Today’s heating and cooling systems are reliable and require little maintenance. Most heating systems are forced air systems that heat the air and distribute it throughout a home with a furnace and a ducting system.
In some cases, a hydronic heating system is used. With this system, water is heated and circulated to either a radiator placed in forced-air ducting to radiators located on walls or through water piping placed in or under the floors. Cooling systems work like a refrigerator. Cold liquid is circulated through pipes. The pipes become cool and air is blown across them. This air also becomes cool and is then distributed through your home, usually through the same ducting that supplies heat.
Why does my heating or cooling system feel inadequate?
When the heating/cooling system of your home was selected, the rated capacity was checked to ensure your home could be heated or cooled to a comfortable temperature. This calculation takes the climatic conditions of your region into account. It’s rare that a system is not sized correctly for a home. An obstruction in the vent or an imbalance of the heat flow from the heat registers throughout your home are more common causes of inadequate heating or cooling.
To check for obstructions, remove the floor register and look down the throat of the duct with a flashlight. Remove anything that may obstruct air flow. Caution: Sheet metal screws can protrude from the joints in the ductwork. Use gloves when reaching into the duct.
Each heat register in your home has a damper. If an area of your home is too cool or too warm, you can adjust the dampers to reduce or increase airflow into the area. This is known as balancing your system and is especially important for registers located near your home’s thermostat.
A dirty or plugged air filter can also limit air flow from the furnace to the ducts. Inspect and clean or replace the furnace air filter at the beginning of the heating season and on a regular basis throughout the winter.
Dirt or debris on the heat exchanger for the cooling unit can also limit the efficiency of a cooling system. The manual for your cooling system will provide cleaning instructions.
How can I stop my ceiling-mounted fan from vibrating and can I make it operate more quietly?
- Ensure the blades have not come loose from the body of the fan. If they are loose, tighten the connection between the blades and the fan body
- Ensure the blades are not bent or cracked. If a blade is damaged, contact the manufacturer for a replacement
- Remove any debris (e.g. dust) from the fan. Debris on the blades can cause the fan to become unbalanced over time
- Ensure the fan is securely anchored to eliminate wobbles and vibration. The screws that secure the ceiling fan box to the ceiling must be snug. To tighten these screws, you may have to remove the trim around the electrical box. Caution: Ensure the electrical breaker that supplies power to the fan is turned off before the trim is removed.
Why does it feel like the temperature is different from one room to the next?
Uniformly heating or cooling a home throughout the year is a challenge because of the great variation in day, night and seasonal temperatures. The balance of heat in a home can also be affected by the number or size of windows in a room, the amount of sunlight that comes through the windows and the number of exterior walls in a room. For example, rooms situated over unheated areas such as a garage or an exterior cantilever are often cooler.
In most cases, a central furnace heats the home with a shared set of ductwork and relies on one thermostat, centrally located in the home, to sense when heat is needed. This general heating method may provide too much heat or not enough heat for a room. Windows and services (e.g. light switches) create openings through the walls and ceiling, providing paths for air movement between the interior and exterior of the home. Drapes and furnishings can also influence the heat balance in a room.
What should I do if my condensate line is blocked?
Some furnaces have the air conditioning coil placed in the same cabinet as the furnace. When an air conditioning unit is on, water present in the air condenses on the coils and runs off. This water is collected and sent to a floor drain near the unit through a metal or plastic drain line. Dirt, dust and the occasional ice crystal can plug this drain line. Inspect and clean the drain on a regular basis.
How do I maintain my weatherstripping?
Weatherstripping provides a flexible seal around doors, windows and other openings to block unwanted air from moving in or out of your home. Doors also have weatherstripping along their top and sides and a ‘sweep’ along the bottom edge. Sweeps can be adjusted to narrow the clearances and eliminate drafts from the bottoms of doors. Weatherstripping should not be painted.
Drafts emanating from electrical boxes on exterior walls can be reduced by placing a piece of foam under the switch or outlet cover. Caulk and expanding foams can reduce drafts around pipes and flues.
What can I do to stop air from coming in around windows and exterior doors?
Weatherstripping will eventually break down and should be checked each fall and replaced if necessary.
Before the onset of cold weather, it’s a good idea to make sure windows that open are functioning well (can close tightly). Debris in a window track for example, can prevent a window from fully closing, causing a significant source of air leakage.
Windows that are properly fitted, glazed and sealed will still lose heat. A double-glazed window typically has only 10 per cent of the R-value (insulation value) of the same size section of an insulated wall.
Air leakage, under average wind/weather conditions, and when windows/doors are properly closed, is rarely the source of a draft. A more likely cause of a draft at a window or door is air movement along and across the interior face of the window or door.
When warm air from the room comes in contact with the cooler surface of a window, the air cools, becomes denser and moves down towards the bottom of the window. More warm air moves into the void left by the cooling air and the cycle repeats. This downward movement of air is often mistaken for air leakage. To prevent this cycle, warm the surface of the window by ensuring a heat duct is located underneath it. Do not block or divert heat from these heat registers.
Ventilation in the home serves three purposes. The first purpose is to ensure fresh air enters the home. The second purpose is to remove odours, excess humidity and pollutants from the air in the home. The third purpose is to balance air being exhausted out of the home by drawing an equal amount of clean air into the home. This balance ensures moisture generated in the home is not forced into the walls or that gases moving out of exhaust vents or chimneys are not pulled back into the home. Attic ventilation is separate from home ventilation.
Windows are the simplest ventilation system in a home. For example, windows near a source of moisture, such as a bathroom, can open to vent out excess moisture and odours. This, however, does not work well in the winter as windows tend to ice over. With a forced-air heating system (furnace with ducting), fresh air is brought into the home from an intake vent (located near the ground at one side of the home) every time the furnace fan runs.
Kitchen and bath fans draw humidity and odours from cooking and bathing out of the home before the vapour can circulate. In some cases, the furnace fan and one or more of the exhaust fans are interconnected. This is an attempt to balance air coming into the home with air being exhausted out of the home. Remember, exhaust fans are only effective when they are switched on.
Exhaust fans, and exhaust fan ventilation systems for the furnace, require little maintenance. To keep your ventilation systems operating efficiently, clean or replace filters as necessary and keep outdoor intake vents clear of obstructions.
Some new homes have whole-home balanced ventilation systems to ensure a balanced intake and exhaust of air, airborne pollutants and moisture. These are usually box-like units which contain filters, a heat exchanger, a motor and supply and exhaust ducting. Balanced ventilation systems warm incoming air with some of the heat that would otherwise be lost to exhaust air, increasing a home’s efficiency.
Kitchen range hoods are an important part of your home’s ventilation system. They remove odours and improve indoor air quality. Cooking also generates significant airborne moisture which can cause window condensation and mould. A range hood helps draw this moisture out of the home.
Filters in the throat of the hood must be kept clean to keep your fan running efficiently and quietly. Some range hood fans are interconnected with the operation of the furnace fan. To ensure this feature continues to work, you must keep the sensor located in the throat of the hood clean. Maintenance or replacement of filters should be in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. Most kitchen exhaust fans have sealed bearings and do not require lubrication.
How do I maintain my kitchen/bath fans and can I stop cold air infiltration from these vents?
Ventilation fans are indirectly open to outside air. They contain a damper to limit the back-flow of cold air. The damper is balanced to allow exhaust air to escape freely and fall back to a closed position when the fan is turned off. By design, they are not completely effective at eliminating cold air infiltration. During gusty winds, the damper may flutter as it adjusts to fluctuating air pressure. This is normal.
Exhaust fans will accumulate dust and airborne debris over time that can impair fan efficiency, obstruct the damper and create excess noise. The fan is connected to ductwork that ends with a screen at an outside vent hood. Clean the fan housing and the screen of the hood vent regularly.
Due to our dry winter weather, we use humidifiers to maintain our health and the appearance of hardwood floors. Most homes have a drum-type or drip-type humidifier mounted on the side of the furnace. It usually has an automatic water feed from a small line connected to a nearby water line.
Over time, the repeated evaporation of water will leave mineral deposits in the humidifier. Dust circulating through the furnace will also deposit in the humidifier. This debris can create a breeding ground for various types of mould and bacteria so it’s important to clean the humidifier on a monthly basis. A number of anti-scale products can simplify the cleaning process. If the unit has a float valve, make sure it opens and shuts down the flow of water to maintain the desired water level (unit will have a water line indicator).
During the spring and fall, relative humidity levels can be set around 40 per cent but should be adjusted to 20 per cent during the coldest winter days. If ice or excessive condensation appears on your windows, reduce the humidity even more.