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Keep the Heat on With Your HVAC Pro

When late summer finally rolls around, the furnace is usually the furthest thing from your mind. Many of us are still in denial that summer will soon be over, so why worry about heating when it's warm outside? Why worry? Because the first cold snap is not the time to find out your heating system needs to be serviced or replaced.

Call your HVAC pro. A gas-fired, forced-air heating system requires an inspection at least every two years to adjust the burners, and check the flue and ducts, while a heat pump needs annual attention. Oil-fired burners require annual maintenance, too. Some chores are easy enough to handle yourself but are nonetheless important, namely changing or cleaning the filter every month. A dirty air filter costs you money. Apart from avoiding failures, money is the best reason to keep your system at peak efficiency. Depending on where you live and the system you use, a dirty or poorly maintained system can cost you up to 25 percent in heating and cooling efficiency.

Actually, late summer is the perfect time to hire a professional for that long overdue inspection. It's a lull between the heating and cooling seasons when HVAC companies are not so busy, so it's easier to schedule them for a service call. Whom should you hire? Try to match the company's expertise with your furnace, ideally someone who installs and services the same brand equipment you own. Also, don't call the first company that drops a flyer in your mailbox. Check with your friends, neighbors or co-workers first. Whom do they use and how have they performed? Ask the company for references in your area and call them. Finally, make sure the company has liability insurance and workman's compensation policies in effect. That's a basic precaution for hiring any type of home service.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it, the saying goes but how do you know when to replace it? If your furnace is more than 15 years old, it's time to consider buying a new one. A major purchase of new HVAC equipment seems easier to put off, but remember that newer systems burn less fuel and cost less to operate. Ask your contractor for a pay-back calculation that shows how many years it will take for the new equipment to pay for itself in energy savings. Your contractor should crunch the numbers based on the types of equipment, the fuel (gas, oil, or electric), and your regional heating or cooling load. Finally, remember that the equipment you purchase is only as good as the contractor who installs it. Make sure that your contractor properly sizes your unit to match your home's ductwork and energy needs, using a heat-loss calculation

Sources used to create this article include Danny Lipford and Today's Homeowner Magazine.

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