Ultimate Guide to Heating Maintenance for New Jersey Homeowners
In the United States, heating typically accounts for 42% of a home’s electric bill. But if a heating system isn’t properly maintained, the money can go up in smoke.
Also, the seasons are getting colder. No one wants to be surprised when a heater suddenly fails.
A well-maintained radiator will last longer and remain efficient. But what does the maintenance of a radiator involve? And how much does it cost?
Heating Systems: Overview
Heating systems are part of a house or building. Heating systems draw in cold air. Then they heat the air.
Typically, the systems burn fuel to heat the air. However, some use electrical energy to generate heat.
Once a system heats the air, it pushes the warm air into a home or building. The systems use different methods to force the hot air out. Fans, ducts and vents play a role in air movement.
You can control the heating of your home with a thermostat. With this tool you can enter the temperature you want the room to have.
The system reacts to this input. It pushes warm air into the room when it detects the room temperature has fallen below your preferences.
What is an HVAC system?
HVAC stands for “Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning”. An HVAC system is a central structure in a home or building.
Basically, an HVAC system is the ventilation system of the building. The system not only affects temperature comfort, but also plays a role in the quality of the air we breathe indoors.
Engineers often build modern HVAC systems with filters. These clean the air of pollutants.
Some HVAC systems process changes in air pressure. These systems can pressurize the air in high altitude locations. Innovations in HVAC design change the moisture content of the air to improve our comfort.
Types of Heating Systems
Not all heating systems are HVAC structures. Smaller homes may not have a central air system.
And some central air systems cannot cool the air. You can only warm the air in your house.
Although there are many ways you can heat your home, most fall into one of four categories. These are:
- Standard Heating and HVAC Systems
- Geothermal Energy Systems
- HVAC Systems with Zone Valves
- Direct Heat Options
Each of these system categories has advantages and disadvantages. One of them might appeal to you more or less depending on your location.
Cost is another variable that could make one option more attractive than another. We’ll walk you through each option and walk through the recommended heater maintenance in each category.
Standard Heating and HVAC Systems
The largest category of heating systems includes standard central heating and HVAC systems. You can divide this category into two subcategories. These are:
- canal systems
- hydraulic systems
A standard central heating duct system starts with a stove. The stove heats the air. Then the system’s fan motor forces air through ducts into the rooms.
A hydronic system starts with a boiler. It heats the water until it boils. Then this system forces hot steam through a series of tubes.
The pipes connect to the radiators. Any radiator heats the room it is in in response to the steam from the pipes.
Hydronic systems cost more than channel systems. But they last longer.
Most hydronic systems require less maintenance because they do not use filters. They also work with a wide range of fuel sources.
Channel systems are more energy efficient than hydronic systems. They also maintain a warm breeze.
Geothermal heating is a geothermal heat pump (GHP). The non-profit organization GeoExchange is committed to the expansion of geothermal heating.
In many places, the outside temperature changes dramatically throughout the year. However, the underground temperature varies only slightly.
The air in the ground is warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer than the air from the air, making this option ideal for milder climates.
GHPs pump this hot air to use as a heat source in winter. Then they bring cool underground air for use in summer.
Geothermal systems are energy efficient, but they can be expensive to install. Fortunately, hybrid and dual-source GHPs cost less.
Air Source Heat Pump
An air source heat pump does not burn fuel to heat the air. In fact, it doesn’t heat the air at all. Instead, it pumps hot air into your home.
Air source heat pumps use a mechanism similar to GHPs. But these pumps use a chemical reaction that releases heat. The pump then absorbs this heat and uses a compressor to send the heat through the house.
The chemical itself is a coolant. It cools the air it comes in contact with. Air source heat pumps constantly exchange hot and cold air.
Air source heat pumps can use ducts or be ductless, while some have short-term duct systems. This means the mechanic only installs ducts in one part of the house.
These systems are energy efficient despite being powered by electricity.
However, they provide more energy (in the form of heat) than they consume. The maintenance of air source heat pump systems is similar to that of standard heating systems.
Direct Heating Options
Direct heat options only heat small spaces. They don’t heat a whole house.
Space heaters are the most common direct heating option. Radiators and convectors are popular options.
Convection heaters use electricity to heat a liquid that retains heat.
Then they use fans to circulate the air. The hot liquid eventually warms the air.
Radiant heaters also consume electricity, but emit infrared heat.
Combustion heaters burn fuel to heat the air. Combustion heaters are required by law to have vents. A fireplace is an example of this type of direct heat option.
All direct heat options heat a single room. They come in handy when you don’t want to heat an entire house. In addition, the direct radiators in the cold rooms compensate for the uneven central heating.
Parts and Purpose of the Heating System
In order to fully master the repair of a radiator, it is a good idea to learn about the parts of your heating system. Every part of a system has a purpose.
Different parts have different risks. Some parts are more prone to warping or breaking than others. This section covers the key elements of the four most popular heating systems.
Most heating systems burn fuel to heat air or water. Some use chemical reactions instead.
Only geothermal systems are operated exclusively with electricity. These systems do not require fuel.
The most common fuel sources for heaters are:
- Natural Gas
- Vegetable Oil (cooking oil)
- Animal Fat
Most households use natural gas as a heat source. More than 50% of Americans used natural gas to heat their homes in 2020.
It is reliable and low carbon. Also, the flu is less likely to become clogged with particulate buildup.
Coal remains the most popular fuel source for boilers. People also burn oil and wood, depending on what’s available. Both coal and wood leave behind particulate waste.
Air source heat pumps use refrigerants. They absorb the heat generated by these chemicals.
A thermostat is a device that controls the temperature of a room. You enter your preferred temperature.
It uses this information to turn the heater on and off. This keeps the room as warm as you like it.
Smart thermostats are recent inventions. These devices learn people’s routines and preferences. Then they automatically adjust the heat settings.
Smart thermostats can turn the heating down or off when no one is around. They can also recommend energy efficient settings.
Your thermostat may need occasional maintenance. Thermostats occasionally need to be recalibrated and cleaned.
A zone thermostat is part of a zone system. A zoned heating system uses valves to separate paths in ducts. You can zone both air ducts and hydronic pipes.
Zone systems allow users to maintain different temperatures in different parts of a home. Each segment (zone) has a thermostat dedicated to that segment only.
You can only set the temperature in one zone. This does not affect temperatures in other areas.
A burner is a furnace. Here you burn fuel for a heating system.
The burning fuel meets the air in the furnace. The burner produces hot air.
This is essential for a standard heater. The system forces this hot air through the vents.
A hydronic system does not have a burner or furnace. Also no heat exchanger or pump system. Only central air heating systems use burners.
combustion burns. Combustion combines a chemical substance with oxygen.
It can also pressurize or displace chemicals. This creates a chemical reaction that generates heat.
A combustion chamber contains this extreme heat-generating reaction. Furnaces and boilers have combustion chambers.
Combustion chamber suction fluid. They rotate the gaseous fluid around an axis or pressurize fuel and oxygen.
This causes the fuel to burn in extreme heat. Engineers design combustors to store this heat. Then other components use it to heat water or air.
It is essential for the maintenance of the combustion chamber. Poor maintenance of the combustion chamber causes fires and explosions.
Only hydronic systems use boilers. The boiler uses the heat from the burned fuel to boil the water.
The boiler heats the water until it becomes mostly steam and steam. This steam heats the house through pipes.
In some systems, boilers are used to disinfect the water. Boiling water kills germs. In this way, people can use it for cooking or washing.
Intake (Cold Air Recirculation)
The inlet is a grate with moving parts. Essentially, the intake is a damper that breathes in cold air. Some manufacturers call this part a cold air return.
An HVAC system has multiple inputs. These cover the air ducts. An inlet has a grille, a damper and a louver.
The grille is the laminated “face” of the intake. The blind is a series of angled “shutters” that keep certain debris out.
The flap is an internal valve. This regulates the airflow.
There is a fan or fan further inside the HVAC system. This changes the currents. The fan, damper and blind work together to “breathe in”.
Cold air recirculation picks up air near the floor of a room. It recycles this air back into the system.
Maintaining cold air recirculation maintains the efficiency of the air recycling process. It also prevents dust and dirt from building up. This accumulation reduces air quality.
A heat exchanger moves thermal energy from one place or medium to another. Thermal energy is heat. Hot coils, condensers, and evaporators all transfer this energy to maximize heat flow.
Air source heat pumps use evaporators. This device triggers the evaporation of the refrigerant.
This chemical reaction releases heat. This is the heat that the system pumps into your home.
Some combustors use capacitors. These devices increase the gas pressure in the chamber. This induces (partial) combustion. This creates heat.
Engineers construct heat exchanger coils from conductive metal. Most heat exchanger coils are made of copper or aluminum.
These coils transfer thermal energy from one part of the system to another. Typically, the exchange takes place between two fluid parts of the system. Fluids are liquids or gases.
Coils use space efficiently. This makes them well suited for solar water heating systems. Many heat exchanger coils are self-cleaning. That’s one less maintenance task to worry about.
A heat pump moves air from one place to another. Both geothermal heaters and air source heat pumps use these machines.
A heat pump uses mechanical energy to move air. Most heat pumps are powered by electricity. Many heat pumps provide homeowners with more energy (in the form of heat) than they use to operate.
Heat pumps contain a compressor and two coils. Most heat pumps control airflow with thermostatic compression valves.
The electric motor ensures that the air is pumped. Coils, tubes and coolant work together to move air.
It is important to hire a professional to repair and maintain the heat pump. Some parts of the pump are fragile. These components deteriorate quickly without proper maintenance.
Condenser and Evaporator Coils
A capacitor coil is a furnace coil. This coil is an essential part of “split” HVAC systems.
When a system heats and cools air, it typically uses a condenser coil. Heater and air repair may involve repairing these coils.
The condenser coil works in conjunction with an evaporator coil. An evaporator coil is an “A coil”.
The evaporator coil contains and cools the refrigerant. This is essential for air conditioning.
When using central air conditioning, refrigerants, evaporator coils and internal mechanisms cool the air. Fans then blow this cool air into the rooms.
The coolant evaporates in the tubes. It flows into the condenser coil.
The condenser coil compresses the vapor. In doing so, it absorbs thermal energy. This turns the coolant into a high-pressure liquid.
Then the coolant returns to the system. The condenser coil has to deal with the waste heat.
In some systems, the condenser coil recycles this thermal energy. In others, the coil simply disperses the excess heat to the outside.
These coils maintain a separate split HVAC system. They also keep it functional. If the coils are well maintained, the system loses less thermal energy.
An HVAC system with clean coils doesn’t have to use as much fuel. It can use the excess heat to change the state of the coolant. This way the process is more autonomous.
A fan is a centrifugal fan. The fan blades rotate around the hub. This creates a wheel.
An impeller is a specific type of rotor that increases the pressure and flow rate of a fluid. In an HVAC system it is air. Fans change the speed and direction of the air in the ducts.
Blowers and pumps move air. But each uses a different physical force to do this.
Pumps push air. In contrast, blowers “throw” air out.
Fans basically throw air particles around. It’s like a pitcher ending up throwing a baseball into a curveball.
This increases airspeed and changes the direction of the air. Fans, ducts and dampers work together to get air where it is needed.
Efficient fans ensure that air comes into contact with heat sinks or coolant. This way the air reaches the right temperature when it reaches your room.
Defective fans cause serious problems. Without working fans, the air may not warm up before it spreads throughout your space. Or it could get stuck in the air vents.
Ducts and Vents
Ducts are closed channels for air flow. A river flows in a riverbed. Air rises and falls in the channels.
The channels allow different types of airflow. They also allow you to redirect air in multiple directions at once.
In a typical HVAC system, supply, return, and exhaust airflow occurs simultaneously. The three types of air circulate in separate and dedicated channels.
Supply air flows through supply air ducts and ventilation openings. The system heats or cools the expelled air before sending it into your room.
The supply ducts only carry this heat-treated air. These canals are small. They end in supply openings.
Supply air openings have grilles and louvers. Flexible channels end in supply openings. Engineers place utility vents near the top of the interior walls.
Return air flows through the return air ducts. These canals are larger.
The system draws air from indoor spaces through recirculation ducts. Return air vents are shielded inlets for this air. Designers construct these vents near the ground.
HVAC exhaust air is not harmful. But it’s very hot.
The HVAC system forces exhaust air out of the building through an exhaust duct. On the way, this air flows through exhaust air ducts.
Channel less Systems
Ducts are unique to central air heating systems. Hydronic systems and direct heating do not use ducts.
Heat pump systems rarely use piping. Typically, a heat pump system uses piping when a person installs it into existing piping.
HVAC Duct Design
A mechanical engineer designs an HVAC system with many ducts. Overall, these are lines. Engineers construct conduits from a variety of materials, including:
- Glass Wool
- Polyester Fiberglass
- Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
Designers consider many factors when creating lines. Designers learn how much ceiling space they have to work with.
Designers also consider whether the air needs to be insulated, whether sound absorption is required, and what budget they have.
You need different tools to service different ducts and vents. Make sure your channels are still fully functional.
HVAC filters are frames with an accordion-pleated fabric. Filters remove solid particles from the air.
Each filter cleans the air before it reaches you. Pleated fiberglass, paper, or fabric traps dust, dust mites, pollen, and pollutants that are blown through the duct system.
The filters are housed in the return air duct system. Most households have two. They could be right in the return air duct near the grill. However, some filters are located closer to the fan.
Hydronic systems do not use filters.
Heater Maintenance Checklist + Instructions
If you want to maintain your heating system yourself, use this checklist. Here we summarize the top ten maintenance tasks for heaters.
Doing it yourself can seem challenging. And it can save you money.
Please note, however, that some maintenance work on the heater is dangerous. If in doubt, call a professional.
1. Check the Thermostat Settings
To check your thermostat settings, measure the air temperature in the room with a thermometer. Compare this reading to the reading on your thermostat.
If the readings differ by more than a few degrees, it’s time to adjust your thermostat. To service the thermostat, clean or calibrate it.
2. Secure Electrical Connections
Find low voltage shorts first. Blown fuses cause most short circuits. These shorts conduct electrical components and signals away from the HVAC system.
To find an electrical short, turn off the power. Then use a multimeter to find the short circuit.
Follow all processes in the multimeter manual. Otherwise, use instructional videos. It is essential that all safety switches are tested.
To fix the short, you’ll need spare wires. You will also need a splice kit.
3. Lubricate Moving Parts
It’s just so boring. Identify the moving mechanical parts of your system. Consult the manufacturer’s manual to determine which lubricant works best.
Next, apply lubricant to the machine parts. This reduces friction and wear.
4. Clean the Condensate Drain
If your system is equipped with a condenser, this also has a condensate drain. To remove this blockage, first shut down the system.
Turn off your pump or air conditioner. Next, locate the drain line access point.
Flush the distilled vinegar through the line. Leave the solution on for thirty minutes.
Manufacturer recommendations vary. However, the majority of sources recommend cleaning the drain every few months.
5. Check the Cycle Start and Stop Commands
Heating systems have control panels and switches. These affect the start and stop cycle.
Find your HVAC system manufacturer. Find a manual or video showing the panels.
Check switches and controls. Look for damage, debris, melted parts, or separated components.
Clean dirty parts. Order spare parts from the manufacturer. Consult a professional for a full diagnosis.
6. Check Gas or Oil Connections
To check the connections, go to your furnace or boiler. Observe the point where the natural gas or oil feeds the chamber.
Listen for unusual noises. Vibrations and rattles are worrisome signs. Likewise the whistle.
Look for signs of soot or smoke. This may indicate a leak. Other characters are:
- a higher gas bill
- feeling of nausea
- bad smell
- Plants and small animals suddenly dying
Install a carbon monoxide detector near the connection point. Pay attention to all warnings. Do not attempt to repair a broken or loose connection yourself.
7. Check Gas Pressure
Check the gas pressure with a manometer. This device reads gas pressure in SI.
Your furnace or boiler has a place to take a pressure reading. It may be an MPT connector on the outside of the gas valve. Or it can have a tower connection point above the valve.
Connect the pressure gauge and check the pressure. Compare this level to ideal levels.
Chemists are finding that different gases work better as fuels at different pressure levels. Consult a professional if the pressure readings are outside the reasonable range.
8. Examine Burner Combustion
To examine combustion, perform a combustion test. Use this test specifically on a hot water heating system.
This makes diagnosis crucial for water heater repair. A combustion test will show if:
- Your heating works safely
- Your fuel burns efficiently
- the system safely contains
To perform a combustion test, obtain a combustion analyzer, a pressure gauge, an Allen wrench, and a flathead screwdriver. The test is too complex to describe in detail here.
Fortunately, you can contact the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACAA). This professional organization publishes resources related to HVAC maintenance and repair.
However, access is limited to members. If you are not a member, you may need to use a subscription portal through a library or university.
9. Check the Heat Exchanger
To check a heat exchanger, look at the flame. The flame in the internal combustion engine must be stable. If it gets bigger or changes drastically as the fans spin up, that’s a sign of a leak.
Professionals check heat exchangers with combustion analysis. Or they carry out an insulation pressure test.
Caution: If the heat exchanger is defective, you risk carbon monoxide poisoning. Find professional replacement services.
10. Change Air Filter
Change the HVAC filter every 30 days. To change the filter, turn off your HVAC system.
The filter is usually located between the return ducts and the furnace. There should be an access panel.
The access panel displays the correct filter dimensions. Buy replacement filters of this size.
Next, open the access bar. Remove and replace the filter.
There should be an arrow printed on the side of the new filter. Make sure the arrow is pointing in the same direction as the airflow.
Close the control panel. Turn your system back on.
Frequently Asked Questions About Heating Maintenance
We’ve covered the main types of heating systems. You’ve unpacked the ins and outs of the system components. And we’ve gone through the top ten maintenance tasks for heating systems.
But you probably still have questions. Good news! We have answers.
5 Frequently Asked Questions about Heating Repairs. Let’s unpack them.
How do I care for a radiator?
Every heating system is different. First and foremost, follow the guidelines and recommendations in the manufacturer’s manual. If that doesn’t clear things up, consult a professional. There are some truths on all levels. To keep airflow flowing, you need to unclog both filters and drains. Do these decluttering tasks once a month if you can. Don’t wait more than sixty days.
Annual maintenance is also useful. Have a professional examine you once a year.
Finally, be aware of the major dangers: fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. Follow all safety protocols to avoid these risks.
When should I service, repair or replace a part?
Clean filters and drains monthly. Perform maintenance once a year.
You can browse the DIY strategies if you want to fix the parts yourself. But know what you’re looking for and hire a repair professional if:
- the gas bill goes up
- You hear unusual noises
- you smell gas
- the system does not heat the rooms properly
You can also consult industry publications. The Department of Energy can also recommend a replacement schedule specific to your system.
How often should a heating system be serviced?
Have your heating system serviced at least once a year. If you have an HVAC system, check the heater side and AC side annually.
A hydronic system also requires yearly maintenance. Also, be sure to clean your boiler every year.
Geothermal systems require an annual acid flush to clean the pipes. In the same way, professionals recommend annual maintenance of air exchangers.
What does furnace maintenance include?
Furnace (and other heating system) maintenance involves a thorough evaluation of all parts of the system. We covered some testing and maintenance tasks earlier in this article.
Consult your heating system manual for a complete list of tasks. Ask a repair professional that you hire what tasks they cover.
How much does heating maintenance cost?
The cost of maintenance depends on the type of heating system you have. The answer to “How much does furnace maintenance cost?” varies by location, system, age and condition of system and more.
This is different from the cost of maintaining the hydronic system or maintaining the geothermal system.
The Energy Information Administration conducts independent energy studies in the United States. He notes that annual maintenance costs typically range from $90 to $200 for most systems.
Repair costs are not included.
How can I find a heating installer near me?
If you’re wondering, “Where’s Plumbing Repair Near Me?” you’re lucky. To find a Carrano Air HVAC Contractor Inc. location near you, click here.
Get the Furnace Service Completed Today
As the days get colder, it’s a good idea to cut the rush and schedule your annual maintenance as soon as possible. Get your heating system checked today and cross it off your to-do list.