I have no heat in my house. What can I do?
Lon’s law: Your furnace will only fail under these conditions:
- It’s the coldest day of the year.
- It’s a holiday
- It’s your day off and you were planning to treat yourself to a day of doing absolutely nothing.
- You have overnight guests from Florida who cannot tolerate even a mild chill in the air.
Here are a few things you can try before calling the heating company.
- Check the thermostat and verify it is set on ‘heat’. This is like following the rule to make sure something is plugged in that doesn’t work.
- Check the fuse or circuit breaker to your heating system.
- Check the service safety switch for the furnace. It’s a toggle switch that looks just like a light switch. It’s located on the side of most gas furnaces or on a wall or ceiling, near older furnaces. The switch should be flipped to the ‘on’ position.
- With oil heat, check to see that the oil tank is full and check the relay box in the flue pipe, which is the large metal pipe between the furnace and the chimney. Press the red restart button on the box one time.
- If the gas furnace was installed before 1980 replace the thermocouple, which is a thin copper line that stretches from the gas valve to the pilot light. It’s a safety device that stops gas flow .if the pilot goes out. Thermocouples can easily be replaced with a pliers and wrench. If the pilot is on and the burner will not respond, and if you’ve checked everything else, it’s probably the thermocouple.
- If the furnace kicks on, but quickly kicks off again, the fan belt may be failing to move warm air out and all you may need to do is replace a broken belt.
- If your furnace still doesn’t work, it’s time to call a licensed heating contractor. Many companies will respond 24-hours a day, thank goodness.
Cleaning your humidifier
I heard that my humidifier is the most neglected appliance in my house. How true is that?
When I am inspecting homes for prospective purchasers, I find that humidifiers are the most neglected appliance in the home. In the fall they should be turned on. If you forgot, do it as soon as possible.
When manufacturers recommend cleaning your humidifier are they just spouting off, or is it really important to do so? Well, you should at least clean your humidifier at the start of the season, if you’ve failed to do so.
Some recommend it be done once a month during the heating season. The hardness of your water, the amount of humidity needed and the frequency of the humidifier’s operation, are all factors in how often you need to clean yours. Check it monthly, or at least in the middle of the season. It may not require cleaning, but it should still be checked. A dirty humidifier contributes considerably to indoor air pollution and bacteria, which can lead to health problems if it’s not cleaned regularly and properly maintained.
Cleaning your fireplace
How often should I clean my fireplace and chimney if I use it in the winter as a heat source?
If you are using your fireplace as a source of alternative heat, and you burn a fire every day during the cold months, your chimney should be cleaned two to three times a year. If you use the fireplace occasionally, you might not need to have it cleaned more than once a year.
Creosote is a product of incomplete combustion in your fireplace. It accumulates in your chimney and can become a fire hazard. Its buildup cannot be avoided, but it can be controlled by what you burn and how the chimney is cleaned. Also, a fireplace that starts smoking (especially it it’s under the legal age) may need to be cleaned.
The buildup of creosote and soot also hinges on whether you burn a lot of newspapers (my weekly column burns especially well), along with soft woods, such as white pine. Soft woods produce more creosote than hardwoods, such as oak.
Don’t burn your money by throwing chemicals into the fireplace to burn off excessive creosote. Make and investment in hiring a professional chimney sweep who is licensed and insured so you can have peace of mind about your fireplace being a safe and enjoyable feature in your home.