Now that autumn is officially underway, I know most of you are busy helping your customers get ready for winter. This is one of the best times for replacement equipment and also for planned maintenance visits.

Heating PM calls can vary from a quick filter change and operations check to a complete and comprehensive “tune up”. Most of you who know me know that I am an advocate of the more comprehensive “tune up” type of call. This is our time to shine for our customers and take the time to share with them the full value of what we have to offer.

Done well, a full tune up will ensure that the heating system will be safe, reliable, effective, and energy efficient.

On every PM call, attention to safe operations should be our first priority. All gas piping in the mech room should be tested for leaks with an electronic gas leak detector. Safe gas burner ignition is also a priority and that means clean and properly adjusted burners, gas valves, and ignition components. Venting systems are next in the safety chain along with combustion air supply. Finally, Carbon Monoxide testing needs to be performed and documented on every call. It is a good idea to offer to test other appliances in the home like water heaters, fireplaces, and gas ranges.

As far as reliability, while we cannot guarantee that a system will not break down after we leave, we can take steps to help minimize that probability. In my experience, I have found that the vast majority of no heat calls in winter are directly related to a lack of preventive maintenance. A thorough tune up procedure will eliminate many common sources of heating system failure. In addition to cleaning flame sensors and condensate traps and replacing filters, we should be checking the relative health and condition of motors, igniters, and other operating components. The PM is a great time to replace weak or failing components before they fail and cause a no heat situation.

During a PM call, we should be testing the operation of the system and allow the unit to operate for at least 10 to 15 minutes straight. Measure the temperature rise and verify it is within the manufacturer’s specification. Ensure that all of the safety controls are functioning properly and that they are not cutting out the burners in the middle of the cycle. If a system is performing well at this time, it will also perform well in the cold nights of winter. Any operational problems can be detected and corrected now before it is a problem.

Lastly, energy efficiency should be taken into account. All of the cleaning and adjustments you have done so far should ensure that the system is consuming fuel as efficiently as possible and any operational problems have been detected and corrected. Sometimes, some problems cannot be cleaned away and a new furnace or boiler is the best solution. That old natural draft appliance may be working well and it may not have any ongoing safety issues, but is it making the best use of heating fuel? Many customers do not know about the benefits of high efficiency equipment and this is the best time to help educate them. If, after they have been given the option to upgrade, they decide to stick with what they have, they at least will have the safest, best operating heating system possible in their current situation, thanks to your great work. When the time comes when they are ready to replace, they are more likely to use your company’s services for the job since you are the one who took the time to educate them in the first place.

Don’t forget, this is prime time to sign up more people on your Planned Maintenance program and ensure future work. Try to schedule these people into slower times of the season next year to make room for new customers coming in!

Have a great season, everyone, and enjoy the changing leaves!

-Eric Shidell
HVAC Service Mentor