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Time to keep your ducts in line

Routine furnace maintenance can keep the chill out this winter
By: Megan Wood The Press Tribune
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Editor’s Note: This is the second in a three-part series of articles on how to get your home ready for a safe and comfortable holiday season. Keep that nip in the air where it belongs, outside. Some residents have already started to pile on the sweaters and blankets to put off cranking up the heater and their energy bill. But now is the best time to check your furnace and air ducts to ensure that when the frigid temperatures of winter really start to set in, you won’t be left out in the cold. Roseville resident Elizabeth Winters said she usually waits until mid-December to turn up the heat, but the early cold temperatures this year and new hardwood floors were no match for Winters’ fleece sweaters and slippers. “It got to be unbearable,” Winters said. “I was cold all the time and couldn’t keep warm no matter how many blankets I had.” When Winters finally broke down and turned on her furnace, she noticed her furnace would shut off before fully heating her home. Luckily, Winters was able to make an appointment with a technician within a few days. “I don’t think I could have taken it any longer,” Winters said. “They said it was good I was calling early in the season because they can really get busy.” Roseville Sheet Metal service technician Skip Lee said it’s a good idea to turn on your furnace early in the season before temperatures get too cold to make sure it’s running smoothly. “It’s normal to smell a burnt toast smell for a few minutes. That’s just dust that settled,” Lee said. “But if it lasts for very long or happens again when you turn it on, shut (the furnace) down and call a technician. That’s an indication of a bigger problem.” Furnaces older than 12 years should be serviced annually or replaced with newer models Lee said. Newer furnaces that are properly maintained have more lenient service schedules of every three to five years. “People need to be changing their air filters at least once a year,” Lee said. “But really it depends on their lifestyle and the area that they live in, because some people should change their filters twice a year.” Those with severe allergies, asthma, smokers or homes in particularly dusty areas should change their air filters twice a year or as needed when they become dirty and clogged. Clogged air filters restrict airflow to the heating components of the furnace and into the home and can make heating your home less effective and more costly, Lee said. Ninety-five-year-old Sun City resident Lucille Forsberg said her furnace isn’t something she has to worry about thanks to standing twice yearly maintenance appointments with Lee. “I think it’s great,” said Forsberg’s daughter, Carita Connelly. “He takes care of anything before it becomes a problem and keeps his eyes out for other things, not just the furnace.” A typical inspection from Lee includes a brief once-over of air filters, changing clogged or dirty ones, air ducts, making sure there aren’t any visible obstructions or leaks and making sure there is adequate insulation around the ducts. “Sometimes most of the air ducts are actually under the house in a crawl space or in an attic,” said Randy Kienast, owner of California Air Duct Cleaning. “Homeowners can’t always see their ducts to find a problem.” According to the United States Department of Energy, poorly insulated ducts in spaces like attics or crawl spaces can lose up to 30 percent of their heat causing a furnace to work overtime and homeowners’ bills to skyrocket. Kienast said homeowners can suspect duct kinks, leaks or weakening seals when a room in their home stops receiving heat or when certain vents blow cooler air than others. “That’s when you want to call in a professional,” Kienast said. “Because if it’s not a duct problem it’s the furnace. Either way, a technician’s going to be able to pinpoint the problem and fix it.”