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Tips for Proper Furnace Maintenance

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A gas furnace is a key piece of equipment in a home. Most furnaces are installed centrally in the house but often are tucked away in a closet, up in the attic, or in the basement or crawl space. In other words, they may not be the easy to access. To help your home’s heating equipment live a good, long life, regular maintenance is strongly recommended. Just because the furnace is out of sight doesn’t mean it should be out of mind.

Many HVAC companies offer service agreements that include a regular scheduled maintenance program. Or maybe you’re a handy do-it-yourselfer who wants to get their hands dirty and take care of things themselves. If that’s you,  here are a few furnace maintenance tips.

  1. Change the filter regularly. The filter prevents dirt from entering the furnace. Dirt and debris can build up on the blower fan and in the ductwork, which can also reduce air flow, wasting fuel and drastically lowering the unit’s efficiency. The filter may be changed monthly, quarterly or annually, depending on the type of filter and the conditions the furnace is operating under. Generally, we recommend changing the filter monthly. Make sure to use the proper size filter.
  2. Remember safety first. When maintaining your furnace, follow some basic safety practices. Most furnaces have a service switch that can be shut off so the unit won’t turn on during maintenance. Check for gas leaks and loose wires before you begin cleaning the furnace. If you smell gas smell or notice a loose wire, contact an HVAC professional.
  3. Clean the blower and ducts. The blower assembly is usually next to the filter, so the dust and dirt that penetrates or goes around the air filter goes to the blower. Use a damp cloth or vacuum to clean the blower, belts and pulleys to remove any accumulated dirt.
  4. Inspect the fan. After the dirt has been removed, make sure the fan spins smoothly and is properly secured. The bearings on the fan and motor may need lubricating, and if the fan is belt-driven, then the fan belt should be checked for proper tension.

Cleaning and maintaining a furnace is not a daunting task and is fairly inexpensive to complete. Proper maintenance will extend the service life of your equipment and help your furnace stay energy efficient.

By Kenn Garder, National Accounts Manager and Technical Support, NPI/GPI

How Long Your Appliances Will Last

How Long Do Appliances Last

Whether you’re getting ready to move into your new home with its own set of aging appliances, or you’re just taking stock of the ones you already own, it’s helpful to know just how much life they have left in them. New homeowners typically forget to budget for the average of $9,000 in hidden expenses they’ll run into in the first months and years of home ownership, and appliances are a substantial part of that expense. Here’s a breakdown of how long your home appliances should last, and how you can lengthen their lifespans to save money in the long run.

For All Appliances

Before we get started, the numbers you’ll see below are averages. You can get a rough estimate of how long your appliances have left before they give up the ghost based solely on their age, but what’s more important is how much use they get. A washing machine that handles clothes for a family of 5 will see a lot more action than a bachelor’s, for example, which will shorten its lifespan accordingly.

Oven Range: 13-15 Years

Whether you have a gas, electric or induction range, they tend to have similar lifespans. The best way to extend the life of your range is with regular cleaning. For gas ranges, make sure to clean the burner ports using a straight pin on a set schedule (usually once every three months)—this ensures that the ports don’t get clogged with grease that can cause uneven cooking and wear on the stove.

Dishwasher: 9-13 Years

The best advice for maintaining your dishwasher? Run it regularly. If you don’t, the rubber gaskets and seals that keep water where it’s supposed to be can dry out and fail. You should also clean out the filter regularly to avoid buildup that can keep water from draining from the dishwasher at the end of a cycle.

Refrigerator: 11-19 Years

Depending on the style you have, refrigerators can have very different lifespans. Typical side-by-side fridge/freezer combos normally last 14 years, while two-door fridges (top freezer, bottom refrigerator) last around 17 years. Since standalone freezers have to work harder than refrigerators, they also wear out faster. These last only about 11 years.

You can help your fridge last longer by reducing how hard it works on a daily basis. This means keeping the doors closed as much as possible, and keeping the temperature off the “coldest” setting.

Microwave: 9-10 Years

With not a lot of moving parts and even fewer serviceable ones, your microwave oven is one of the most durable appliances in your kitchen. That being said, there’s not a lot you can do to make yours last longer, besides keeping it clean and taking it easy on the door hinge.

Garbage Disposal: 10-12 Years

When it comes to garbage disposals, the most important thing to remember is what not to put down it. This includes foods like rice, egg shells, fibrous vegetables or grease, which can clog the disposal and dull its blades. To keep your garbage disposal clean, cut a lemon into smallish wedges and put them down the disposal, along with a handful or two of ice cubes. The acid in lemon juice combines with the gentle abrasive action of the ice to loosen stuck-on debris and eliminate odor, too.

Washing Machine/Dryer: 10 to 14 Years

For washing machines and dryers, lifespan is determined by which style you have. Top-loading washing machines tend to last a little longer than front-loading ones—the reason for this is up for some debate, but it may come down to the fact that front-loading washing machines are generally more technologically advanced. More moving parts, bells and whistles equal more opportunities for things to break down.

Dryers come in on the lower end of the lifespan range, simply because their heating elements tend to undergo more stress than washing machines.

Furnace: 15-18 Years

A gas furnace will normally outlast an electric one by about three years, and the reasons are twofold. First, gas is a more efficient fuel source than electricity, so the system doesn’t have to work as hard to provide the same amount of heat. Second, gas furnaces are usually less complex, with fewer parts that can wear and break. Also, today’s high-efficiency furnaces will outlast those using older technology.

AC Unit: 10-15 Years

In order to work with optimal efficiency, your air conditioning unit needs regular care and maintenance, starting with making sure the coils and foil fins are clean and straight. You’ll also want to call in a professional once a year to check the system’s refrigerant levels—if they’re too high or low, you’ll end up with problems like iced-over coils or too much stress put on the system.

Water Heater: 10-25 Years

Tankless water heaters can easily last over two decades, while more common tank models generally fall in the lifespan range of 10 to 15 years. Electric models wear out sooner, again because they’re less efficient. Other factors come into play with water heaters as well—for those with hard water, excess mineral buildup and scaling can shorten the life of this appliance, while those on a well water system should also look out for sediment deposits.

Call Your NPI Inspector Today

Our NPI inspectors have the knowledge and expertise to assess your home’s major systems and provide a full report. Call us today to buy or sell with confidence.

Home Alert: Top 11 Common HVAC Issues Found During a Home Inspection

The following is a list of 6 common forced air furnace problems and 5 common problems in a combined heating/cooling HVAC unit:

A home inspection provides you with information regarding the condition and functionality of different systems inside and outside the home. The heating or heating/cooling system is part of the inspection. One of the most common heating systems in the United States is the forced-air furnace. In a forced-air furnace, oil or gas is used to heat a piece of metal. A fan pushes the warmed air into a series of ducts, which carry it throughout the house. The cold-air return feeds air back into the system. The following is a list of six common forced-air furnace problems and five common problems in a combined heating/cooling HVAC unit:

Forced-air Furnace:

  1. Electrical issues. Electrical service to the home may not be adequate for the heating/cooling system. This could mean a blown fuse or tripped breaker during heavy use. An electrical kill switch should be located near the heating unit so the power can be cut off in case of an emergency.
  2. Dirty/clogged filter. Filters were originally designed to keep mechanical elements free from dirt and dust. Today, filters are designed to help clean the air while the equipment is running. If the filter is not changed or cleaned regularly, it can block sufficient air flow and cause problems with heating and cooling functions.
  3. Cracks/breaks in ductwork. Improperly installed air ducts, or cracked or broken connections between ducts, can cause the heated or cooled air to vent into attics or walls instead of into the intended rooms.
  4. Blocked/closed registers. Furniture, boxes or drapery may be blocking the register in certain rooms. This disrupts the flow of heat.
  5. Old/unmaintained system. Heating and cooling systems operating longer than their design life can cause health or safety issues. Gas-fired appliances, including furnaces, must have a properly operating exhaust system to vent the byproducts of combustion, including carbon monoxide, a potentially harmful gas, outside. Cracked heat exchangers and other problems could cause these gases to leak into the home.
  6. Poorly installed flue pipes. The flue moves the exhaust gas, created during combustion, from the heating unit to the outside, or to a chimney that vents outside. This flue, or vent pipe, must be kept away from all flammable materials, be properly supported and slope up on its way to the outdoor vent or chimney.

Air Conditioner

  1. Dirty/clogged condenser coils. Restricting air flow to the outdoor condenser unit can lead to poor heat transfer. All foliage or obstructions should be cut back at least 1 foot around the outdoor condenser unit. The fin surface of the evaporator coil can be cleaned using a brush or vacuum.
  2. Uneven condenser unit pad. The outside unit should be within 10 degrees of level. If it is not level, it can reduce the effectiveness of lubrication in the tubing or increase stress on refrigerant lines.
  3. Leaks. The indoor portion of an air conditioner can be installed in a basement, closet or attic. A drain hose is used to remove the condensation that collects during the cooling process. If the drain hose becomes clogged, then water will eventually back up and spill over onto the floor.
  4. Unable to inspect due to weather. Temperatures must be warm enough to turn on the air conditioning unit. Turning on the unit when temperatures are too low can cause extensive damage. If the inspector is unable to check the functionality of the air conditioner, then it should be noted in the written report.
  5. Missing insulation. Two pipes carry refrigerant between the evaporator and condenser coils. The larger one, carrying the cool gas, should be insulated. This prevents the line from sweating indoors, causing water damage, and improves efficiency by keeping the line cool.

Because of the health and safety issues involved, it is important to maintain your heating/cooling systems. Have your furnace and air conditioner inspected by a licensed technician at least once a year.