month I would like to discuss a system that is timely for
the season; heating. I'm sure most of us are rather familiar
with the basics of heating systems so I will attempt to
provide some of my practices for increased inspection accuracy
without spending much extra time for investigation. Some
of these practices may exceed published inspection standards
Oil boilers and furnaces: with the flame off I open the
inspection door to observe the refractory (combustion)
chamber for deterioration or cracks. Once I have completed
a visual I like to activate the furnace and look at this
chamber once again and check that the oil burner flame
is not directly striking the back wall. A properly adjusted
burner flame will turn upwards and just barely lick the
back wall of the refractory chamber. With the appliance
running and the flue hot (this can take up to 10-minutes)
I hold a mirror at the barometric damper. If the mirror
fogs then the products of combustion are spilling and
the unit requires immediate attention by a heating technician.
I also advise my clients that any oil-burning appliance
absolutely requires annual tune-up by a qualified technician.
If not maintained oil appliances can malfunction and be
dangerous, or at minimum, blow back real smelly fumes
into the house.
Gas furnaces and boilers: For gas furnaces I like to try
to see as much of the heat exchanger as possible. Many
older natural draft furnaces have a flame shield that
blocks much of the view inside the exchanger. When the
screws will move easily, I remove the flame shield to
better inspect the furnace. With the furnace or boiler
operating and the flue hot (remember, this can take up
to 10-minutes depending upon flue length, temperature,
etc.) I hold a mirror at the draft diverter. If the mirror
fogs the products of combustion are spilling and the unit
requires immediate attention by a qualified heating technician.
Fan assisted (induced draft) furnaces have no draft diverter.
All combustion and dilution air enters through the front
of the combustion chamber. On these furnaces I hold the
mirror at the front of the combustion chamber, if it fogs
the products of combustion are not properly exiting up
the flue pipe. Also be on the alert for cracked fan housings
on these induced draft furnaces.
above are just a few tips to help you with your inspections.
One more item: I always recommend to my clients that they
purchase and install per the manufacturer instructions a
carbon monoxide detector for increased safety. I recommend
these even in all electric houses. If there is an attached
garage or fireplace, potential sources of carbon monoxide
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