Do You Know How Much Money Burns up in a Dirty Furnace?
By John Voket
With all the buttoning up many homeowners are doing as temperatures drop and winter approaches, I went looking for some basic tips to help that won't break the bank.
Our previous report talked about a bunch of fixes homeowners could do to enhance their energy efficiency. In this report, we'll tap BBB for some sound advice on pre-winter season furnace maintenance.
According to BBB, a dirty furnace is less efficient, so an annual inspection and cleaning is recommended. A thorough inspection can also help spot potential problems that can end up leaving your family in the cold if your heating system breaks down.
However, if you are told you need a new furnace, get a second opinion and bid. Some unscrupulous operators attempt to deceive customers, by telling them that there are potentially dangerous problems with their furnace, and that it is unsafe to use.
One furnace maintenance contractor told a Connecticut consumer that his furnace had to be replaced, and wrote on a work order: "System unfit for safe operation. Unit shut off & left off." Fortunately, the consumer sought a second opinion and was told the furnace was in fact safe and did not need replacement - total savings: $3,200.
Nonetheless, a damaged or dirty furnace can emit dangerous fumes. Signs of failure include soot on countertops and vents, and inefficient heating.
Fumes also may cause watery eyes, a runny nose and headaches. In such cases, it is best to turn off the furnace and consult an expert.
BBB also recommends the following to winterize your home:
Plug holes - They have a cumulative effect on home heating costs. Make sure windows close tightly. Check for leaks around them and use caulking to plug the leaks.
This is also a good time for homeowners to test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they work, and install fresh batteries. Detector units should be replaced every 10 years.
For additional consumer tips, and to research or select professionals or contractors, visit bbb.org.