Regular Maintenance can Possibly Keep you Comfortable during Severe Weather

by Dan Krell © 2010

Talking to a neighbor about how lucky I felt to have power during the blizzard over the weekend, he lamented that he did not have heat. Listening to him talk about how he tried to fix his furnace, it became increasingly clear that he had no idea what type of heating system was in his home. Putting aside my neighbor’s assessments of his situation, I reluctantly asked when he last serviced his furnace; his response did not provide confidence that the furnace was serviced any time recently.

My neighbor’s recent experience demonstrates that poorly maintained home systems can cause problems when we rely on them the most. Enduring severe weather events remind us of past due maintenance that unfortunately we soon forget as we get on with our busy lives.

Having a heating professional conduct a furnace check every fall can ensure that your furnace is clean and operating safely and efficiently – especially when we depend on the system to operate properly. To many, the furnace may seem like a magic box that keeps the house warm during cold months. However, like many mechanical objects, the furnace is prone to breakdowns unless regularly serviced.

To ensure optimal operation of your furnace, a licensed HVAC professional is should conduct annual maintenance that examines such items as (depending on your heating system): the burner and pilot; the heat exchanger; the thermocouple; the filter; the vents; the gas piping; the electronic ignition; the fan; the burner; the limit switch; the manifold pressure; the temperature rise; the heat anticipator; the belt; and the draft diverter.

Although your HVAC professional probably checks for carbon monoxide (if your furnace is a combustible fuel system), carbon monoxide can build up any time. Severe weather can cause heavy amounts of snow and other debris to possibly block exhaust vents and chimneys. Installing and ensuring its peak operation, a carbon monoxide detector can save your life.

Another cause for concern during extreme weather is water penetration into your home. Regular maintenance of your roof system and sump pump can minimize damage caused by severe weather. First, ice dams occurring from melting and freezing snow can lift shingles and separate siding allowing water to make its way into your home. Water from ice dams can damage ceilings, walls and window casings. Left unrepaired, mold and possibly structural problems may develop.

Second, blocked downspouts can cause water penetration into your basement by forcing melting snow from your roof to drain and drip down directly to your home’s foundation. Remembering to dig out your downspouts when shoveling the walks and driveway may prevent this type of penetration by providing a route for melting water to drain away from your home’s foundation.

Third, a non functioning sump pump is a sure way for rising water to penetrate your home. The sump pump drains water that collects in the sump pit away from your home. As large amounts of snow melts, the grounds around your home become saturated, and the sump pit may fill quickly. If your sump pump is not operating properly (or the pump drain is blocked), the water can penetrate your home until properly drained.

If you’re one of the “lucky” ones whose home endured the recent severe weather, don’t take your home for granted. Regular maintenance can ensure years of enjoyment – and comfort in severe weather events.

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of February 8, 2010. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2010 Dan Krell