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Heating Systems
 
What should I do if my heating system doesn’t work?
How does a furnace work?
How does a furnace differ from a boiler?
What is a cracked heat exchanger?
I hear a lot of talk about high-efficiency heating systems. How do you determine a heating system’s efficiency?
Is there anything you can do about the smell of heating oil?
At what temperature should I set my thermostat?
Should I install a programmable thermostat?
 
Q: What should I do if my heating system doesn’t work?
A: Before you call us, go through the troubleshooting steps below to make sure a service call is really needed. It will save you the cost and inconvenience of an unnecessary service visit, and will ensure our technicians are working where they are most needed.
   
 
Make sure the thermostat is set above room temperature or in the “heat” position. If it’s a digital thermostat and the display screen is blank, you either need new batteries or the power supply has been interrupted.
Check for a tripped circuit breaker or a blown fuse.
Look to see if the power switch for your heating system is turned on.  Sometimes, these get turned off accidentally.
Check the tank to see if you have heating fuel.
If you have an oil heating system, press the reset button on the burner relay—ONCE ONLY. If your system doesn't start after you push the reset button, do not push it again. Doing so could cause your heating system to “flood.” Too much oil will get pumped into the combustion chamber, resulting in a lengthy and costly repair.
   
  If at this point you still don’t get heat, call P. Gagnon & Son immediately.
   
  When a service technician arrives, let him know everything you did to the system before he begins working on it. You should also let him know if anything out of the ordinary happened, like an unusual noise, a strange smell or smoke.
   
  In many cases, this will help the technician find the problem—and get your heat back on again—faster.
 
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Q: How does a furnace work?
A: Heat is generated by burning oil or propane inside the furnace. This happens in the combustion chamber, which gets very hot. Air absorbs this heat in the furnace’s heat exchanger. Next, the blower sends the heated air through a system of ducts, and warm air circulates through the home.
 
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Q: How does a boiler differ from a furnace?
A: The basic heating principle is the same. The difference is that a furnace heats air and a boiler heats water. With a boiler, a circulator pumps the hot water through a system of pipes, distributing the water to radiators, baseboards or air handlers throughout the home. Some boilers are designed to create steam, which circulates by means of a system of pipes. The pipes are connected to steam radiators throughout the home.
 
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Q: What is a cracked heat exchanger?
A: The heat exchanger is the main component of your furnace. If the heat exchanger has a crack or a rust hole, combustion fumes (including carbon monoxide) can contaminate the air in your home. This is a potentially deadly situation and should be addressed IMMEDIATELY. A cracked heat exchanger usually requires replacing the entire furnace. If you suspect that you might have a cracked heat exchanger, or a carbon monoxide problem caused by your furnace, turn the system off immediately. Then call us right away for service.
 
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Q: I hear a lot of talk about high-efficiency heating systems. How do you determine a heating system’s efficiency?
A: There are two indicators of efficiency.
   
 
1. Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE)
  All heating equipment manufactured after 1980 has been required to have a label indicating its AFUE. The AFUE ratio is a measurement of a heating system’s seasonal efficiency, taking into account how well the system performs over an entire season of starts and stops. Modern heating systems can range in efficiency from 81% to 95%. If your system’s AFUE is lower than this range, talk to us about your replacement options.
   
2. Combustion efficiency
  When we tune up your heating system, we do a combustion efficiency test that tells us how well your burner is converting oil into heat. If your combustion efficiency is below 78%, you may want to evaluate your upgrade options, which could include an oil burner retrofit. A new burner will burn the fuel/air mixture in a cleaner, more controlled manner, resulting in lower heating costs and less air pollution going out of your chimney.
 
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Q: Is there anything you can do about the smell of heating oil?
A: As long as your heating system is working properly, you should not smell oil in your home. If you do, it means something is WRONG! An oil smell could come from a leak, combustion or burner troubles, heat exchanger failure or exhaust system problems. Call us and we'll come over to correct the problem. If you have a leak, we'll remove the oil and help get the smell out of your home. If you ever smell oil coming from your vents, call us immediately. That's an indication of a faulty furnace that may be releasing dangerous gases in your home.
 
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Q: At what temperature should I set my thermostat?
A: Different people feel comfortable at different temperatures. Pay less attention to the number on the thermostat display (or the position of the temperature indicator on a nondigital display) and more to how comfortable the room feels to you. When you feel comfortable, check the setting. That's the right temperature for you.
 
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Q: Should I install a programmable thermostat?
A: Absolutely! Programmable thermostats are especially useful for people who are away from home at regular intervals. They allow for customized comfort settings around-the-clock, and they can cut heating and cooling costs by as much as 10%!.
 
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      215 Main Street, South Berwick, ME 03908 P: (800) 696-2213  
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