My favourite room in the house is the utility or furnace room. It is your home’s lifeline, yet it sometimes goes unnoticed. I like to think your HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), system is the lungs of your home. The ductwork is your body’s veins, carrying heat to all the parts of your home and returning cold air back to the furnace to be reheated.
Furnaces are not cheap. The average cost of a new furnace in Canada is between $4,000 and $6,000 including installation. They are also complex systems and are becoming even more advanced as smart homes and energy-saving technology progress.
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It’s in your best interest to regularly service your HVAC system — but what can go wrong if you don’t?
For starters airflow from your furnace through your home could be restricted. A clogged furnace filter, blocked cold air returns, and blocked heat registers can restrict airflow. Furnace filters not only prevent dust and other particles from entering your home, but they also protect your furnace and lower your energy costs by reducing how hard your furnace must work to regulate your home’s temperature.
To help maintain optimal indoor air quality and use less energy, change your filters every month or at least every three months. It’s also good to remember to also clean or replace any filters in your ERV or HRV. If you have a whole-humidifier attached to your furnace, a yearly cleaning is usually sufficient.
One of the most common HVAC problems is a faulty thermostat. A faulty thermostat can cause your system to overheat or not heat your home sufficiently. Either way, it costs you money. Fortunately, replacing a thermostat is relatively inexpensive and will help you reduce your energy bills — I always recommend installing a programmable thermostat.
Installing a smart thermostat will improve your home’s energy efficiency because it will change the temperature automatically throughout the day. When you aren’t home, it keeps your house warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter so that your system runs less frequently and consumes less power.
Don’t forget to update the batteries in your non-hardwired thermostat at least once a year. Additionally, ensure your carbon monoxide detector is operational and test it once a month. Every three months, swap out the batteries, and every seven years, replace the entire unit.
A broken blower can cause your HVAC systems to overheat, affect indoor air quality, and make your system noisier. However, regular maintenance removes excess dust and debris buildup, reducing the risk of the blower from breaking.
Leaks are common issues, particularly in the HVAC connector and drain lines and can cause your system to run harder, leading to repairs or replacements. Leaks can also occur in the refrigerant lines and from the AC condensate line and heat exchanger.
Corrosion is a possibility anywhere moisture and wire are present. Your HVAC system may become corroded on wires or terminals, typically resulting in your heating or cooling system turning on and off by itself. Like leaks, it will make your system work harder and could eventually result in a total breakdown.
I suggest that homeowners schedule two seasonal HVAC service calls each year, one in the spring and one in the fall. An HVAC technician will check the calibration and settings of your thermostat, tighten any electrical connections, lubricate all the moving parts, and inspect and clean the condensate drain. They will also review the system controls, clean the evaporator and condenser controls, check the refrigerant charge and the fuel line, and inspect the gas pressure, burner combustion and heat exchanger.
As a homeowner, it’s essential to inspect your HVAC system every month and check the thermostat, the entire unit, registers and returns. Also, ensure there is no clutter around the HVAC unit, as this is not only a safety and fire hazard but it will help eliminate the accumulation of dust.
Electric furnaces are generally easier to maintain. They do not have gas-powered burners and combustion chambers that need to be inspected or cleaned, so they are often less expensive to service than gas furnaces.
If you notice a spike or gradual increase in your energy bills, it could indicate that you have HVAC issues, but it also could mean that your HVAC may be reaching the end of its life cycle. It may be time to get a new furnace. The average lifespan of an HVAC system is 15 to 25 years. However, with proper maintenance, your furnace should serve you well. When in doubt, always consult a qualified HVAC technician and get your HVAC system serviced regularly.
Residents of the GTA can apply for Season 2 of Holmes Family Rescue at makeitright.ca