Design Comfort Blog: Archive for November, 2011

How Do I Check a Gas Furnace Draft Pressure Switch? A Question from Salt Lake City

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

There are many reasons why a furnace stops working and in many cases, a Salt Lake City homeowner can perform some simple diagnostics to pinpoint the problem. Finding the problem is one thing – fixing it is another. When in doubt, don’t try it yourself. Call a qualified professional.

But let’s look at one possible problem and solution you may be able to perform yourself – testing the draft pressure switch. The draft pressure switch on a gas furnace allows an electrical current to pass through to ignite the furnace. The pressure switch monitors the draft conditions and won’t allow the furnace’s gas valve to open unless draft is correct.

If the switch is malfunctioning, so too will (or will not) the furnace.

The best way to locate the switch is by consulting with your owner’s manual or by going online and simply typing in the words “gas furnace draft switch.” It is identifiable by its round size and is bolted to the outside of the furnace. It should be nearby the draft inducer motor because the two are connected by a metal tube. The tube may sometimes be the culprit, too. A tube that is blocked with condensation may cause the switch to go bad.

To check for proper function, first turn off power to the furnace, either by shutting down the ‘on’ switch at the furnace or shutting off the circuit breaker.

Use a volt ohm meter to check if the switch is opening and closing properly. Start by zeroing out the meter’s probes by touching the tips together. Using the dial (could be analog or digital), set the meter to 24 volts. Ground the black probe by attaching it to any metal part of the furnace. Then place the end of the red probe on the metal tube connecting the draft pressure switch to the draft inducer motor.

If the switch is working properly the meter should read at least 24 volts, or very near that. If the reading is short of 24 volts, the switch is not working correctly. At that point you may decide to replace it or call a professional to do the task (recommended).

Always remember that there are many sources which will help you diagnose and repair a problem, especially those available through the Internet. If you search YouTube.com you will find many videos advising you on how to repair certain components. Use all of the resources available to you and keep the phone number of a qualified and professional heating and cooling contractor nearby.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving! We are very thankful for all of our customers; you really make what we do worthwhile. We hope you all have a great holiday and enjoy a delicious Thanksgiving feast! And if you are looking for some dessert ideas, here is a recipe for pumpkin pie from allrecipes.com that will make today a little sweeter:

Mrs. Sigg’s Fresh Pumpkin Pie

“A mixture of fresh pumpkin puree, brown sugar, spices, evaporated milk and eggs is poured into a prepared pie crust and baked. ”

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 sugar pumpkin
  • 1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch single crust pie
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Cut pumpkin in half and remove seeds. Place cut side down on a cookie sheet lined with lightly oiled aluminum foil. Bake at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the flesh is tender when poked with a fork. Cool until just warm. Scrape the pumpkin flesh from the peel. Either mash, or puree in small batches in a blender. Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C.)
  2. In a large bowl, slightly beat eggs. Add brown sugar, flour, salt, 2 cups of the pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, and evaporated milk. Stir well after each addition.
  3. Pour mixture into the unbaked pastry shell. Place a strip of aluminum foil around the edge of the crust to prevent over browning.
  4. Bake 10 minutes at 450 degrees F (230 degrees C), then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bake an additional 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove the strip of foil about 20 minutes before the pie is done so that the edge of the crust will be a light golden brown. Cool pie, and refrigerate overnight for best flavor.

For more details, click here.

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How Much Will a High Efficiency Furnace Save Me? A Question from Salt Lake City

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

The furnaces you can buy these days in Salt Lake City are all much more energy efficient than those available even 10 years ago. However, that doesn’t mean that all of the current models are created equal. There is still a pretty big variation when it comes to energy efficiency and when it comes to price, so you need to really know what you’re looking for if you want to get the best deal out there.

The first thing you should understand when you’re trying to pick out a furnace is how energy efficiency for this type of equipment it measured. All furnaces come with an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating that reflects just exactly how energy efficient they are.

Any furnace you buy today will have an AFUE of at least 80%, but it’s possible to purchase models with AFUEs of 97% or more. Of course, energy efficiency is generally a good thing, but there are some other things to consider when you’re trying to decide just how energy efficient you need your new furnace to be.

What this calculation really comes down to is how much you’ll be able to save monthly and annually with a higher efficiency furnace. While your heating bills will certainly be lower the higher the furnace’s efficiency is, you will also pay more up front for the highest efficiency models.

This higher purchase price may be worth it, however, if you live in an area with particularly harsh winters. If your heating load is very high and you’ll be using your furnace a lot, your monthly savings will make up for the higher initial price of the high efficiency furnace in a reasonable amount of time.

However, if you live in an area with relatively mild winters and you won’t be demanding a whole lot of your furnace, then the amount you’ll save each month with the highest efficiency models really won’t add up to much.

Keep in mind that a furnace with an 80% AFUE is still quite efficient and will almost certainly save you a considerable amount monthly when compared to the unit you’re currently using. And because 80% AFUE furnaces are so much cheaper than those with upper 90% AFUE ratings, they often wind up as the more cost effective alternative overall.

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Things to Look for When Buying a Heating System in Cottonwood Heights

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

If you are in the market for a new or replacement heating system and don’t know much about heating systems, you are not alone. Many Cottonwood Heights homeowners are in the same boat as you. And many of that number put their trust in their local, professional, and qualified heating and cooling contractor to find the right furnace for their homes.

Before calling for an estimate, there are some things you can do to “prepare” yourself for one of the most important purchase you can make. Here is a checklist of things you should look for when buying a heating system.

  1. Know your energy alternatives. There are lots of options today when it comes to heating your home. Gone are the days when the choices were so cut and dried.  Check with your heating and cooling contractor for suggestions.
  2. Know what size your furnace should be. Furnaces are not “one size fits all.” The size of the furnace is determined by its Btu (British thermal unit) rating. For example, a one-story ranch home on a crawl space requires less heating capacity than a two-story colonial with a basement, thus it would require a furnace with a smaller numbered Btu rating. A home with a great deal of heat loss through windows and doors may require various furnace sizes. And don’t forget about insulation. Insulation can affect the furnace size, too. Again, check with your heating and cooling contractor for recommendations.
  3. How much room do you need for your furnace? Some homes have mechanical rooms for furnaces and water heaters while others utilize attics, basements, or crawlspaces for furnaces. If you think you need a big furnace to heat a big home, think again. Furnace manufacturers have been downsizing their heating equipment for years, while maintaining the same heating capacities. One example are wall hung boilers, which utilize water and electric as heating sources and are installed on a wall, making the unit easy to locate and easy to service – while at the same time being off the floor and out of the way.
  4. Will your heating system be “plug and play?” New furnaces can take the place of the ones they are replacing by using the same space. But sometimes a replacement unit may need some altering to fit into an existing duct system. It is almost a given that a new plenum (the part attaching the furnace to the ductwork) will have to be fabricated. But the new furnace may also require some other modifications to an existing duct system. You should understand this ahead of time and be prepared to pay additional costs.
  5. A box is a box is a box. As a rule, most heating systems are made the same. In some cases, one furnace manufacturer may produce several different brand names. The best “brand” is the heating and cooling contractor who installs and services your heating equipment. Do your homework ahead of time and find a qualified and professional contractor. Ask friends and family for recommendations. This is may be the most important thing to look for when buying a heating system

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Furnace Safety: A Guide from Bountiful

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

There are many advantages to a properly operating furnace.  Some of the most important are the safety and comfort of a Bountiful home’s occupants. Neither one of those things is something you can ignore, so here are several things you can do to ensure the  continued operation of your furnace.

  • Clean or change furnace filters on a regular basis. Replace disposable filters and clean permanent filters using water or cleaning solutions. Your owner’s manual or a qualified heating contractor can suggest a regular maintenance schedule.
  • Check the exhaust vent from the furnace. Clear obstructions such as leaves, clothing, or animal nests from the vent pipe or chimney. Keep roof exhaust vents clear of snow. If there is a faulty exhaust system (like a blocked flue), of if there are cracks and leaks in the pipes or improper adjustment of the burner, or if there is lower air pressure indoors than outside, the furnace can create serious indoor air pollution.
  • A clear air intake is important too, since furnaces need fresh air to “breathe” and complete the fuel burning cycle. Again, check for debris, snow, or animal nests in intake pipes.
  • If you have an older gas furnace, you may want to install a supplementary induced-draft fan that reduces the possibility of backdrafting. Some furnaces have automatic shutoff devices that turn off the furnace if it begins to backdraft.
  • Check internal components such as the blower motor and vacuum any dirt. Check belts and pulleys for excessive wear. You should consult your owner’s manual for any suggested maintenance tips on internal working components.
  • You may also want to check the pilot light to see if it is working and if it producing an even, blue flame. If the flame is uneven, it may be a sign of incomplete gas combustion, which can result in the creation of dangerous carbon monoxide gas.
  • Ensure that your thermostat is operating correctly by raising or lowering the temperature settings to make sure the furnace cycles on and off.
  • Install and maintain battery or hard-wired smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Externally vented natural gas furnaces, when properly designed and installed, will operate safely for years. But if you detect a problem, use the most common solution – contact a qualified heating professional to check out your furnace.

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What to Do if Your Heating System Breaks: A Tip from Salt Lake City

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

What if the heart of your Salt Lake City home’s heating system – the furnace – stops working? The warm air that used to flow from your vents has been replaced by a chilly draft. It isn’t time to panic, but it is time to take action. Before you do anything, determine why the furnace stopped working. It may be something as simple as a tripped circuit breaker in your electrical panel. Check the circuit breakers first.

The pilot light in your furnace may have blown out. It can be re-lit if you follow the directions in your furnace owner’s manual. You can find answers on how to re-light a pilot light on the Internet, too.

If the shutdown has not been caused by an electrical or pilot light failure, there is still no need to panic. But another obvious question is: did you pay your last gas bill? Maybe you had a shutoff notice and either ignored it or forgot about it.

Now that you are convinced that the furnace has pooped out, here are some things you should do. First, find the name of a qualified heating and cooling professional. If you already use a heating contractor, contact them and schedule a service call.

While you are waiting for help to arrive, ensure that everyone is safe and accounted for. Make sure pets are nearby and protected from the cold, too. What you don’t want to do is use any appliance to keep you warm that is not designed to keep you warm, like a stove. If you have electric space heaters or propane heaters, carefully locate them in a well vented room (windows open a bit or portable fans circulating air). You don’t want any build-up of gases from fossil burning appliances, gases which could contain deadly carbon monoxide.

Huddle up everyone into a room and break out lots of blankets. You may even want to make an “adventure” of this – find a movie to watch and pop up a bunch of popcorn.  If your waiting time is more than 24 hours, you might want to call up a friend or relative and make arrangements to spend the night with them.

The main thing to remember is not to panic. Most qualified heating contractors, knowing the circumstances, will send out a repair person in a matter of minutes or within one or two hours. Just remember to avoid keeping warm by using unvented heating devices.

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