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How to properly shut down your furnace after winter

For most U.S. homeowners, the official end of winter comes when they switch their thermostat from its “heating” setting to either the “off” or “cooling” one. As everything thaws out in the spring, the days start getting longer and the nights become warmer. The home’s furnace—once essential to indoor comfort—is no longer to be used until the following fall and winter. However, that’s not the end of the story. Few homeowners know this, but you actually can—and should—shut down the furnace itself after winter. In this article, we’ll review the reasons why a furnace shutdown is necessary, the benefits of doing so, and how you can keep your furnace in great condition throughout the calendar year.

What is a furnace shutdown?

Surprisingly, many U.S. homeowners leave their furnaces running throughout the calendar year. Seasonal furnace shutdown tends to be a home maintenance item that gets left behind in the busy days of spring. While modern furnaces can be left on year-round without any significant safety or mechanical issues, you have the potential to save energy by shutting it off. This applies to both gas and electric furnaces.

Have an ABC technician shut down your furnace after winter.Shutting down a gas furnace

Most natural gas furnaces have a standing pilot light that requires a steady flow of some gas to keep lit. While the natural gas use for the pilot may seem minuscule, it can really add up: most homeowners waste about $50 every year keeping the furnace pilot light running during the off-season. Add up those costs through successive years, and you could save hundreds by just making a small change to your spring cleaning checklist.

To shut down your gas furnace, turn off the gas valve supplying fuel to the system and its pilot light. You should see the pilot go out. Make sure you leave a note reminding yourself to turn the gas back on in the fall so that your heating system can get back to work heating your home.

Shutting down an electric furnace

As with all the electric appliances in your home, electric furnaces continue to draw power even when they are not in use. Sometimes referred to as “vampire appliances,” this passive energy use can sap your home’s energy efficiency and spike your energy bills. In the context of your electric furnace, you can avoid this by shutting off power to the circuit the furnace is on. Just double-check that nothing else is on that circuit that you might need.

Caring for your furnace after the winter months

Besides shutting the system off, there are several things you can do to care for your furnace in the spring:

Clean the area around the furnace

If you’re like many American homeowners who have their furnace in the basement, a storage closet, or garage, you’ve probably been tempted to store things next to it or near it. However, this is not recommended. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Fire Hazard: For obvious reasons, anything flammable should be kept away from the furnace. Leave at least two feet of space between the furnace and any stored objects, and keep ignitable materials—such as paint, oils, rags, cardboard boxes, clothes, or wood stain—away from the general vicinity.
  • Airflow: Your furnace requires air intake and outflow to work properly. Putting too many objects around the furnace can restrict this airflow, leading to efficiency, performance, and functionality problems.
  • Filter: Add vacuuming around the furnace to your spring cleaning to-do list. If the area around your furnace is full of dust, dirt, or lint, the furnace’s intake filter is going to become dirty faster. Any lint build-up—common in homes where the furnace is next to laundry machines in a basement or closet—can also present a fire hazard.

Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

Wherever your furnace is, you should have a properly working smoke and carbon monoxide detector. While rare, a crack in the furnace heat exchanger or flue pipe could lead to the leakage of dangerous carbon monoxide gas into the home. Also known as “the silent killer,” carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that is colorless and odorless, making it difficult for humans to detect on their own. That’s why a working carbon monoxide detector is critical. Be sure to check the batteries and test the device every spring.

If you have reason to believe that something is wrong with your furnace or that you have a potential carbon monoxide leak, turn the system off and call an HVAC professional immediately.

Inspect the air registers

Take a walk around your home this spring and check out all the air supply and return registers. After a long winter of use, they may be getting pretty dusty. While you’re dusting the rest of your home, use a stepladder to clean these out thoroughly. This helps ensure that both your air conditioner and furnace are getting the air intake they need to function properly.

Another note: if you want to maximize the energy efficiency of your home, avoid keeping multiple registers closed in different rooms. This might seem counterintuitive: after all, doesn’t it make sense to shut off the flow of cold or hot air if you’re not using that room? However, in a whole-home forced-air setup, your furnace and air conditioner work to cool or heat the entire home. That heated or cooled air is still being pushed through the air duct to that closed register, so all you’re doing is making it more difficult for the system to make your home comfortable.

In fact, in most homes, it’s most efficient for the registers and doors to each room to be open.

Schedule your fall maintenance appointment

While the furnace is on your mind, you should take the time to call your local HVAC company and schedule a fall maintenance appointment. For most cooling and heating companies, annual tune-up appointment slots tend to fill up fast in the fall, as people call last-minute to schedule service. By calling in the spring, you can be one of the first to reserve your spot, ensuring that your gas or electric furnace gets looked at before the weather cools down.

While you’re on the phone, be sure to ask the HVAC team if they offer any kind of maintenance club or program to their customers. These recurring maintenance programs take the hassle out of having to remember to schedule annual tune-ups. Plus, most companies offer additional benefits as a ‘thank you’ for enrolling.

Here at ABC Cooling, Heating & Plumbing, for instance, our Guardian Maintenance Club members get a call from our team to schedule their fall tune-up and we provide them with priority service, a service discount, and a 90-day no-breakdown guarantee on top of it!

For all your furnace shutdown and service needs, call in an expert

No two homes are quite the same. If you want service advice and furnace shutdown guidance tailored to your home and your heating system, our recommendation is that you contact a local HVAC service professional in your area. They will be able to walk you through the shutdown process and advise you on how to best prepare your air conditioner for the warmer weather ahead—which will include a seasonal tune-up.

Here in Hayward and the Bay Area, ABC Cooling, Heating & Plumbing is your trusted team for furnace maintenance services. For all your heating needs, call us today.

Here are five key AC repair facts you should know

Before the introduction of the air conditioner in early twentieth century, most people spent the summers sweating it out and fanning themselves. That all changed with the air conditioning system. Let’s not relive what used to be this summer. Instead, here are some key AC repair facts that will help you ensure the proper functioning of your air conditioner.

AC Repair Facts From ABC Cooling, Heating & Plumbing

1. Your air conditioner requires regular maintenance

Keep in mind that air conditioners require regular maintenance just like other mechanical devices. The cooling unit has a number of components that should be serviced by a licensed and experienced air conditioner repair technician.

In case any fault is detected, the technician will perform immediate repairs. This will ensure that small faults don’t turn into a major problem.

We’d argue that this is the most important and essential of all these AC repair facts. Schedule your AC tune-up with us today.

2. The proper placement of the outdoor unit reduces wear-and-tear on the system

Another important tip regarding air conditioner unit is that proper placement of the outdoor unit will reduce repair costs. You should avoid placing the outside unit in direct sunlight. This will cause the system to heat up quickly thereby reducing efficiency by as much as 10 percent.

Instead, consider placing the unit beneath a tree or build a screen outside the unit to shade it from the sun.

3. Dirty filters will decrease your AC’s energy-efficiency

Your air conditioner filter keeps dirt, dust, and other debris out of the cooling unit. A dirty filter prevents proper flow of air. The system will heat up due to a dirty filter and struggle to keep the room cool. It will draw more power to keep the room cool, resulting in an increased energy bill.

That’s why it’s essential that you have the filter cleaned by a professional air conditioner repair technician at least twice a year. If you live in a highly dusty area, you may need to get the filter cleaned or replaced more frequently.

4. Any air leakage will decrease your cooling efficiency

Air leakages can make the air conditioner strain to generate cool air. This will result in increased wear-and-tear, ultimately requiring repairs. In order to ensure operational efficiency, make sure that there are no leaks around the house.

Small gaps can be sealed using foil tape, while large ones will require duct mastic. Insulation in the attic can also reduce air leakages.

For more AC repair facts — or to schedule maintenance — call ABC!

In case you reside in Hayward or parts of the Bay Area, call us at ABC Cooling, Heating & Plumbing for experienced and licensed air conditioner technicians.

5 Tips to Minimize Heating Bills

Heating bills during the winters can pack a real punch, having a big impact on your home budget. Managing the bills is a challenge for a number of people. If you’re searching for tips to minimize heating bills, you’re at the right place.

5 Tips to Minimize Heating BillsAs winter settles in and that cool breeze starts blowing, the heating bills of most homes tend to go through the roof. If you are also facing a similar predicament, you can proactively take steps to lower the monthly heating bills by following these tips. Also, consider schedule a heating tune-up with us.

1. Reverse Fan Direction

Do you have ceiling fans installed in the house? If so, you should consider installing a device that reverses the direction of the ceiling fan. The ceiling fans normally operate in the counter-clockwise direction and push the air downward.

By reversing the direction of the ceiling fan, the cool air inside the room will be pushed upwards. This will create an updraft that will allow the hot air to circulate inside the living room. As a result, you won’t have to crank up the thermostat to keep the room warm during the winters.

2. Wear Warm Clothes

When you wear warm clothes inside the house, you can keep the thermostat at a lower temperature without feeling cold. Turning down the thermostat by even a degree can help you minimize heating bills.

You can cut 12 percent of the energy bill when you turn down the thermostat 4 degrees. So, if your monthly energy bill comes to around $350, you can save up about $42 every month by lowering the thermostat and wearing warm clothes.

3. Install A Programmable Thermostat

You can cut your energy bills even more by installing a programmable thermostat. According to energy.gov, a programmable thermostat can result in savings of about 10 percent on your monthly energy bills.

You can program the thermostat to turn the heat down to 60 degrees when you sleep at night covered with a blanket, and then turn up the temperature to 70 degrees when you wake up in the morning. You can also have the thermostat to turn down the temperature when you are away at work and then again turn up the temperature when you reach home at night.

4. Close the Curtains at Night

Keeping the windows drawn at night will reduce the heat loss. The benefit will depend on the type of curtains that you hang over the windows. Curtains having high-density or acrylic foam insulation and reflective film greatly help in keeping the room warm.

You should also take advantage of the solar heat by opening the curtains during the day. This will effectively increase the temperature. Keeping the windows closed at night will help in retaining the heat.

5. Get the Heating Unit Serviced Regularly

Regular servicing of the heating unit will not only ensure that it continues to keep the house warm, it will also help you avoid increased energy bills. An improperly functioning heating unit can bloat the energy bills. This is because a fault in the heating apparatus makes the system draw more power, thereby raising the heating bill.

Heating repair service by an experienced technician can ensure that the heating bills do not take up a major portion of your monthly expenses.

Minimize heating bills with the help of ABC Heating, Cooling & Plumbing

If you want to get in touch with a professional and experienced heating service technician in the Bay Area, give our team a call at (510) 471-8181.

Furnace repair versus replacement

When your furnace dies for good, the furnace repair versus replacement debate is settled. You’ll need to get a new furnace. That’s an easy decision. However, what if it’s possible to fix your current furnace? Are there any advantages to choosing to upgrade to a new system when your current furnace technically still works?

In this blog post, we’ll weigh in on the furnace repair versus replacement debate that all homeowners have at some point, and discuss some reasons that changing to a new furnace makes sense.

How do I decide between furnace repair versus replacement?

As we discussed last month, decisions about furnace repair versus replacement often come down to the age of the system. As a furnace ages, the money you spend repairing it has diminishing returns. After all, furnaces become less energy efficient and more likely to break down as they age. If your furnace is more than 10 years old, it’s time to start thinking about replacing it. If it’s more than 20, you should probably make the switch.

Here are some other things to consider when debating furnace repair versus replacement:

  • Your future energy costs: An older furnace uses more energy than a new one, both because of age and because the technology used to construct new systems has improved significantly in the past decade. You can better energy efficiency out of your furnace with a furnace tune-up, but even that only goes so far. Every winter that you run your old system, you’re losing out on potential energy savings. Take that into your cost consideration.
  • Your future repair costs: Not only are older furnaces more likely to break down after years of heavy use, but the manufacturer’s warranty that protects them has usually expired by that point. This means you’re paying for any needed repairs out-of-pocket. If furnace repairs are adding up, consider how saving on repair factors into your buying decision.
  • Your future home comfort: In addition to being inefficient and more likely to break down, older furnaces often have difficulty heating like they once did. This can result in cold spots, inconsistent heating, and constant, noisy running. If your home’s comfort matters, take that into consideration when you’re debating between furnace repair versus replacement.

How to decide between furnace repair versus replacementHow do I get started?

ABC Cooling, Heating & Plumbing offers both heating repair and heating installation services. We recommend starting with furnace repair. Give us a call, and we’ll send a technician out to inspect your system and determine what the problem is. From there, we’ll give you an upfront, honest quote for how much it’d take to repair the system. This may factor heavily into your furnace repair versus replacement decision, so it’s good to have that upfront.

From there, you may decide that you want to get a new furnace. We can help with that, as well. We offer a free in-home estimate on new furnaces, and we’ll measure your home to help you find the perfect new system. As a Carrier Factory-Authorized Dealer, our technicians are furnace installation experts, each with years of experience. They’re also equipped with the training and tools to do the job right.

Ready to get started? Give ABC a call at (510) 471-8181, or contact us online. We look forward to speaking with you and helping you resolve the furnace repair versus replacement debate.