Furnace or Boiler Services – Why Do I Need One? And What Will You Do?

Like oil changes for your vehicle, your furnace or boiler needs to be serviced annually as well.  Also, much like you will wash and vacuum your car several times a year (unless you are me), you should also be changing or cleaning your air filters 2-4 times per year – but that you can do yourself.  A professional furnace or boiler servicing needs a qualified tradesman like we have at R&B.  It is easy and tempting to bypass annual furnace or boiler services, especially when everything is working – resist the temptation.  The truth is that all the natural gas powered appliances in homes, including water heaters and gas fireplaces should be checked annually.   The two main reasons for this are efficiency (conservation) and safety.

When it comes to furnace or boiler services, two of the most common questions we get are; “Why do I need one?” and “What will they do?”  Most companies will advertise 20-30 point safety checks, which probably vary only in semantics as there are very specific things to do.  There are only a handful of main and super important items that I will explain here:

EFFICIENCY – FUEL SUPPLY: Your R&B technician will use a tool called a manometer (sorry ladies it’s pronounced, ma-NOM-eter not Man-o-Meter) to check fuel pressures and adjusts them. Like in a car, your mechanic adjusts a carburetor, or fuel injection system to get your car running right.  Too much gas, and it’s wasted, plus your burner will get clouded with excess carbon.  Too little gas and it won’t provide the power, or heat you need.

EFFICEINCY – FUEL BURN: Your R&B technician will use a tool called a combustion analyzer to check your furnace or boiler. They will see if the flame level is even, and the burn is correct.  This will help the technician calibrate the fuel/air mixture to be sure again of the right combustion.  Adjustments are made as needed to ensure peak efficiency.  Peak efficiency will reduce emissions.

SAFETY – EMMISSIONS: If you’ve ever had your car’s emissions tested, where they put a probe in your tail pipe to check the levels of your car exhaust, you know what to expect because our technicians will do the same thing. He will use the combustion analyzer again as a carbon monoxide reader.  Those levels will be checked in ambient air to ensure no carbon monoxide is escaping into the room.  More importantly we will also check the levels in your exhaust flue.  You may wonder why flue gas levels are so important if they are just exhausting to the outside.  Some furnaces and boilers are not sealed units.  This means that there is space between the top of the unit and the vent hood for “free air” (water heaters especially are like this) to mix with the carbon monoxide as it exits.  If the exhaust venting somehow becomes plugged, or is accidentally covered, then it will back up carbon monoxide into the house which will kill you very quickly.

PREVENTION: When you decide to have your furnace or boiler serviced, the technician will check for wear and other indications that a repair is needed. Inexpensive parts that are subjected the most wear, like thermocouples, can, and often should be replaced at this time as a preventative measure.  This small, inexpensive item is responsible for the majority of our “no heat” calls.  A new thermocouple at your annual service will prevent a failure during the cold season when you need heat the most.  Murphy’s Law predicts that these parts always fail on nights and weekends when emergency service is most expensive.

If those reasons don’t turn your head, here’s one that might, MONEY.  A well-maintained furnaces cost less to run and systems that have been maintained each year will last longer – in some cases twice as long!  That goes for your furnace, boiler, water heater and even your natural gas fireplace.

One final tip to leave you with.  The ideal time to have your furnace serviced is between April and September – not only will your favorite heating company be more available, but Fortis BC, as a conservation initiative, has historically provided furnace or boiler service grants during these times to encourage homeowners to get the maintenance done.   If you are thinking about it now, call now.  We can schedule you up to a year in advance.