency. By taking steps to winterize your home as well as investing in an energy efficient heating system, homeowners can significantly reduce their monthly heating bills.

Written by Mike Nicholson of Nicholson Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning

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