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Winter Home Heating Inspection: Keep Your Home Safe and Warm

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An annual home heating inspection is critical to the safety and efficiency of a home's heating system. These inspections serve to improve the efficiency of the system and guarantee the safety of your family.

Planning the inspection

While it is always best to have a licensed contractor conduct your annual home heating inspection, knowing the steps yourself for a home heating inspection can ensure that you get superior service. It is best to have your annual home heating inspection completed before the onslaught of cold weather. However, it is still better to conduct the home heating inspection later in the season rather than skipping it completely. All types of combustion-driven heating systems must be checked. This includes oil-fired hot-water boilers for radiator, baseboard and radiant-floor heating, oil-fueled forced-air systems, as well as propane forced-air systems.

Home heating inspection checklist

Here are the critical steps for every home heating inspection:

1) Check for a carbon-monoxide detector.
In many countries and states, carbon-monoxide detectors are now required equipment in the vicinity of an internal combustion furnace system. There are few safeguards more important to the safety of your family than verifying that the CO detector is in place and working effectively. The heating contractor should check the battery or other power system to ensure the proper functioning of the carbon-monoxide detector.

2) Check chimneys, flues and vents.
One good reason to use a licensed heating contractor for your home heating system inspection is that it generally takes a professional to evaluate the adequacy and serviceability of chimneys, flues and vents. Very subtle inadequacies can cause safety or efficiency problems for a homeowner. Go with the best and be safe.

3) Check safety devices.
Any limit or over-temperature switches should be checked for presence and serviceability. Inspectors must check pilot safety switches on both gas and oil systems.

4) Check the heat exchanger.
The condition of the heat exchanger is a critical aspect for the efficiency of your heating system. Poor heat exchange results in poor heat efficiency.

5) Clean the entire internal area of the furnace.
A key indicator of trouble with the heating system is soot in inappropriate places or in inappropriate amounts. Soot is an indication that the home heating system is not firing completely and efficiently. In a perfectly tuned system, there should be little or no soot. Soot is particularly an indicator of malfunction in an oil-burning system. If the inspector finds soot, nozzle inspection occurs, and if the nozzle is dirty it should be replaced, not cleaned.

6) Check air-filter presence and condition (in forced-air heating systems).
During your home heating inspection, the contractor should check the presence and condition of air filters, particularly on both oil and gas forced-air heating systems. Clogged filters can reduce the efficiency immediately on a forced-air heating system, while the absence of a filter can cause system failure and reduced efficiency over the longer term. Part of the inspection should be the replacement or cleaning of all filters.

7) Clean motor and fan (forced-air heating systems).
This is a fairly straightforward process, including the lubrication of bearings and the cleaning of all debris from the blower area on forced-air systems. Drive-belt condition, alignment and performance should all be checked for optimal performance.

8) Inspect ducting and piping.
During the home heating system inspection, the contractor should verify the condition of the ductwork or the condition of the piping for hot-water systems. Holes in ductwork or leaks in piping can severely impact the efficiency of your home heating system. Fuel lines into the system need inspection in addition to the ducting and piping that carries heat away. In oil systems, the fuel-line pressure, filters, and water separators require special attention. In LP gas systems, integrity of the inbound line is most important.

9) Test-start the furnace and test the functioning of the thermostat.
Your inspector should verify that the thermostat is recording an accurate ambient temperature, then adjust the heat setting to start up the furnace to ensure that it can fire. During the test run, the inspector in the best home heating system inspections will take four separate flue gas samples to determine whether the system is functioning at peak efficiency. The samples will check smoke content, flue pressure and two separate readings over time evaluating the steady state of the flue gases, including carbon dioxide or oxygen count and temperature consistency.

10) Check oil/propane tanks
The inspector of your home heating system should verify the fuel source and gauge the serviceability of the tank (if present) and the lines. Save and relax in warmth and safety These checks and services completed as part of a home heating system inspection can save you between 10% and 20% on your home heating bill by ensuring the maximum efficiency of your system. More important, it will keep your family safe and warm all winter long.

Content provided by Helium Inc. This information is provided for your convenience; it is not intended as insurance advice. The views, opinions, and advice expressed in this article are solely those of the author and not those of Homesite Group Incorporated. Please consult your insurance carrier or agent for information regarding your policy or coverages.
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