All Weather Heating ensures warm, safe home in cold season

Scott Leibowitz of Snoqualmie-based All Weather Heating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration helps homeowners keep their furnaces safe, clean and efficient. - Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record
Scott Leibowitz of Snoqualmie-based All Weather Heating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration helps homeowners keep their furnaces safe, clean and efficient.
— image credit: Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record

You count on your furnace to keep your home warm and comfortable in winter.

Scott Leibowitz, owner of All Weather Heating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration, can be counted on make sure that your furnace is working safely and efficiently.

The transition from fall to winter is the busy season for Leibowitz, who installs, repairs and maintains heating systems. Fall means it is time to check filters, ducts and machinery for wear and tear. Regardless of the age of your home, the furnace can wear out, and that can mean much more serious results than just a higher gas bill.

“On the outside, it might be shiny metal,” Leibowitz said. “But on the inside, it might not be safe to operate.”

Recently, Leibowitz visited an older home where the heating system had stopped working. The homeowner guessed the furnace was a decade old, but it actually been installed 22 years ago. Unbeknownst to the homeowner, a cracked heating exchanger in the model posed a significant safety hazard.

“There was carbon monoxide coming into the home,” Leibowitz said.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless but deadly gas. “It’s something you won’t know about until it’s too late,” Leibowitz said.

The main reason to have your furnace checked yearly by a professional is to look for damaged parts that can cause a carbon monoxide leak.

Without a check, your furnace might pump heat and air, but could pose unknown fire and asphyxiation risks.

Fall maintenance

When autumn arrives, Leibowitz stresses two maintenance priorities: changing filters and making sure all vents are open.

Blocked vents slow down air flow, which can lead to damage to the heat exchanger, more wear on the furnace and possible carbon dioxide leaks.

Yearly filter changes will increase the life of your family’s heating system.

“The homeowner has complete control of the longevity” of a furnace, Leibowitz said. “If you’re not changing filters, you can kill it in six years or less.

“The heating system needs to breathe,” he said.

Ductwork in the un-heated areas of the home should be inspected. If insulation is moving in the wind or you feel air moving, you have leaks to fix.

In the home, the best way to save energy dollars is by programming your furnace to heat the home when you need it and run lower during the day. Turning a furnace on and off is not efficient: it takes more power to reheat a cold house than to keep the temperature steady.

Windows and doors should have a good seal. During the day, open blinds on the south side of the home to harness the power of the sun. Blinds should be closed at night to retain heat. Some blinds have an insulating value that pays for itself in energy savings.

It’s important to have the proper expertise when inspecting and maintaining furnaces. Leibowitz said a well-meaning handyman or homeowner poking around inside may inadvertently cause more problems than they solve.

“You’re dealing with electricity, natural gas and a controlled fire,” he said. “You want a licensed professional.”

Flammable liquids should never be stored near a furnace or water heater. If the room heats up, vapor could leak out of gas tanks or paint thinner cans. If that vapor gets too close to an open flame, it may ignite.

Some furnaces are so efficient that practically the only byproduct they put out is lukewarm, damp air, which causes condensation. If installed improperly, that water can freeze on cold days, creating a troublesome back-up.

Along with furnaces, Leibowitz can install add-ons that increase the comfort of a home. UV scrubbers kill germs and other living organisms in the air, cutting down on sickness, allergies and sneezes. Air cleaners can also dramatically eliminate the amount of dust in a home—and the amount of time spent cleaning.

Future changes

A lobbyist for the HVAC industry who has been standing up for the rights of consumers in Olympia for more than three years, Leibowitz pushes for smart efficiencies.

“People are consuming more and more power,” he said. “The government has come to realize how inefficient we are.”

Leibowitz takes aim at new rules on ducting and infrastructure that, he believes, may hurt the building industry and push budget-conscious homeowners to buy less efficient furnaces.

However, he is a supporter of a recent stimulus that reimburses homeowners who buy top-efficiency furnaces.

Such equipment is not only better for environment and the energy grid, it saves homeowners the additional cost in the first year of operation.

“This has been a tremendous tool that has worked well,” said Leibowitz. The stimulus expires on December 31, 2010.

“If people are even contemplating replacing their equipment, they need to do it before the end of the year,” he said. “It’s a no-brainer. You’re saving energy, getting new equipment, and more importantly, somebody else is paying the bill.”

• All Weather Heating is locally owned and operated, and is a primary sponsor of the Festival at Mount Si and Snoqualmie Railroad Days.

How to prepare for winter

• Have a professional HVAC contractor tune up and confirm the system is safe to operate on an annual basis. Confirm the system is working at its highest level of efficiency.

• Clean and or replace the heating system air filters. The air filters need to be replaced or cleaned at least every 90 days.

• Clean the return air grills to prevent a reduction in air flow to the heating system. Do not close more than 10% of the air vents or block the air flow to the vents.

Energy saving tips:

• Set your thermostat to 68 degrees when you are home. Lower the temperature when you are not home, on vacation or asleep.

• Keep draperies open on south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight to warm your home. Close the drapes at night and on very cold days to keep the heat in.

• Replace or install window coverings that have a high insulating valve.

• Install programmable thermostat to automatically adjust the heating temperature wile you are home, away or asleep.

• Make sure your chimney flue is closed if you are not using the fire place.

• Identify the places that heat is escaping from the home.

• Check and replace if necessary the air filters monthly

• Replace you 80% efficient heating system to 95% efficient system.

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