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DIY handyman-fi-1

Published on November 16th, 2013 | by Steve Driver


The Handyman’s Guide to Saving the Universe – Heating Systems

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Steve Driver. I am the co-owner of Brothers-In-Law General Contractors. It’s my job to make sure that your home stays as comfortable as it can be. Some guys are good with their hands, some are good with a computer…whatever your skill set is when it comes to home repair, think of me as your Ace up the sleeve. Throughout this column, I will be giving you tips and lessons on all of your gas-fired appliances. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to chime in. Remember: We’re men. We don’t use a map, or instructions, and we NEVER TELL our wives that we need help. Your secret’s safe here fellas. So without further ado, let’s get to work.

Heating Systems

In this article, I want to talk about Heating Systems. It’s that time of the year when the mercury dips down low and our wives start complaining. You go over to the thermostat and it reads 63 degrees in the room. Pretty cold, right? You turn the thermostat up to 70 and go back to watching the game. An hour later it still feels cold in the room, so you go over to the thermostat and see that it still reads 60!!! Here’s where the panic sets in. You know that there will be no peace until the house warms up, and you don’t know anything about fixing the furnace other than changing the filters or draining the boiler.

Let’s start with the basics.

thermostatBelieve it or not, a lot of times the problem can be as simple as turning on a switch or changing the batteries in the thermostat. So let’s look at the thermostat. Remove the cover. Are there batteries? If so, change them out. You should be changing them out yearly. If after that the heat still does not work, lets make sure it’s calling for heat. Turn the thermostat up to 80 degrees. The high temperature will make sure that the unit is looking for heat. Next, check to see if the Emergency Switch is off. A lot of times, the Emergency Switch is on the wall going down the stairs. It’s often mistaken for a light switch and turned off. Is it off? If so, turn it on and go check the furnace. If it’s on, congrats! Go brag to the wife, grab a cold one, and put that La-Z-Boy to use. If it’s still off, check the circuit breaker. Often times, a power outage can throw that particular breaker off. Reset it if it’s off, and check the furnace.

If none of the above work, we need to dig a little deeper. Does the system have a pilot light? If so, is it on? If it’s on, check the main gas valve to make sure that the valve is in the “On” position, and not left in the “Pilot” position. If it’s off, look at the manufacturer’s instructions on how to light the pilot. If you still don’t have heat, there may be a more serious problem going on here, and it may be time to call in the pros.

chimney-1Do you have a cap on your chimney to make sure animals don’t get in? The fall is a killer in more ways than one. Birds, squirrels, and raccoons like to hang out on your chimney to keep themselves warm. They get poisoned by the Carbon Monoxide coming from the chimney stack, and fall into the chimney, and die a horrible, agonizing death. The problem here is if the flue stack is clogged, the flue gases (Carbon Monoxide) will back out and enter your living space. This is a serious, life threatening condition. Newer heating systems are equipped with rollout switches that will shut off the burner if a backdraft is sensed. I cannot stress this to you enough: DO NOT BYPASS THESE CONTROLS EVER!!! YOUR LIFE AND YOUR FAMILY’S LIVES WILL BE AT RISK FOR ILLNESS, AND DEATH.

In the next article, I’m going to get into Steam Heating. We’ll learn how to properly maintain your system, go over the controls, what they do, and how to check them if they fail. If you have any questions, or would like me to go over something, leave a comment and I’ll answer them.

Until next time gentlemen, may your home be a peaceful home.

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About the Author

is a father of twins and a devoted husband. He is the co-owner of Brothers-In-Law General Contractors, based in New Jersey. He's the chief contributor to "The Handyman's Guide to Saving the Universe", a recurring column for tips and advice on household appliance maintenance and repair on Dad Men Walking.

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