Heating safety hot topic

By Ashley Lee: PNT Staff Writer

According to the National Weather Service this winter is likely to be warmer than the 30-year norm but cooler than last winter. The national weather service anticipates that El Nino should bring a wetter winter as well. So with a cooler winter predicted, is your heater up to snuff?
Andy Cox a heating and cooling contractor with Cox Refrigeration and Electric Co. answered these questions on heater service and safety.

Q: What problems can someone experience if they do not service their heater?
“On a gas heater, if burners are dirty, it can produce carbon monoxide. If the air filters are not changed, the heater will take more energy to run and that will waste energy and money.”

Q: What is the average cost of servicing a furnace? What do you do when you service it?
“It is about $60 to have your furnace serviced. On a gas furnace, we check the filter and oil bearing on the motor if there is a place to do so. Then we light the furnace to test for carbon monoxide, and if it is high, we check the furnace over to find the source of the problem. Some older furnaces have a belt drive unit, we check that belt and see if it is in good shape.”

Q: Are there any dangers associated with poor heater care?
“The biggest danger is on a gas furnace. If a furnace is producing too much carbon monoxide, and if the vent is obstructed, fumes come into the house and you can get carbon monoxide poisoning. Electric furnaces do not have this problem.”

Q: What is the worst thing that you have ever seen as a result of poor heater care?
“The furnace is in a closet and we pump combustion air into the furnace to give it fresh air. People open the closet and feel the cold air from the fresh air duct and block that duct so that the furnace is not getting fresh air, and then again, you are faced with carbon monoxide poisoning.”

Q: Do you have any tips?
“The primary thing is to change the filter and that is something that a homeowner can do. Then you need to have your gas furnace serviced every year. Electric heaters do not need servicing this often.”

Q: When is the busy season?
“Depends on weather and the first freeze but typically the end of October beginning of November. People need to call from the first to the middle of October, that is when most of our scheduled maintenance is.”

Q: How is the cost of gas and propane determined and how does it compare to last year?
“I know it went up last year. I am hoping not too much this year. I know from ‘04 to ‘05 there was a large increase because of a fuel surcharge, not the actual rate.
This had a lot to do with Hurricane Katrina and we are still feeling the effects of this. Propane is typically a little higher than natural gas. It has to be delivered and so that adds on to the cost.”

Compiled by PNT Staff Writer Ashley Lee