“I have a question about furnace tune-ups. You say get one every year – is that really necessary? What do the HVAC guys actually do to the furnace to ‘tune’ it up? There’s no spark plugs to replace like a car tune-up, and my understanding is they basically vacuum out dust and inspect it. Couldn’t the homeowner do this himself? Or do I really need to pay $80-$150 every year for a professional to do it?”
Would you really want your furnace to die on you in a cold, Buffalo January? Brr! While it’s not necessary to have your furnace checked on annually, it’s recommended, especially for furnaces over ten years old. Inspections can help save you a lot of money in the long run: when a furnace stops working, you can get charged “emergency rates” to have it fixed. And while there is not an industry standard on inspections and tune ups, some inspectors can end up doing a lot for you (see the list below).
The vent system needs to be checked for blockage and/or leakage. This includes the outside termination and the connections at and internal to the furnace.
Combustion gases must be analyzed and compared to the unit specifications.
The blower access door needs to be checked to make sure it makes a tight seal at the furnace.
The fresh air intake grills and louvers need to be checked for blockage.
The heat exchanger needs to be inspected for rust and corrosion.
The burners need to be checked for proper ignition, burner flame and flame sense.
The drainage system needs to be checked for blockage and/or leakage. This includes the hoses internal to the furnace. The condensate drain and trap need to be cleaned, and the water replaced in the trap.
The blower wheel needs to be checked for debris and cleaned if necessary (this requires complete removal of the blower wheel).
An amp-draw test should be conducted on the blower motor and compared with what is listed.
The wiring needs to be checked for corrosion and damage.
The filters need to be checked (but this needs to be done much more frequently than annually).
And while you could do some of this work on your own, how much do you really know about furnaces? It’s better to make an investment in a furnace “check up” than having to send it to the emergency room.
Heating up water costs up to 30% of our home energy consumption costs– but a new generation of boilers could change all of that. For budget and eco-conscious homeowners, tankless boilers are practical and smart: whereas traditional boilers are constantly heating water, every day, every minute, even when we sleep, tankless boilers only heat water when we need it. Because they take up less energy to run, they are much cheaper to operate and can save homeowners more than 30% annually. And though the system costs more upfront, homeowners usually receive their payback within a few years of installation. Tankless heaters have another benefit too– they are more storage-friendly, and can even be mounted on a wall. Eco-friendly, budget-friendly, and storage-friendly, these boilers seem to be the practical choice for the future.
Because this past weekend was so warm, New York state gave air conditioners to low income families through the LIHEAP program. Politicians in Albany and DC believe that giving away the ACs was a necessary safety measure for anyone with preexisting health problems. Senator Chuck Schumer said that the program was essential for New York’s aging community, too: “As this heat wave moves across New York, it’s absolutely essential that seniors aren’t put at risk because they can’t afford to keep their homes cool.” LIHEAP will cost $3 million to administer.
To read more about who is eligible for LIHEAP, click here.
Sometimes, buying cheaper isn’t always better– in some cases, it can be downright risky. While you may not expect these everyday household items to be a health hazard, research has found that germs and disease cling to parts of your home you wouldn’t expect. The best way to get rid of the risk is to replace things when possible:
1. Carpets: Old carpets could have mold and fungus within or below the carpet fibers. Shampooing or cleaning carpets can actually do more harm than good, for mold grows in damp environments. Steam cleaning with a solution of vinegar, alcohol, soap and warm water actually helps kill mold colonies.
2. Water Pitcher Filters: Surprising as it may be, older filters give out contaminated water shortly after they expire. If your pitcher is releasing water from the filter at a slower rate, chances are its time to change the filter. Make sure to stock up on these filters so that you are always drinking clean water.
3. Air Fresheners: Refill solutions for air fresheners can actually be harmful to your health. Oils released from refills could actually be harmful to your skin, and touching the oils can cause dermatitis and other skin reactions. Make sure to never get these solutions on your skin and follow the refill instructions to insure safety.
4. Ammonia: Mild inhalation of the standby cleaning product could cause respiratory problems, so be sure to keep it away from young children. Contact with skin can also cause allergic reactions. When using this product, be sure to wear gloves and avoid prolonged inhalation.
5. Toothpaste: Most mainstream toothpaste brands add artificial sweeteners and toxins to help clean the surface of your teeth. Be careful not to ingest toothpaste and consider organic, flouride-free toothpastes instead.
6. Furniture Polish: Like ammonia, inhalation of furniture polish poses serious health risks, including “polish poisoning,” and eye irritation. If you ever have any of these symptoms, it is important that you call 911 and poison control immediately. Try not to spend too much time inhaling near the polish, and if you must use it, take breaks during polishing.
Buffalo is known nationally for its snow and cold: residents know that at any time, a snow storm can come out of nowhere and hit them hard. The 2006 October storm is proof of that– trees and power lines were knocked down by wind, heavy snow, and ice. Since that time, Buffalonians have found ways to be prepared; many have invested in emergency generators that will keep minimal power on in the event of a snowstorm. But what’s the best option? Portable generators, which are less expensive, require gas and only power a few necessary appliances. These generators also must be kept outdoors because they release Carbon Monoxide. Fixed generators, on the other hand, run on propane and turn on automatically when power goes out: they are more powerful, and are able to keep all appliances running. But these generators cost between $2,000 and $5,000. Are they worth the investment if loss of power only occurs every so often?