I want to keep my utility bills as low as possible. With the heating season soon upon us, what can I do myself to keep my heating system running at its maximum efficiency and heat output?—Bob J.
There are several simple things you can do to keep your heating system running efficiently in between regularly scheduled professional maintenance visits by your local contractor. But keep in mind that there are many areas within a heating system that only a qualified technician can evaluate and adjust properly. And you certainly don’t want to do anything that accidentally voids the manufacturer’s warranty. A good rule of thumb for do-it-yourself work is—if you are not absolutely sure what a part or adjustment screw does, don’t touch it.
Sealing up leaky ductwork is the most important thing you can do to help your furnace work as efficiently as possible. While the furnace is running, hold a stick of lighted incense near each joint in the duct-
work (both return and supply air ducts) to check for air leaks. As you find leaks, wipe away surface dust, then use mastic (a quick-drying paste available at your local home improvement or hardware store) to close the gap. This material works much better than old-fashioned tape.
Clean = efficient
Your furnace will work most efficiently if you keep the interior parts clean. Before you begin, be certain to turn off the electric power to your furnace at the circuit breaker panel.
Remove the side cover of your furnace, then use a vacuum cleaner brush attachment to gently clean away dust on the blower and inside the cabinet.
Make it a habit to change your furnace filter regularly. If you have an electrostatic air-filtering device on your system, clean those elements, too, to improve performance.
When you replace the furnace cover, make sure all the cabinet screws are tight for proper airflow over coils and other heat exchanger surfaces. Then turn the power back on at the circuit breaker panel.
If your heating system includes a heat pump, check the cabinet screws on the outdoor condenser unit for a snug fit, too. Remove any debris, such as fallen leaves, from around the outdoor unit to keep air moving freely for the most efficient operation.
Don’t take chances with natural gas or LP gas
If, at any time, you smell the distinctive odor of natural gas or LP (liquid propane) gas from your heating system, water heater, or stove, immediately move all people and pets outdoors. Stay outside to call your gas supplier, and follow their instructions until professional help arrives. Do not re-enter the building until professionals have told you it is safe to do so.
Mail requests and questions to James Dulley, Kentucky Living, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244, or visit www.dulley.com.