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Sensing Home Comfort Problems

Sensing Home Comfort Problems

Every problem has a symptom, and frequently it is accompanied by something you see, hear, smell or even feel. Follow along as Shamus, the dogged detective, uses his enhanced senses to uncover common problems you might encounter at your oil-heated or propane home.

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Seeing icicles?

If there are icicles hanging from your roof, you could be facing a double whammy. First, there’s the safety risk of their falling. Second, icicles usually mean that you’re losing heat through your attic. Icicles form when a roof has “hot spots” (caused by escaping heat) that melts snow. The water trickles to colder spots on the roof and freezes. The water that drips over the eaves turns into icicles.

Eventually, mounds of ice can form and water trapped behind these ice dams can seep into your home, resulting in costly repairs.

The solution for heat loss and potential water damage is to seal air leaks in your attic and then improve the insulation. These steps will lower your heating costs — and reduce cooling bills in the summer because your attic will retain less heat.

Feeling a chill in your shower?

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Does it takes longer to heat water than it used to, or does it feel as if the water doesn’t get as hot? These are strong signs that you are ready for a new unit. Other trouble signs include a slow leak from your tank or rust on the tank or in your tap water. (A water tank rusts from the inside out.)

If you think your water heater is failing — the average water heater lasts anywhere from 7 to 13 years — please speak with us about your options in oil-fired or propane water heaters.

Both of these options — which include propane tankless/on-demand units and indirect-fired oil water heaters — provide plenty of hot water at a very affordable cost. That’s something that extremely inefficient electric water heaters cannot provide.

If you have a water heater that is 10 years old or older, start checking out your options today!

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What’s that funky smell?

Well, it could be the dog, but it’s probably caused by stagnant water — the most common source for bad odors, because it often turns to mold. Look for water leaks in the roof, the foundation, or around sinks and other piping. Besides correcting water leaks promptly, you can keep indoor air virtually odor-free with correctly sized equipment, constant airflow and air purification systems.

Other problems to sniff out

Oil odors. If your system is working properly, you should never smell fuel oil. An oil smell could be caused by a leak, burner troubles, a heat exchanger failure or exhaust system problems. You should schedule service as soon as possible to correct this situation.

Smoky odors when your burner is operating. If a fireplace or exhaust fan is running at the same time as your oil burner, a smoky odor can result because a backdraft is pulling flue gases through the exhaust system and into the home.

A “skunky” smell. That distinctive smell is deliberately added to propane to alert you to a possible leak. If you smell it, immediately extinguish any smoking materials and all open flames, and do not operate lights, appliances or cell phones. (You do not want to create any sparks.) Get everyone out of the home, and, if it is safe to do so, shut off the main valve on your propane tank by turning it clockwise. When you are a safe distance away from the area, call us immediately to report the leak or call the fire department.

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What’s that noise?

If you have a furnace, unusual noises often come from your system’s blower motor, which pushes the air from your system into the ducts. Here are a few sounds you may hear and their possible causes. (Note: A correct diagnosis can only be made with an on-site visit from a technician.)

Scraping. The bearings in the motor may be wearing out. If you hear this noise, shut off the system immediately to avoid further damage. Then call for service.

Squealing. If you have an older system, the blower motor may need oil. There may also be a loose belt.

Vibration. The blower motor or wheel may need to be rebalanced.

Other common noises

Booming or rumbling burner. It’s normal to hear a burner “kick on,” but if it makes a loud boom, also known as a “hard start,” the burner is not igniting properly. It needs to be serviced as soon as possible.

Rumbling noises from your water heater. This usually indicates that sediment has built up in the bottom of the storage tank. Sediment decreases heating efficiency and could eventually cause your water heater to break down. To prevent problems and save money, schedule a maintenance check.