Inside your home, the winter cold can be more hazardous than summer heat, because heating a home can be done in so many different (and potentially unsafe) ways; wood fireplace, gas fireplace, radiant heat, electric heat, oil or gas furnace, boiler, even leaving open an oven! Conversely, there are few ways to cool air temperature; you can either circulate the air, pump in cool air (air conditioning) or pull out warm air (heat pumps).
Turning on that furnace for the first time after months of inactivity is often a shock. It can literally be a shock to your heating system, or it might be a shocking experience when you get your first heating bill! But there are common sense things you can do to get your heating system ready for winter. And, take it from a technician who visits a variety of homes every day, most people do not adequately prepare their home for the peak winter months. Here is some advice to consider before the next big chill.
It is highly recommended to have a fire extinguisher next to your furnace, fireplace or heating system at all times, especially when turning on the system for the first time.
Turn your furnace on now.
Don’t wait until it’s freezing out to see if the system works normally. Do it now.
Got it switched on? Good. Now stop and immediately check your common senses:
1. Smell: Does it smell like something is burning? If so, first check to be sure there is not an actual fire or smoke coming from the heating system. If there is, turn the system off immediately (you have that fire extinguisher, right?) Put out any flames or get out. Call emergency fire services or 911.
If there’s not a fire, wait and see if the burning smell subsides. If not, this is a sign that the system needs to be tuned-up.
2. Listen: Does it sound like the system is struggling? Is the noise level or airflow excessive? This is also a sign that the furnace needs to be tuned-up.
3. Feel: Feel the ducts and walls. Is there vibration? If so, I recommend a Performance Inspection to identify the cause.
4. Look: Check your carbon monoxide detector’s readings. If the carbon monoxide alarm goes off or is above 30, turn the system off immediately and call for a furnace Performance Inspection. This is a sign that there could be a potentially hazardous condition. Open windows to air out the house and do not turn the heat on again until it is checked by a professionally qualified, NATE-certified heating technician. You may want to also exit the home until the reading falls below 0.
After you’ve tested your heating system and followed your common senses, you should have a pretty good idea if the system is working normally. By design, any appliance or equipment that heats up can be a potential danger, so always put safety first when it comes to your furnace. Checking your heating system early in the heating season not only helps you know if there are problems now or on the horizon, you can also beat the peak heating repair service rush, when heating repair companies are in high demand.