The Case of…

Service Technician

Our service technicians are like private investigators, solving cases from simple to complex. During the winter, they’re on the job day and night, using their skills and diagnostic tools to fix comfort problems. As you read about their investigations, look for clues to see if you can shine a light on the case before they do.

The Case of the Lost Heat

Grace D. calls to report a loss of heat. Our investigator begins by interviewing the only witness. He asks Grace:

  • How was your system running before it stopped?
  • Was it making and odd noises or emitting unusual odors?
  • Have you done anything to the system?

Grace confesses she pressed the system’s reset button twice, but each time the system ran for only a few minutes before shutting off.

After explaining why the reset button should not be pushed more than once (see Exhibit A), our investigator then rules out the “usual suspects” for heat loss. He finds that:

  • power switches and circuit breakers are in the “on” position.
  • the thermostat is functioning properly and its setting is above room temperature.
  • there is fuel in the storage tank.

Now he gives the system a thorough examination and discovers a dirty flame sensor (see Exhibit A). After cleaning the sensor, he gets the system running again.

Amateur investigators might stop at this point, but not our expert! He knows if he doesn’t learn why the sensor became dirty in the first place, the same problem will happen again.

Safety control reset button

Clue #1

The system had been serviced a few months before. A properly maintained system should always burn cleanly. Our investigator needs more information from Grace. “Have you made any changes in your home recently?” he asks her.

Clue #2

Grace remembers that she recently had exhaust fans installed in the kitchen and bathroom. Our investigator now has the solution to the problem.

Can you guess what it was?

Solving the case

Combustion gases exit the home through a chimney or exhaust vent. But normal draft can be reversed by negative pressures. The exhaust fans drew combustion gases back into Grace’s system, causing it to clog and shut down. Our investigator installs a part to eliminate this problem. Case solved!

Tip: If you make renovations to your home, let us know. We may be able to prevent these changes from having a negative impact on your heating system.

A Matter of Adjustment

Edward T. contacts our investigator because he smells oil. Our investigator arrives, checks all of the fittings of the burner, oil tank, filter and oil line. There is no sign of a leak.

Clue from the eyewitness: Edward says he hasn’t had his system serviced in three years. What is the problem?

Solving the case

Within minutes of his inspection, our investigator could see that the system was badly in need of maintenance. He told Edward that a system that gets regular maintenance should never emit an oil smell. Our investigator took out his “forensics kit” and performed a tune-up. This included adjusting the burner, which had a delayed ignition. This problem caused the oil odor. Case solved!

  • Draft overfire and stack temperature: These two tests measure the volume of air and amount of heat going up your chimney.
  • Draft at breech: This measures the draft inside the system; a weak draft won’t vent combustion products properly. (The exhaust fans caused a weak draft in Grace’s system.) If the draft is too strong, however, heat will be pulled out of your home.
  • CO2: We test carbon dioxide (CO2) to see how airtight your system is. If we find a high level, we know your system has air leaks. We’ll find these leaks and seal them.
  • Smoke reading: Smoke indicates that not all of your fuel is turning into heat when burned. Smoke also forms a layer of buildup in your system, reducing efficiency.
  • Total efficiency: This testing combines all of the readings we’ve taken to give an overall efficiency rating of your system. If the reading is too low, it may be time to replace your system.

Our “Forensics” Test

We do many tests to measure your system’s efficiency. What we find indicates what adjustments are needed. By doing this, we can save you up to 10% on your annual heating costs. These tests include:

Solving the “Repair or Replace” Mystery

Repair/replace system guidelines

Use these guidelines if you’re wondering whether you should repair or replace your system.

  • If your system is well maintained, less than 10 years old and still under warranty, repairing is usually the better option in most cases.
  • If the repair involves replacing major expensive parts, your system is 15 years old or older and you’re using more fuel than in the past, investing in a new system may be the better choice.

Figure your savings

  • A 15-year-old heating system will continue to lose its efficiency due to wear and tear. Calculate the average amount of heating fuel you use now with your old system and compare it with the amount of fuel you can expect to conserve with a higher efficiency system. You may find that your replacement system could easily pay for itself with the money you’ll save on heat.
  • Replacing an old system with a new one will deliver increased efficiency, energy savings and reliability. You can end your worries about facing expensive repairs or suddenly finding yourself without heat on the coldest day of the year.

No matter whether you decide to repair or replace, we want to remain your trusted home comfort company. We have the knowledge, resources and experience to provide you with excellent service and great value for many years to come.on the coldest day of the year.