Seasonal advice: Time to beat the frost

By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff
Posted Sept. 02, 2009, at 10:16 p.m.

HAMPDEN, Maine — Dan, Dan the Burner Man, who has been cleaning furnaces for 20 years, says now is the time to get home heating systems cleaned — before they are needed to provide warmth.

Dan Quillia, a Winterport oil burner technician, was at a Sophie Road house in Hampden on Wednesday morning, cleaning the home’s heating system. After he finished that job, he picked up his tools and headed to another home to clean another heating unit.

“It takes about an hour and a half to two hours to clean a furnace properly,” he said. “I check the nozzle, the burner gasket, the pump gasket and oil filter. I clean out gaskets and vacuum out the inside of the heater exchange and do an internal inspection of the heating unit.”

Each year when the weather starts to turn cold in Maine, customers begin to think about heating their homes, Quillia said. The key is to get a cleaning before the heater needs to be turned on, he said.

“I can’t come clean your furnace if there are nine people without heat,” he said. “And if I have to order parts, it’s best to do that when the unit isn’t needed.”

Quillia isn’t the only one getting calls for cleanings and inspections.

Jim Brown, owner of Brown’s Cash Fuel of Stetson, said his business has done 14 cleanings just this week. Both Mike Shea, president and CEO of Webber Energy, and Peter Neumayer, service manager for Mechanical Services of Hermon, said their businesses have been doing cleanings and tune-ups all summer long.

“This is the safest time to do it,” Brown said. “The biggest reason to get a [heating unit] cleaning is because you don’t want it to break down when it’s cold out. If you wait and it breaks down [during the winter], it becomes an emergency situation and it ends up costing you a lot more money.”

Safety is the top reason for getting an annual cleaning and inspection, but saving money is another big factor, Shea said.

“There is a minimum of a 5 percent to 10 percent reduction in consumption if you’re tuned,” he said. “It’s significant. It has a huge cost benefit.”

Cleanings “are really an essential part in trying to conserve fuel and save money,” Shea said. Webber does thousands of cleanings each year.

“It’s something all our service contract customers get annually,” he said. “Because of the number of service contracts, we usually begin sending out service [reminder] notifications in March.”

Mechanical Services considers an annual cleaning and inspection to be preventive maintenance, Neumayer said.

“The benefit is removing of the soot,” and making sure everything is working correctly, he said.

Even a small amount of soot can cut efficiency significantly, he said, because it acts like an insulator and blocks the water from being heated by the flame.

Soot can also plug up systems, which makes them run for longer periods and can lead to severe safety problems, such as carbon monoxide buildup and fires.

One area oil furnace cleaned by Brown’s this week was deemed dangerous, Brown said.

“The thing had run so hot it had melted [part of] the furnace,” he said. “She had exposed flames,” which could have burned down the home if left uncorrected.

Besides checking the safety of the heating unit, having annual cleaning also helps prolong the life of the heating system, said Quillia, who said he specializes in motor home furnaces. With cleaning costs starting at around $75, the investment is well worth the expense, he said.

“It pays to service your furnace, it really does,” Quillia said. “The benefits are to make your furnace run properly and safely and to make it run more efficiently,” which saves money.

nricker@bangordailynews.net

990-8190

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/09/02/news/bangor/seasonal-advice-time-to-beat-the-frost/ printed on September 17, 2014