The EPA, which is usually very slow and reluctant to recommend any services, except ones which have been proven to be beneficial, recommends inspecting and servicing fuel-burning furnaces before each heating season (www.epa.gov) to be sure that you are protected from carbon monoxide poisoning.
The Washington State Department of health concurs and recommends having a trained professional check your gas appliances and fireplaces annually.
Carbon monoxide, CO, can enter your home any time you have a defect in your furnace’s heat exchanger. A heat exchanger is the largest part of the furnace, usually made of aluminum or stainless steel, through which the poisonous carbon monoxide-containing exhaust fumes leave the furnace and are vented to the outside. Heat exchangers can develop holes over time or through manufacturer defect. The result is that some of the carbon monoxide will leak through these apertures and into your house. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious health risk, and over 1000 Washington residents were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning from a variety of sources between 1990 and 2005.
When selecting an HVAC contractor to perform the tune-up that the EPA recommends, it is extremely important to select a company whose technicians understand how to properly inspect heat exchangers. Few companies are eager to properly inspect your heat exchanger. Mostly because it’s hard to reach. The heat exchanger sits behind all of the parts you can see, including the motors, gas valve, pressure switch, circuit board, igniter, etc, and often you cannot see it even with the front panel open. Because of this inspection, the precision tune up when done correctly is a longer appointment. For example, Washington Energy Services furnace tune up takes 45 minutes to 1 hour on a furnace where no problems are found. When problems are found, this time obviously increases.
So how do you know your technician will do a good tune up? Ask your contractor if its technicians are NATE Certified. It stands for North American Technician Excellence (www.natex.org), and it is an HVAC industry certification of quality. You can be confident that NATE Certified technicians provide the kind of precision tune ups discussed in this article.
To get a precision tune up for your furnace call Washington Energy Services at 1 800 398-HOME. Washington Energy Services technicians are NATE certified.
For more information on Carbon Monoxide poisoning, see Washington State Department of health at www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/ts/IAQ/CO_Fact_Sheet.htm.