HVAC for Dummies
Frequently Asked Questions
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1. My furnace is not working and the house is getting cold, what should I do?
First of all don’t panic! Thousands of homes experience a no heat situation in Edmonton during the winter months. Most homeowners don’t realize that there are some simple HVAC checks that you can do to resolve an emergency situation by ensuring the simplest of problems are not the cause.
If your heating system fails to operate properly, check the following:
- Be sure the power to the unit is on.
- Check your thermostat batteries and replace if necessary – if the thermostat cannot send a call for heat to the furnace, the furnace will just continually wait to ignite.
- Check your furnace filter – a dirty or plugged filter can restrict airflow and cause your furnace to “limit out” and shut down to prevent overheating.
- Check to ensure that the door on the furnace is properly seated. Most furnaces have an interlock switch that stops the unit from operating if the door is not seated properly.
- Check your electrical box for a tripped circuit breaker or blown fuse.
If after these checks your furnace is still not working, call us at 780-438-2900 and we will respond to your emergency as soon as possible! Emails are accepted for regular service inquiries only. Emergency service requires voice authorization.
2. What if my hot water tank is leaking?
If your hot water tank starts to leak… don’t panic! Follow this simple shut down procedure to render the water heater inoperative and prevent any water damage until one of our servicemen arrives.
- Turn off the cold water supply to the water heater
- Turn off the gas or electric supply to the water heater
- Call Four Seasons for emergency service at 780-438-2900!
3. What if my thermostat digital display is blank or not working?
Most digital display thermostats require batteries in addition to electrical wiring. If your thermostat is not working the most common cause is low or dead batteries. All thermostat homeowner manuals have instructions on which batteries are required and how to change them. Usually batteries are changed once a year for any thermostat that requires them. Replace your batteries and your thermostat should be working. If changing the batteries does not resolve the issue than there is another cause that requires diagnosis from a certified serviceman. Call Four Seasons for service at 780-438-2900!
4. When should I replace my furnace?
Residential gas furnaces should be replaced every 15-20 years. Mobile home furnaces should be replaced every 10 years. This recommendation is based on HVAC manufacturers warranties and the lifetime of the furnaces mechanical components and materials. Just like every car has a maximum mileage that marks the end of its life, so does a furnace.
Furnaces that have been operating past 20 years are on borrowed time – a mechanical failure could occur anytime and more easily. Repairs on older furnaces are always more expensive and sometimes parts are hard to come by. You wouldn’t push your car to work once it would no longer run; the same principle applies to your furnace.
5. When should I replace my hot water tank?
Residential gas hot water tanks should be replaced every 10 years. This recommendation is based on manufacturer’s warranties and the lifetime of the hot water tank components and outer shell. Tanks 10 years or older have a significantly higher chance of rupturing or developing a slow leak which often goes unnoticed. If you don’t replace your hot water tank every decade you risk finding yourself in hot water, literally with a burst tank. And like all HVAC appliances, the older the appliance, the lower its efficiency and reliability.
6. How much does is cost to replace my furnace or install air-conditioning?
The cost to replace your furnace or install air conditioning is unique to your home. When pricing new HVAC equipment there is much to consider beyond the cost of the equipment itself. Equipment must be sized based on the heating and cooling needs, which affect your price. In order to ensure an installation is up to current gas codes many homes require some retrofitting to vent work and chimneys, which also affects your cost. We don’t ballpark installations as it would be dishonest – a quote can only be provided after a full in-home estimate which allows our certified estimators to provide a price based on the unique needs of your home.
Fortunately, in home estimates are free of charge and not a high-pressure sales situation but a quote based on a mechanical assessment of your homes requirements with your needs for heating and cooling. Just like any home renovation project, when hiring professional services, it is impossible to quote over the phone for custom jobs like constructing a deck, or remodelling your kitchen, or a mechanical renovation like replacing your furnace. Replacing or installing HVAC equipment is an investment and requires our mechanical assessment in order for you to make an informed decision as a homeowner.
7. How often should I clean or change my furnace filter?
If you use disposable filters that are 1” thick they should be checked monthly and replaced at least every two months or monthly. If you use disposable filters that are 5” thick they should be checked monthly and replaced every three months. If you have a permanent or electrostatic filter it should be checked and cleaned every month. If you have an electronic air cleaner (EAC) it should be checked every month and cleaned as necessary according to the homeowner’s manual. Some EAC’s have LED indicators that will let you know when the filters require cleaning.
These filter replacement recommendations will ensure your do not reduce airflow to the furnace which can cause it to fail. Replacing the filter when required will also put less stress on your furnace overall, preventing unnecessary wear and tear and allowing it to perform at its peak efficiency.
8. What is a cracked heat exchanger? How serious can it be?
The heat exchanger is the metal tubing in your furnace that is heated by the combustion gases created by your furnace burners. The heat created is transferred into the heat exchanger metal walls that warm the air being blown by your furnace. The combustion gases, which created the heat are now cooled and sent out through your venting out of the home. The heat exchanger is the only wall separating toxic combustion gases from the air in your home.
A crack in the heat exchanger is a hole or crack in the metal of the heat exchanger. When this happens there is potential for combustion gases, especially carbon monoxide to leak into your home. Carbon monoxide is colourless and odourless and cannot be detected unless you have a carbon monoxide detector. In extreme cases, carbon monoxide leaking from a cracked heat exchanger will go undetected and prove fatal to anyone in the household.
If you or anyone in your home is experiencing signs of carbon monoxide poisoning such as light headedness, nausea, or flu like symptoms that have no other explanation and your furnace is over 20 years old – turn off your furnace and call Four Seasons for emergency service at 780-438-2900! Always ensure you have a carbon monoxide detector installed in your home.
9. What should homeowners know about their dryer vent?
In order to prevent possible fire hazards, building code 19 requires that clothes dryers be exhausted directly to the outdoors. The building codes require that dryer vents be made of metal with smooth interior finishes, sections of vent duct be securely supported and firmly sealed together, and the total length of the vent duct not excede 35 feet. Flexible transition ducts used to connect the dryer to the exhaust duct system are required to be no longer than eight feet and not concealed within construction.
New construction trends often situate washers and dryers in non-traditional areas of the house, such as upstairs, master bedrooms, hallways, kitchens, and closets. These new sites may require longer dryer vent ducts in order to reach the outside wall. When a dryer vent is longer than or has many bends and turns, moisture in the warm air created by the dryer condenses on the vent surfaces, attracting and collecting lint. Eventually, the lint will accumulate and create airflow resistance, reducing the efficiency of your dryer and creating a fire hazard. It is therefore essential for homeowners to regularly inspect and have their dryer vents cleaned, especially in homes where the vent is located in a non-traditional area.
All manufacturers have now stated not to use plastic, flexible dryer vents as a dryer vent option as the plastic material can provide additional fuel for any fire that could occur. However, many homes continue to use plastic, flexible vents. If your dryer vent is plastic and flexible, upgrading to a smooth metal vent is an economical and simple retrofit that can be completed on our regular service schedule. One of our Estimators will be able to give you an estimate based on the length and location of your existing dryer vent.
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