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Heating Tips & Advice

Heating Tips & Advice (19)

Wednesday, 10 November 2021 22:06

MR Plumbing Fall Heating Season Checklist

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Fall Heating Season Checklist With energy costs on the rise this winter, many Chicagoland residents are looking for ways to save on their heating bill this season. Here are a few tips to keep your home warm and cozy while also maximizing your energy dollars.

Home Heating Checklist

1. Call to schedule your furnace tune-up

Regular furnace maintenance will help your heating system last longer and enable it to heat your home more efficiently. 

2. Replace your furnace filter
A dirty air filter can cause unhealthy air and shorten the life of your furnace. Change your filter once a month, or as recommended by the filter manufacturer.

3. Turn down your thermostat to 68 degrees
For every degree you lower your heat in the 60-degree to 70-degree range, you'll save up to 5 percent on heating costs. 

4. Program your thermostat
If you're on a regular schedule, set your thermostat to turn the temperature down when you are away from home. Better yet, upgrade to a smart thermostat. Smart thermostats learn your household routine, tuning the heat off when rooms are unoccupied.

5. Reverse the direction of your ceiling fans
In the fall, set the fan to direct the warm air downward towards the living space. 

6. Check your smoke and CO detectors
Replace the batteries annually. 

7. Check that air ducts are not blocked by rugs or furniture.
 
Keep all air registers open to help your heating system work efficiently.

8. Seal air leaks around windows and doors
Add additional attic insulation if needed. 

9. Keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is burning. 
An open chimney can allow a lot of heat to escape from your home.

10. Add an insulation blanket to your water heater tank

To retain heat and conserve hot water wrap your water heater in blanket designed to retain heat.
Wednesday, 27 October 2021 19:52

How Long Does a Gas Furnace Last?

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How Long Does a Gas Furnace Last?

How long does a gas furnace last?

As winter weather settles in and you get ready to turn on your old furnace you may wonder just how much longer it will keep running. The general answer is about 20 years. But the answer is more complicated and depends on a lot of factors. Some of these factors include how well made the furnace is and whether it is a lower cost or more expensive higher end model. If it's a lower cost furnace it may be ready for replacement in as little as 8 years.

Thankfully, many of the factors that determine how long a furnace will last are under your control. The most important thing you can do is have your furnace professionally maintained every year. This will not only make the furnace last longer, it will help it operate more efficiently and reduce the cost of unexpected repairs.

Because most gas furnace parts can be replaced as they wear out, it's usually a good idea to repair the unit as parts wear out. The one part that usually ends the life of a furnace is the heat exchanger. Constant heating and cooling will eventually cause the heat exchanger to rust out or crack, leading to failure. With new gas furnaces operating at much higher efficiency than units made just 10 years ago, replacing the furnace may be more cost effective in the long run when compared to the repair cost of keeping a 10-15 year old furnace running.

For all your home heating needs, call M/R Plumbing. We'll keep you warm all winter long.
Tuesday, 12 October 2021 18:59

Is Your Furnace Ready For the Heating Season?

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Is Your Furnace Ready For the Heating Season?

If your home has a gas furnace, it’s important to learn how to check your system for potential problems to prevent unexpected breakdowns or inefficient operation. 

Replacing Your Furnace Filter

Paper or fiberglass furnace filters should be replaced every three months, or as recommended by the filter manufacturer. The furnace should be turned off before changing the filter. Never operate the furnace without a filter in place. Open the cover of the unit and then remove the filter.  If the filter is reusable, vacuum it to clean the surface, or wash and dry it following the filter manufacturer's instructions. 

Turning the Furnace On

A gas furnace is typically controlled through the same thermostat as the air conditioner.  This means that when the weather turns cold, you can simply turn your thermostat to the 'warm’ or 'heat’ setting and then adjust the temperature to your liking.

Ensure There Is Airflow Throughout the Home

Ensure that all vents are open in every room and that the vents are not obstructed by rugs, drapes or furniture. If the inside of the vents appear dirty, have the ducts professionally cleaned to remove dirt and debris that can restrict airflow and cause unhealthy indoor air quality.

If Your Gas Furnace Will Not Ignite

First, check that the thermostat is turned up a few degrees above current the room temperature. It may need to be 3-4 degrees higher. If it still does not turn on, check the electrical panel.

What To Do If You Smell Gas

If you ever smell gas coming from the furnace, leave the home and call your gas company right away.

Schedule Annual Heating System Maintenance

Regular system maintenance is important for ensuring that the furnace is operating safely and reliably.  During an annual heating system inspection your technician will lubricate the furnace ports and bearings, reducing the amount of energy the unit needs to operate. Your technician will also clean the burners if they appear dirty and check for carbon monoxide leaks.
Saturday, 20 February 2021 22:03

Why You Should Upgrade Your Thermostat

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Why You Should Upgrade Your Thermostat

Smart Thermostats Improve Comfort and Save Energy

Upgrade to a Smart Thermostat

Wireless technology has connected virtually every aspect of our lives. As our homes have become more and more connected with wi-fi devices managed from digital voice assistants and smart phone apps, the thermostat has also become more much smarter and capable.

Traditional thermostats adjust the indoor air temperature by working as a simple control input for a home's heating and cooling system. You simply set the temperature and the device keeps your home within that range near the thermostat's physical location. With the arrival of programmable thermostats homeowners could tailor the temperature of their home by programming the thermostat to turn on and off based on the day and time when the house would be occupied. This meant the heating or cooling system could be adjusted when you were away from home, saving energy.

Today, "smart" thermostats take the programmable thermostats to the next level by learning a household's routine and allowing homeowners to monitor and change the temperature automatically. They can also provide real time feedback on energy consumption, weather forecasts and even adapt the temperature based on conditions like humidity levels. Smart thermostats offer many advantages over conventional thermostats, from increased comfort, improved energy savings and remote access to temperature controls. 

The Nest Thermostat

One of the first smart thermostats to market was The Nest® thermostat. It combines sleek design with a bright full color display to provide homeowners with useful information, combined with convenient remote apps designed to help cut energy consumption. The Nest is a learning thermostat that senses if a home is occupied, whether the air is suddenly getting humid, and other factors that allow it to custom tailor the indoor environment.

Choosing a Smart Thermostat

When choosing a smart thermostat you will have many brands to choose from, and there are differences between manufacturers that you should be aware of. Here are a few questions to ask when shopping for a smart thermostat.

Does it work remotely from your phone?
If you plan to use it from your phone make sure that the app works on your device.

Is it compatible with Other Technology in Your Home?
One of most convenient features of smart thermostats is their ability to interact with voice assistants like Google Home, Alexa® and Siri®. Check the manufacturer's website to see if your assistant is compatible with the thermostat models you are considering.

Tracking Savings
If you're primarily interested in improving efficiency and lowering energy costs, consider a model with data tracking and reporting. You'll be able to see hour-by-hour and day-by-day how often your heating and cooling system are operating.

Where Should My Smart Thermostat Be Installed?
When installing the thermostat it's important to keep it away from vents and sources of heat that could affect the temperature readings. Place the thermostat in an area with minimal disturbance such as an interior wall.

Do you have a "C-Wire"?
A C-wire, or common wire, provides continuous power to your smart thermostat display and WiFi connectivity. If you don’t have one or aren’t sure, give us a call and we can help install one if needed.

No Heat? Here's what to Check Before Calling For Service

Furnace Inspection

Furnace Won't Turn On? Boiler Not Heating? Before you call us for service there are few items you can check first. It could be a simple fix.

  1. Check That the Power Is On - Even though they are natural gas powered, your furnace requires electricity to start and keep running. Look for the circuit in your electrical panel. If the circuit has tripped and is in the OFF position, switch it back to the ON position. If the circuit trips again after resetting, DO NOT RESET IT MORE THAN ONCE, circuit breakers are a safety device to prevent an electrical fire in the event of a malfunction. Call us to inspect the furnace and electrical connection.
  2. Is the Thermostat Is Turned To the HEAT Position? If it is in the heat position, try turning the temperature up a few degrees to see if it turns on.
  3. Check the Furnace Condensate (Drain) Pan During normal operation water drains from the air conditioner or furnace into a condensation pan. If the drain for the pan is clogged the pan will fill up and trigger a float switch, which will prevent the operation of the furnace. If the float switch is up (activated), you will need to clear the obstruction from the drain line to allow water to empty and then reset the switch.
  4. Is the Furnace Filter Dirty? An excessively dirty and clogged filter will cause the furnace to overheat, which in turn will cause it to shut down as a safety precaution. Installing a new filter should solve the problem.
  5. Is the Pilot Light On? This only applies to older gas furnaces. Most newer units have electric ignition. If your pilot light is out consult your owner's manual for the correct way to light the pilot.
  6. Check the Natural Gas Supply. If there are other gas appliances in the home, such a gas range or fireplace, check that they are functioning. You may have an issue with your gas service.
If none of the above steps helps and the furnace won't turn on, call MR Plumbing. We'll find the cause and get your heat back on FAST.
Saturday, 12 December 2020 18:42

Furnace Filters and Indoor Air Quality

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Furnace Filters and Indoor Air Quality

Furnace Filters and Indoor Air Quality

When it comes to choosing the right furnace air filter there are many options available. The efficiency of furnace filters is measured on the MERV scale, or Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values, which rates filter efficiency on a scale of 1-20. On the low end of the cost scale and MERV scale with a rating of 1-3 are disposable fiberglass filters. Made of 1-inch thick fiberglass, these filters are designed to prevent larger particles of dust, lint, and other debris from damaging your furnace.

Filters are tested and rated for for their ability to trap pollen, dust mites, mold spores, dust, pet dander, bacteria and tobacco smoke. Here are how effective the different MERV ratings are at removing various contaminants from the air. Here are

MERV 1-4 : Filters out pollen and dust mites.

MERV 5-8 : Removes mold and dust.

MERV 9-12 : Traps lead dust and most bacteria

MERV 12+ : Filters out all bacteria and tobacco smoke

When choosing an air filter for your HVAC system it may seem like a good idea to buy the filter with the highest MERV rating, since you want to have the cleanest air possible, right? In most cases, you should use a filter in the 5-8 range. The reason is that filters with a high MERV rating will have the smallest pores for air to pass through. This can make it harder for the HVAC system to push air through the filter, reducing system performance. To avoid restricting the air flow, filters with a higher MERV rating should be changed more frequently (at least every three months) to prevent damage to the HVAC system.

Ultimately, if your home's air is dirty enough to require a higher MERV rating, or you're changing air filters more than once a month, you may be better served by having a whole home air filtration system. A furnace air filter is really just designed to keep your HVAC equipment clean to prevent wear and tear. A whole house air filtration system is designed to actually clean the air inside the home.

How Good Is My Furnace Filter For Cleaning the Air In My Home?

Disposable pleated furnace filters are probably the most popular option. These filters are made from polyester or cotton paper and remove smaller particles like mold spores and mites, but should be changed frequently to avoid clogging and reducing airflow to the furnace. Pleated filters have a MERV rating of 6 and cost more than fiberglass filters.

The most effective furnace air filters are disposable or permanent electrostatic filters. With a MERV rating of 10 or higher, they offer highly effective filtration and are recommended for homes where allergies or upper respiratory conditions are a concern.

Have questions about furnace filters and indoor air quality? Call MR Plumbing and Electric we're here to help.
Wednesday, 11 November 2020 22:12

Gas Heat Pump Or Furnace?

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Heat Pump Versus Gas Furnace - What's The Better Choice?



With heat pumps gaining in popularity in some parts of the U.S., many homeowners are asking if a heat pump is a good option for their home heating and cooling needs. Here is an overview of how heat pumps work and how they differ from traditional gas furnaces.

The Differences

The main difference between a furnace and a heat pump is that a heat pump can be reversed to either heat or cool a home. A heat pump consists of two parts: an indoor unit called an air handler and an outdoor unit that is similar to a central air conditioner – called a heat pump. A compressor circulates refrigerant that absorbs and releases heat as it travels between the indoor and outdoor units.

Depending on the season a heat pump exchanges the cool air with warm air, or the other way around. Even air that's seems cold can have heat energy. When it's cold outside the heat pump extracts the heat and transfers into the home. When it’s hot outside, it reverses the flow to work like an air conditioner, removing heat from your home.

When considering a heat pump it's important to understand that, unlike a gas furnace which creates heat, a heat pump can only exchange heat, and will be unable to deliver a high level of warm air that is required to heat homes in cold climates like the Chicago area.

Have home heating questions? Call MR Plumbing and Electric. We're here to help.

Humidity and Indoor Air Quality

During the cold fall and winter months the air inside our homes becomes much drier. When the heat is turned on humidity levels can drop even further, leading to a host of potential health problems.

Health Problems From Low Humidity

During the winter, dry skin, itchy eyes and respiratory irritation are just a few of the side-effects caused by low humidity in the home. With dry mucous membranes your body becomes more susceptible to infections and you're more likely to catch a cold or the flu. Dry air can also increase the time that airborne virus droplets remain in the air, increasing the chance of spreading the flu virus.

Problems Caused By Low Humidity

Wood furniture, floors and other woodwork are most susceptible to low humidity levels. If humidity levels fluctuate significantly wood can swell and shrink as moisture is absorbed and lost. Musical instruments, paintings and electronic equipment can also be harmed be overly dry conditions.

Improve Air Quality With a Whole-Home Humidifier

The best solution to low humidity levels in the home is a whole-home humidifier. By working in conjunction with your home's HVAC system a humidifier will provide consistent, healthy humidity levels throughout your home. A humidity level of 40-60 percent during the winter months is best for most homes.

Have questions about maintaining healthy humidity levels in your home? Call MR Plumbing, we can help with all your home heating and humidification needs.
Thursday, 17 September 2020 15:52

Get Your Gas Furnace Ready For The Heating Season

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Preparing Your Furnace For The Heating Season

Furnace Filter Replacement

If your home has a gas furnace, there are a few steps you should take to ensure that it operates safely and reliably. While performing professional heating system maintenance is important here is what you can do yourself.

How To Turn On Your Gas Furnace

Typically, a gas furnace is operated through the same thermostat as the air conditioner. This means that when the weather turns cold, you can simply turn your thermostat to the 'warm’ or 'heat’ setting and then adjust the temperature.

Inspect and Change Your Furnace Filter

To check the filter, open the cover of the unit and then remove the filter. You can use a vacuum cleaner to remove the surface dust from a plastic filter, then simply wash it and dry it before replacing it. Always operate the furnace with a filter in place. You will need to replace a cardboard filter every few months, or as recommended by the filter manufacturer.

How To Test Your Heating System's Airflow

Check each room in your home by feeling for the airflow that comes from the furnace blower. If airflow is insufficient to parts of your home, you may want to have a professional check your ductwork to ensure if it is sufficient for air delivery.

If Your Gas Furnace Fails To Ignite

A inoperable pilot light is one of the main reasons that a gas furnace will fail to ignite. To ignite the pilot, turn the gas cock off and then push the pilot reset button while turning the cock to 'pilot’. Get a match and light it, then hold it near the furnace pilot to relight it.

Furnace Troubleshooting Checklist

Cleaning the system every couple of years helps the unit to run more efficiently and last longer. During an annual heating system inspection your technician will lubricate the furnace ports and bearings, reducing the amount of energy the unit needs to operate. Your technician will also clean the furnace burners if they appear dirty.

Removing Vent Blockages

Cleaning the vents and ducts will remove blockages that can interfere with heat flow in the home. In the winter, ice can block the outdoor vents. Make sure to turn off the unit before you attempt to remove the ice.

How To Stop Air Leaks and Prevent Heat Loss

If you notice air leaks emanating from your system, use caulk to seal off any gaps. In addition, placing weather stripping around doors and windows will keep your home from losing heat, which makes your furnace run more often.

What To Do If You Smell Gas

If you ever smell gas coming from the furnace, leave the area and call your gas company right away. Avoid lighting matches or using any electrical appliances until you are safely away from the area.
Monday, 10 February 2020 20:08

5 Furnace Filter Tips

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Keep Your Heating and Cooling System Working Efficiently and Your Air Healthier

5 Furnace Filter Tips

A common question we hear from our customers is, "How often should I change my furnace air filter?" The answer is usually once a month. Check with the filter packaging for details.  There are a few other things to consider as well:

1. Buy filters in bulk and keep them next to the furnace.

Having filters always ready next to the furnace will reduce procrastination and the tendency to wait too long between filter changes. Also, buying filters in bulk is usually less expensive than buying them individually.

2. Use the correct size filter.

An poor-fitting filter lets dirt and debris escape around the filter, contaminate the air in your home and the parts inside the furnace, leading to reduced efficiency of the unit which can shorten the lifespan of the compressor and other components.

3. Install the filter in the right direction.

Most filters have arrows indicating the direction of air flow. Putting a filter in backwards can cause the filter to work less efficently and in some cases may cause the filter to bend, allowing dirty air around the filter.

4. Always turn of the power at the breaker rather than the thermostat when changing the filter.

This will ensure that if you come in contact with any wiring inside or near the filter you won't get shocked.

5. Furnace filters are not designed as air cleaners.

While most furnace filters will keep a lot of dirt and debris out of the air, they are not going to keep the air free of smaller contaminates and allergens. If your home has excessive dust, pet dander, smoke or other pollutants, consider using a separate, high quality home air filtration system. A HEPA rated filter is designed to capture the smallest particles that can easily pass through most common furnace air filters.

Have questions about your furnace filter, indoor air quality or your home's heating and cooling system? Call MR Plumbing, Heating, Air Conditioning & Electric. We are here to help answer your questions.
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