Oh, the cool air of winter is well upon us now. The boilers have been buzzing away and all our customers are happy ones, right? Well, most of them are, now they just need to find a way to pay you for the oil that they purchased from you.
We can’t control that, but we can try to make your customers happier by agreeing with them that the price for fuel IS too high, and that we also use oil to heat our homes. We are all in the same boat, so we all need to row in the same direction.
If you remember last October, we talked about the start of the winter season and the first start-up of the old warm air furnace. We talked about how to discover if the unit had a crack in the heat exchanger, and I told you how I would make that determination. That method works for me, but it is not the only method. My friend Bill Anderson, Jr. from Anderson Energy has a different method. I will let him explain…
“I think one of the most misunderstood troubleshooting for techs in this industry and to convince the homeowner that you aren't pulling their leg and just trying to sell them equipment. Always did step 1 and step 2, never tried 3. That would be a great visual for a homeowner with smoke paper. This is something that no tech wants to be wrong on, especially if after the new install or heat exchanger replacement, the odor persists. There is another test you left out and that’s CO2. With oil furnaces, it is always a telltale for me to look further during routine maintenance. Combustion analyzers are best for speed, but also with liquid type Bacharach can be used. Taking CO2 reading of the combustion gases before the blower fan comes on and after the blower goes on—should stay the same if the heat exchanger is good. If the CO2 reading goes down then there is a possibility that the Hx[heat exchanger] is no good. This air that made your draft gauge change is the air that will lower your CO2. This test is a good routine I feel because everyone should be doing combustion tests on routine maintenance now adays and you are doing one more check for the customer at the start of the heating season.”
I am sure some of you have different methods other than Bill’s or mine and as I always say, if it works for you and the outcome is correct, great. Find what works for you and use it, so long as you are not “just guessing.”
Some comments I received suggested that on some units the smoke pipe passes through the return air compartment of the furnace and either the return passages or the air filter is clogged. So you see, you need to check all aspects before condemning the heat exchanger and causing your customer to spend their dollars needlessly. That will not make them a happy customer!
Once the unit has been running for a few months, a common complaint I would get is “strange noises from the furnace.” The gremlins in the basement are at it again, I would say. Most of the time, these gremlins can be traced to the blower unit on the furnace. Among the items you need to check is the blower belt (if not direct drive) has it started to shred apart? The return air filter has also created havoc in the noise department, when it got so clogged that the blower literally sucked it out of its slide.
Lastly, the blower bearings could be the cause of your trouble. Sometimes a little oil will go a long way, but not always. If they need to be changed, see if you can “rig up” some way of getting your customer heat while you have the bearings repaired or replaced. I will leave it up to your imagination as to things I have found in the return compartment of warm air heaters, but I will say it ranged from someone using it as a safe to stash money in to ladies’ underwear that somehow got into the return air duct and blocked the air filter—your guess is as good as mine!
Any way you look at it, the bottom line is that you need to have your eyes and mind open when diagnosing a problem. You need to have the correct solution for your customer to keep them happy, and that will definitely affect your bottom line. I hope all had a good holiday and let’s hope for a good and prosperous 2012.