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Burning Questions About Heating Your Home

Wizard

The journey to seek out better comfort can bring you much wisdom. We hope you will find more peace after reading these answers from our home comfort wizard.

Is it ever possible to fix a heating problem on my own?

While many types of malfunctions can cause your system to operate poorly (or not operate at all), the problems outlined below are not only quite common, but relatively easy and inexpensive to fix.

Power switches turned off

If your heat stops working, these are among the first things you should check. First, it often happens that the power switches for the heating system have been turned off by mistake. Simply turn the electrical switches back to the “on” position and your problem may be solved.

Unchecked air filters or water level

If you have a furnace, change or clean the filters about once a month; a dirty filter compromises efficiency and can even result in a shutdown. If you have a steam boiler, check the water gauge periodically. Low water levels are a leading cause of boiler shutdowns. Steam boilers should also be “flushed” when the water in the sight glass looks rusty.

Tripped circuit breaker

Going to the circuit breaker box and flipping the proper switch may be all you need to get running again. However, a circuit breaker rarely ever trips for no reason. If this happens once and never happens again, consider it a fluke. But if this happens more often, arrange for service, as this could be a sign of a serious problem.

Faulty thermostat

Many instances of heating systems not working can be traced to the thermostat, which sends a signal to your boiler or furnace to generate heat. If the wiring is deteriorating, these signals may get erratic. A buildup of dust inside your thermostat is another common culprit. You may also need to change the batteries in your thermostat.

Would I be wise to turn my thermostat way up to get warm fast?

Your heating system doesn’t work like a car — there is no gas pedal to step on to make it go faster. Your furnace or boiler will produce heat at the same rate regardless of whether your thermostat is set to 68 degrees or 85 degrees. (Setting the thermostat higher just makes your system work longer.)

Hot Tip #1: For better temperature control, trade in your old manual thermostat for a digital, programmable one. This allows you to automate your home temperature settings and can help you reduce your energy use and save as much as 10%.

Hot Tip #2: Never program your thermostat below 60 degrees, even if you’ll be away from home for a period of time. When your thermostat setting is too low, you risk frozen pipes. Water pipes near outside walls or in unheated spaces are especially prone to freeze-ups. The risk increases if cracks in your foundation allow cold air to seep into your home.

Would it be prudent to turn off the heat in some rooms?

Sure, you wants to save money on heating your home, but you don’t want to cause problems while you’re at it. One common mistake we see is when people drastically reduce or completely shut off the heat in different zones of their home.

While you might think you’ll save a little on heating costs, shutting off radiators or closing vents creates the possibility that pipes will freeze — especially in rooms that tend to be colder anyway. That’s a really costly problem.

If you have a furnace, closing some vents disrupts normal air flow, causing an imbalance that will just make your furnace work harder and strain your ductwork.

It’s best to keep heat flowing to all the rooms in your home.

A better idea is to keep the temperature at a comfortable level throughout your home and program your system to energy-saving settings when the house is empty or everyone is asleep.

If you have a zoned system, you can vary the temperature in different rooms, eliminating the temptation of shutting the heat off completely in some parts of your home.

Can you enlighten me about improving my heating efficiency?

A study of over 1,000 homes across the country showed that consumers are getting short-changed on energy efficiency because of a combination of poor equipment installation and lax maintenance.*

After adjustments were made to correct problems, however, efficiency improved, on average, by a phenomenal 36%! This was accomplished through the following methods:

  • cleaning and adjusting the system — on average, annual maintenance alone can save you about 10% on annual heating costs.
  • correcting flaws made during the initial installation, such as poorly matched ductwork.
  • sealing the ductwork to prevent air leaks.
  • improving insulation in the home in areas where air leaks caused significant energy losses.

As you can see, a few fixes could save you a lot of money on heat and keep you more comfortable.

*Source: National Comfort Institute