Tag Archives: furnace

Winter Checklist: Maintaining Your Furnace 

Winter Checklist: Maintaining Your Furnace Maintaining your furnace during the winter keeps it running smoothly efficiently. It’s easy to take this hard working appliance for granted, but like all mechanical systems, it needs periodic attention to run at its best.

Schedule a Professional Service Check

The energy efficiency and durability of your furnace improves when a professional HVAC technician goes through it annually. The service includes thorough cleaning of the burner and the ignition system, as well as adjusting the air to fuel ratio based on the manufacturer’s specifications.

The technician will check all the safety switches to make sure they’re fully functional, as well as checking the gas lines and exhaust venting. The blower motor may require lubrication and the belt might need adjustment or replacement.

Check and Change the Air Filter

Checking and changing the air filter monthly will keep your system running as efficiently as possible. When the filters get dirty, the air flowing through the air handler slows down, and it will take the furnace longer to heat your home.

Dust also collects on the parts inside the air handler, which reduces their efficiency and can lead to system problems. It’s particularly serious when it covers the heat exchanger. When dust covers this part, it acts as insulation and keeps it warmer than the manufacturer intended.

Over time, the metal can crack, which may force an entire system replacement. Cracked heat exchangers may emit carbon monoxide (CO) into the air, which is a safety hazard, largely avoidable by maintaining the furnace and keeping the air filter clean.

Clean the Registers

Over the winter, keep an eye on the register covers. Clean them when they’re dirty and note any areas of excessive dust, which could indicate ductwork leaks. Leaks need to be repaired quickly to prevent high heating costs and keep indoor air quality high. All the ducts should be open and remove anything that blocks the free flow of air.

Each of these suggestions for maintaining your furnace will help it keep your home comfortable and lower your heating costs. For more information, contact Roth Heating & Cooling, providing top-notch HVAC services for Portland-area homeowners.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Metro Portland, Oregon area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). 

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Here Are 3 Reasons Why Your Furnace is Blowing Cold Air

Here Are 3 Reasons Why Your Furnace is Blowing Cold AirYour furnace helps ensure that your Portland home stays warm and toasty in winter, but what happens if it’s only blowing cold air? When you have a furnace cold air problem, it’s important to determine what might be causing it, so you can get heated air flowing again. These are a few possible causes of this heating system issue.

Thermostat Problems

A simple problem with your thermostat could be causing cold air to blow out of your vents when your furnace is on. Check the setting on your thermostat to see if it is set to the “auto” position instead of the “on” position. The “on” position causes the fan to run constantly, but this won’t produce heated air.

Pilot Light

Gas furnaces have a small flame that burns all the time and helps them ignite. If you have a gas furnace, check the pilot light to see if it is lit. When the pilot light goes out, your furnace isn’t able to blow heated air. Instead, you’ll just feel cold air coming out of your vents. If the pilot light went out, carefully relight it so you’ll be able to heat your home again.

Dirty Air Filter

The air filter in your furnace helps trap dust and other particles, which allows it to heat your home efficiently. When this filter becomes covered in debris, it makes it harder for air to flow through to your furnace. This can end up putting your furnace in danger of overheating, which can result in the burners automatically shutting off for safety reasons. Check your air filter, and replace it with a new one if it’s coated with dust and debris.

If none of these are causing your furnace cold air problem, it’s time to call in professional HVAC technicians to check it. These HVAC experts can determine the cause of this problem and take steps to fix it.

If you have a furnace cold air problem this winter or if your heating system needs other repairs, please contact Roth Heating & Cooling. We offer dependable heating and cooling services in the Portland area.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Metro Portland, Oregon area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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What is That Furnace Odor?

What is That Furnace Odor?A reliably working furnace is a must if you expect to stay comfortable in Portland’s chilly, wet winters, so a funny furnace smell can be a little unsettling. While some of these odors can be safely ignored, others require immediate attention.

Dust and Must

When your furnace kicks on for the first time in fall, you might notice the smell of burning dust. During the off season, dust settles on your furnace’s heat exchanger. When the system heats up again, the dust burns off. The odor is nothing to worry about and should disappear within a few hours.

The smell of must or mildew is also relatively common when a furnace first starts up for the season. Sometimes this happens when a little mold collects in the air ducts, the air filter or the humidifier while the system isn’t in use. If the odor doesn’t go away within a day and you know your filter and humidifier are clean, then you might have a serious mold problem in your ducts or elsewhere. Contact a technician for a duct inspection.

Urgent Issues

The odor of sulfur or rotten eggs means natural gas is leaking from somewhere. Open a window, get out of the house, and immediately contact your gas company. The smell of formaldehyde suggests a cracked heat exchanger, which can lead to a carbon monoxide leak. Turn your furnace off and call a technician.

If you smell hot or burning plastic, wires or rubber, your furnace could be close to catching fire. Turn it off and contact a technician. This type of furnace smell is usually caused by an overheating component or damaged wiring. Address the problem early and you can prevent further damage to your furnace.

The smell of smoke coming from an oil furnace is sometimes due to a dirty oil filter, nozzle or flue connector, or a blocked chimney. If you also hear banging or rumbling sounds, though, shut off the furnace and call for service.

If a strange furnace smell is bothering you, contact us for guidance at Roth Heating & Cooling in the Portland area.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Metro Portland, Oregon area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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Everything You Need to Know About Heat Exchangers

Everything You Need to Know About Heat ExchangersHeat exchangers are found in all types of equipment, from refrigerators and air conditioners, to smoke stacks to diesel engines. But when we talk about the heat exchanger in your furnace, we mean a specific type of technology. Following is a brief explanation of what the heat exchanger in your furnace does.

Your Furnace’s Heat Exchanger

All heat exchangers perform the same function — that of moving heat from one fluid (a liquid or a gas) to another, but depending on the technology, they work in different ways.

The furnace heat exchanger uses fuel — propane, natural gas or oil — to create heat. The blower motor or fan then projects air over the heat exchanger and into your home’s ductwork, which distributes it throughout the home. Pretty simple, right?

To explain a little more in depth, the burners ignite and produce combustion gases. The gases are sent into the exchanger, where heat from the gases is transferred onto the walls of the heat exchanger.

As the gases cool, the draft inducer blower directs them into venting pipes and they are exhausted from the home. This takes place at the same time the hot air from the combustion gases is picking up heat from the heat exchanger walls, prior to being distributed through the ductwork.

What Can Go Wrong With the Heat Exchanger

Over time, a heat exchanger can develop cracks from the repeated heating and cooling of the metal. When this occurs, carbon monoxide may start leaking out. That said, modern heat exchangers are built with many improved safety features over old models, so malfunctions that can endanger your household are rare.

Annual maintenance on a furnace should include inspection of the heat exchanger for cracks. You should also install carbon monoxide detectors throughout the home to ensure that accumulations from any malfunctioning combustion appliances do not mount to dangerous levels.

If you would like to know more about heat exchangers in particular or any of your other HVAC system parts, we can answer your questions. Contact Roth Heating and Cooling. We have served Portland and the surrounding area since 1976.
Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Metro Portland, Oregon area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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Replacing Your Furnace Motor: Deciding Between ECM and PSC

Replacing Your Furnace Motor: Deciding Between ECM and PSCFurnace motor replacement presents an opportunity for improvement. Both your heating costs as well as the comfort level inside your home can benefit by upgrading from an outmoded PSC unit to an ECM furnace blower motor.

It’s a good bet that the motor inside your existing furnace blower is a PSC (permanent split capacitor) type. Though it was the standard for decades, PSC motors had two major drawbacks:

  • Excessive electrical consumption. Your furnace may be gas-fired, but an outmoded PSC blower motor may consume 500 watts of electricity or more while the system’s running. This represents a substantial contribution to your electric bill.
  • On/off operation. A PSC blower delivers 100% output when it turns on and zero percent output when the system cycles off. On/off operation means hot air surges into rooms under full output when the furnace cycles on and temperatures spike uncomfortably, often several degrees above the thermostat setting. When the system cycles off again, output drops to zero and rooms rapidly cool and become chilly again. These yo-yo temperature swings degrade indoor comfort and make living spaces usually too warm or too cold.

Here’s why furnace motor replacement with a new ECM unit is better:

  • Short for electronically commutated motor, ECM technology sips electricity instead of guzzling it. Upgrading to an ECM blower will cut furnace electrical consumption from 500 watts down to about 80 watts, substantially reducing the load on your monthly utility bill.
  • Indoor temperatures are more consistent. An ECM unit is programmed to run almost continuously across a variable range of speeds keyed to heating requirements. As the furnace cycles on, the blower gently circulates a low volume of air to avoid the “blast furnace” effect in rooms, gradually ramping up to higher output to meet the thermostat setting. ECM circulation then declines to lower volume sufficient to continuously maintain the temperature at a very consistent, accurate level. Temperature spikes and sags associated with on/off PSC motors are eliminated, indoor comfort is enhanced and electric costs drop.

For professional advice about upgrading to an ECM furnace motor replacement, contact Roth Heating & Cooling.
Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Metro Portland, Oregon area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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Is Your Furnace Ready for Winter?

Is Your Furnace Ready for Winter?Now that the weather is getting colder, it will soon be necessary to run the heating system to maintain comfort in your home. Before heating season arrives, make sure the furnace is ready to go by taking care of these tasks.

Install a Clean Furnace Filter

Putting in a fresh filter ensures good system airflow, which promotes energy efficiency. To maintain that good efficiency all winter, check the condition of the filter every month and replace it when you see debris starting to accumulate, or at least once every three months.

Schedule a System Tuneup

Before you start up the furnace this year, have an HVAC professional perform routine maintenance. A certified technician can inspect and clean the various components, and tackle other vital tasks like checking for heat exchanger damage, lubricating the blower motor, adjusting the burner, tightening the electrical connections, testing the safety controls and making sure the thermostat is working properly.

Optimize the Thermostat Programming

If you need to make setback adjustments on your programmable thermostat, now’s the time to get them done. If you still have a manual thermostat, have your technician install a programmable one that matches your equipment and usual weekly schedule. Then, you can program in energy-saving temperature setbacks during the periods when you’re usually sleeping or away from home.

Give the Air Vents Some TLC

Remove all your vent covers and wipe them down, then use the vacuum hose to suction any debris and dust from the open ducting boots. As you’re replacing the clean covers, make sure the louvers are open and clear away any items that might block airflow at the vents.

Get the Flue Cleaned Out

Have the flue swept out to get rid of soot deposits and any debris that might block proper combustion fume venting, like rodent/bird nesting materials, dead leaves or broken branches. With a clean, unobstructed flue, there’s less danger that fumes containing carbon monoxide can’t exit the house properly.

To get the furnace in your Portland home ready for the coming heating season, contact us at Roth Heating & Cooling to schedule a maintenance visit.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Metro Portland, Oregon area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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Things to Keep in Mind During Furnace Installation

Things to Keep in Mind During Furnace InstallationProper furnace installation is critical to the efficiency and performance you get later. Conversely, a sub-standard installation can be the root cause of high operating costs and poor indoor comfort that plague a homeowner for as long as the unit is on the job. Since a new gas-fired furnace has a typical expected service life exceeding 15 years, that’s a convincing reason to make sure you receive a competent furnace installation from a qualified professional contractor.

Here are some of the things to keep in mind when your new furnace is installed:

  • A load calculation is critical to performance and efficiency — No new furnace should be installed without a professional heating load calculation utilizing industry-standard software. A load calculation computes the exact BTU output required to keep your home comfortable in winter climate typical for your locale. With that data, the contractor can match a new furnace with the correct heating capacity. Oversized or undersized units are no bargain: they waste fuel and money and under-perform as far as household comfort, too.
  • Ventilation upgrade may be needed — The existing vent pipe utilized with your previous furnace may be usable for the new unit—or not. If it shows signs of leakage or deterioration, for safety’s sake, now’s the time for replacement. Also, if you are upgrading to a larger or a more high-efficiency furnace, installation of a new vent pipe may be mandatory.
  • Duct condition matters — Connecting a new, state-of-the-art furnace to aging ductwork that’s deteriorating and leaky is a losing proposition. Leakage from bad ducts can easily negate any gains you’re expecting from a more efficient heating system. Ducts should be visually inspected and pressure-tested, then professionally sealed if necessary. In many locales, building codes now require when installing a furnace or A/C.
  • Permits and inspection — Installing new furnace usually requires a proper building permit, pulled by the HVAC contractor. The permit also ensures that the installation will be examined by a building inspector afterwards to verify safe operation and venting.

For professional furnace installation by experienced technicians, in Portland contact Roth Heating & Cooling.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Metro Portland, Oregon area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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Here’s How to Reduce the Load on Your Furnace

Here’s How to Reduce the Load on Your FurnaceYour home’s heating load indicates the amount of energy your furnace needs to use to keep you warm and comfortable. If you lower the load, you will save energy and potentially help your heating system last longer with fewer repairs. Help make your furnace’s job easier with these tips.

Regular Filter Changes

Start with an easy one first by checking your air filter. A dirty filter makes your heating system work much harder to pull airflow across the heat exchanger. Further, you’ll save energy by staying on top of filter changes.

Thermostat Settings

Frequently changing the thermostat temperature can reduce heating efficiency. Your best bet for saving energy and maintaining the comfort level you desire is by upgrading to a programmable or Wi-Fi thermostat.

Check Ductwork

In addition to increasing your energy bills, duct leaks increase the stress and load on your furnace. If you find a disconnected duct seam or locate a leak, you can make a quick repair by wrapping it with heat-resistant metal tape.

Air Sealing and Insulation

Air sealing and insulating your Portland area home is a great and practical way to lessen the load on your heating system. Additionally, sealing and insulation lasts for many years and you will save energy and be more comfortable year-round.

  • Air sealing — Use foam and silicone weatherstripping to seal your attic door and entry doors respectively. A thin line of caulk seals window frames from the outside. Caulk rope and tension strips seal your windows from the inside.
  • Insulation — If you use fiberglass insulation in your attic, it should be higher than the joists. Energy Star recommends attic insulation as high as R-60, which is about 15 to 18 inches of standard fiberglass.

Professional Maintenance

Schedule professional preventive maintenance each spring and fall seasons to keep your furnace, A/C, and ducts in great shape. Professional cleaning, system inspection, and testing ensures that your furnace is operating efficiently and safely.

Make easy work of reducing the load and stress on your furnace by contacting the experts at Roth Heating & Cooling today! We’ve proudly served Portland area residents and businesses since 1976.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Metro Portland, Oregon area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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Find Out How a Variable-Speed Furnace Works in Your Home

Find Out How a Variable-Speed Furnace Works in Your HomeA variable-speed furnace offers quiet, energy efficient comfort using advanced motor technology. Instead of only running on top speed, a furnace equipped with an electronically-commutated motor (ECM) will adjust its running speeds based on your home’s need for heat. They save energy because ECMs use much less electricity than the standard motor, and its slower running speed helps distribute the heat more evenly.

What a Variable-Speed Furnace Does

Conventional blower motors, known as permanent split capacitor motors (PSCs) use alternating current (AC) while an ECM uses direct current (DC). Since our power supply is AC, the variable-speed furnace motor has an inverter that changes the power flow to DC, which is a more efficient use of electricity.

These motors also include high tech components that work with the HVAC system to sense how much heated air your home needs, and adjust their running speeds accordingly. If it’s just a few degrees, the motor will run at a slower speed. The ECM is also capable of sensing the airflow through the blower, making adjustments for constricted airflow from dirt filters or blocked return registers.

Variable-Speed Advantages

  • Cleaner air. Since a variable-speed furnace runs more slowly, it removes more airborne particulates, which creates a healthier home. Anyone who suffers from allergies to pollen, dander or mold may breathe easier.
  • Less electrical consumption. Although combustion furnace efficiency isn’t measured by its electrical use alone, your monthly energy bills will drop. If the furnace is equipped with an air conditioning system, your summer cooling costs will also decline. These systems also remove more humidity in the cooling mode since the air handler runs longer.
  • Quiet operation. These systems start and stop their cycles slowly. Even at top speeds, these motors are quieter than PSC motors.
  • Durability. HVAC systems with variable-speed motors tend to last longer since they avoid the stress and wear that frequent starts cause.

To learn more about a variable-speed furnace, contact Roth Heating & Cooling, providing trusted HVAC services for Portland-area homeowners since 1976.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Metro Portland area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). 

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Dealing with Common Furnace Problems in Your Home

Dealing with Common Furnace Problems in Your HomeDuring the winter, there’s always a chance your home’s heating system will act up or stop working entirely. Either way — the sudden loss of heat or a furnace that’s not heating adequately — this is something to avoid. Try learning some basic furnace troubleshooting steps. With that knowledge, you’ll have a better shot at figuring out what’s wrong and either fixing it yourself or knowing what to tell the HVAC service technician you call.

If Your Furnace is Struggling to Heat Your Home

This could the result of any of numerous issues. The air filter may need to be change; ductwork might be dirty or leaking air; the burners in your combustion heating system might be clogged; the blower motor might need to be cleaned and lubricated; or your heating system might be so old that it no longer can keep up with the challenge of heating your home. Each of these issues has a different solution, from the easy (changing the air filter) to the most difficult and expensive, replacing your heating system.

If the Heating isn’t Working at All

  • Check that your HVAC system is getting power. Do this at the circuit-breaker box or at the on-off switch if your heating system has one. Is the thermostat set to “heat” and that the setting is above the temperature in your home? If the thermostat is battery operated, check the batteries.
  • Ignition might be the problem, especially if you have an older furnace with a pilot light. Re-lighting the pilot might be all that’s necessary, though if the light keeps going out, or the electronic ignition (in a newer heating system) is malfunctioning, you’ll need a professional service call.
  • If you hear banging or rattling in the furnace compartment before the system goes dead, it might be loose or detached parts in the blower motor, or a slipped belt. While you might be able to put the belt back on, you’ll need professional help for a faulty motor.

For help fixing your Portland area heating system problems this winter, please contact us at Roth Heating & Cooling.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Metro Portland area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). 

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