By Maggie Calloway
As reluctant as we are to even think of the cold damp days and months ahead, some action and attention to detail now while the weather is relatively mild could save you big problems and lots of money if things go pear-shaped with your furnace in the middle of winter.
Alex Williams, a partner with his brother in A.D.W. Mainland Heat & Air Conditioning, is an expert on heating and cooling. Twenty-seven years of experience means there is not a lot Williams doesn’t know.
The first step depends on how old your furnace is. If it’s less than 10 years old, “(you) can take a chance and turn the furnace on because they have a lot of the newer technology and they don’t use much service,” Williams says. “If the furnace is over 10 years old (you) should get a licensed gas fitter to come in for a full service check.”
He says they should check several things before giving you the go-ahead.
“They should check the heat exchanger, the motor, the amperage draw, a clocking to make sure it’s burning correctly and they should test with a monometer to see if the pressure going to the burner is correct,” Williams says. “The biggest thing is to check for cracks in the heat exchanger because over time metal expands and contracts with heat and eventually it breaks.”
The biggest problem with a cracked heat exchanger is that it can release carbon monoxide into the house.
“I would say out of twenty furnaces over 20 years old, five of them will have cracks,” Williams says. “If your family suffers from chronic flu-like symptoms or constant tiredness while at home and they feel better when they are away from the home, check the carbon monoxide levels in the home immediately; your family may be being poisoned.”
Williams also says a furnace over 20 years old is only 50 per cent efficient. One has to think about replacing the unit if $50 out of every $100 you send to the natural gas provider is literally not providing any comfort to the family.
“Right now the federal government has a grant program called EcoEnergy and the provincial government’s program LiveSmart,” Williams says. “Just by changing your old furnace to a high efficiency (one) you will get $1,390 back … The average cost of putting in a high efficiency furnace is $4,700 so you are only looking at around $3,300. If you are now losing 50 per cent on the dollar with your old furnace it doesn’t take long to pay for a new safe, efficient one.”