What to ask your Heating Repair Serviceman

When the time comes that you have a need for furnace repair there are some questions you may want to ask the serviceman. Throughout the cooling season you probably don’t think about the heat, and some people never call a heating contractor unless the furnace doesn’t work. However, the time to think about your heat is before it is needed and when you get a service tech in your house, considering asking:

1. How often should your furnace be checked? With many of the newer furnaces, the how often is left up to the homeowner. However, most technicians recommend having a pre-season check performed once a year, especially in an environment where dust can accumulate. If there are several pets in the home, hair can quickly clog filters and they should be changed at least once a year.

2. What is the efficiency rating of your furnace? On the majority of gas furnaces, the efficiency rating is around 80 percent. However, this rating doesn’t tell the whole story. The heating contractor may make recommendations about keeping furniture away from heating ducts to ensure the air flow is not restricted. If cold air return vents are blocked, the efficiency of your furnace will suffer, making it run longer to achieve a comfortable level.

3. What can be done to cut costs? Not to be confused with keeping your home well-insulated, there may be adjustments the heating contractor can recommend to make your heating unit work more efficiently. If you have an older furnace, or have added on to your home, you may need to adjust the airflow from your furnace to help the warm air circulate more efficiently. You might also consider closing off rooms that you never use or use a programmable thermostat that lowers the temperature when you are not home and raises it back up to make the house warm in time for your return.

4. What are settings of the fan limit switch? You have probably noticed that when you turn on the heat it takes a few minutes for the blower (in forced air systems) to start. This is because there is a limit switch that won’t turn on the blower until the heat chamber reaches a preset temperature, usually about 200 degrees. It also turns off the blower at the end of the cycle when the heat chamber hits the lowest temp, somewhere between 100 and 110 degrees.

5. How often do you replace the thermocouple? On furnaces that use gas or oil, there is a little device called a thermocouple that essentially monitors the pilot light, ensuring when heating is called for the main burner will light. If the thermocouple goes bad, the pilot light will go out and your furnace won’t work.

They are designed to work for several years, but since they are fairly inexpensive and not all that hard to install, many service techs recommend they be changed every year. They seem to quit when heat is needed the most and unless you can change them on your own, if it is the busy season, the heating service tech may not be able to get there quickly.

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