Discussing heat exchangers

  Whats the worst furnace breakdown you can have? What’s the one repair you don’t want to make? What’s the last thing you want us to tell you is wrong with the furnace? Well I’ll tell you. You do not want to hear us talk about your heat exchanger. They can be cracked, or they can be plugged. But either way it is a serious safety issue inside your home that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

  In its most simplest level a heat exchanger allows the flue gas a place to travel through before it leaves your furnace. It is a sealed airtight chamber that begins at the burners and ends where the flue gas meets the vent. The heat exchanger can be made out of various metals like stainless steel or aluminum. This metal can crack over time. By continually expanding and contracting from operation the cell walls become weak. Imagine taking a paper clip and bending it back a forth in small movements. It will take time but eventually the paperclip will break. Now imagine the furnace has been oversized for the home, another common problem routinely found during furnace inspections, this provides even more stress on the heat exchanger causing premature failure even sooner.

furnace repair regina plumber
furnace repair regina plumber

  Another threat to heat exchangers is lack of proper air flow, likely from a dirty air filter. If more homeowners could remember to regularly change their filter, we could likely eliminate 50% of furnace failures. Lack of air flow causes the furnace (as well as the heat exchanger) to overheat, compromising both. Poor airflow isn’t just from filters though. Undersized ductwork can restrict air flow causing heat build up within the furnace. We came across this exact situation at a new home in north-west Regina. The furnace was fairly new and we discussed options with the homeowner to alter the ductwork allowing more space for the air to fill. 

No matter the reason, once your heat exchanger is damaged you’ve already gone too far.  A cracked heat exchanger now allows carbon monoxide (CO) to exit the heat exchanger and mix in with the air within your ductwork and eventually into your lungs. CO has been deemed the “silent killer” as it’s odourless, tasteless, etc, and with sufficient amounts, can cause individuals to be poisoned. 

Another major problem happens when a heat exchanger becomes plugged. This is usually from the coating on the heat exchanger walls peeling away causing a partial blockage. This leads to incomplete combustion creating carbon buildup inside the furnace progressing to a full blown blockage. Plugged heat exchangers are easier to pick out as there are often tell tale signs of their failure. Tripped flame roll out switches, visible sooting, burnt wires are all signs the heat exchanger is plugged. 

What can I do as a homeowner to prevent my heat exchanger failing too soon?

  As we’ve previously discussed, change you air filter regularly. Best advice is to buy yourself 3 or 4 replacement filters, so you have them on site and ready to go. Next set up timers on your phone at the appropriate intervals to remind you to replace your filter. Perfect way to never forget. Also remember to keep your heat register vents open as well. We want to allow the air to flow as freely as possible. If you do have issues with hot and cold spots in your home that is a separate issue that you should call us about and we can take a look at solutions. Third would be maintenances. I’ve previously discussed the importance of having your furnace maintenance yearly.

Is it worth replacing the heat exchanger? 

Yes….maybe…..I guess it depends. Furnace manufactures often provide long term warranty for heat exchangers. They may also provide additional labour warranty for replacing the heat exchanger. Carrier does this for example. So now your repair covers the heat exchanger (which is the most expensive part in your furnace) as well as a portion, if not all of the labour as well. A situation like this it may be favourable to simply replace the heat exchanger after discussion with your HVAC tech.

In my personal opinion if your 10, 15, 20 years into your furnace, repair is out of the question. The amount of money you may invest into replacing the heat exchanger will likely not pay off over time based off the age of the unit. It’s like you mechanic coming up to you to recommend replacing the engine in your car. Sure you have a brand new engine, but you’re still left with a ’95 Sunfire. Whoopee! What happens next year when your furnace gives out again and you’ve already put X amount of dollars to keep it going this far. This is money that could have been spent on the new unit. Especially now that all major manufactures are providing 10 year parts warranty, (as well as Family Plumbing having options for additional 10 year labour warranty) your money would be better well spent with a new unit. 

In no way are we trying to scare you into thinking that a cracked heat exchanger is a life or death event. We’ll save that for the others. But what I do want to get across is the importance of a working heat exchanger and that every failed heat exchanger DOES need to be repaired. As trained, licensed HVAC contractors we have an obligation both legally and ethically to ensure a damaged heat exchanger is taken care of. By Saskatchewan law if we find a heat exchanger to be cracked, plugged, etc, we are required to “red tag” that furnace. That means we shut off the as to the unit so it fails to operate and we contact the gas inspectors and inform them that an issue needs to be resolved. Gas inspection takes “red tagged” furnaces very seriously and will ensure resolutions are made before they remove restrictions. More importantly though CO is a very serious threat with life altering effects. I couldn’t imagine how it would feel to fail to inform the homeowner of the dangers and find out later they suffered from CO poisoning.

On a brighter note Family Plumbing and Heating would like to thank all of our clients and homeowners that have continued to have us out to their businesses and homes during these crazy times. Everyone within our organization works very hard to keep up the high standard of customer support we expect and we appreciate your business. Saskatchewan has been doing a great job flattening the curve, let’s keep up the good work and hope some of these restrictions can be lifted by sooner than later 

Note: the information provided has primarily been in relation to residential furnaces. The information above can also be applied to commercial units as well as residential boilers, on-demand systems, etc. Feel free to reach out to us animate to discuss this further.

-Brenden

 

*A cracked heat exchanger led to this new install in Regina’s west end.

FamilyPlumbing X Santa’s Anonymous

 Christmas season is in full swing. It’s an understatement to call this the busiest time of year. For Family Plumbing and Heating that statement rings true. We find ourselves either rushing late a night to a boiler that has decided to go dark on it’s homeowner, or putting in long days trying to complete construction projects before the new year. Temperature wise it’s been a pretty mild winter so far, so you won’t see me complaining. With the holidays arriving quickly I’d like to remind everyone again how important it is to have your furnace and boiler maintained to help ensure a warm and safe holiday. Please check out our previous blog entry detailing what makes up one of these maintenances. 

Do you want to talk about furnace inspections?

  Sometimes with all the running around and distractions life throws at us we forget what the holidays are all about. I don’t really want to get all mushy about the subject but it is important to take a moment and remind ourselves how fortunate we are and take some time to help those who are not. This year Family Plumbing and Heating participated in the 50th edition of Santa’s Anonymous, organized by 980 CJME.

santa group 2

Tyler and I took our children to Toys-R-Us and gave them carte blanche to pick out whatever they thought would be enjoyable to open up Christmas morning.These toys are used to help make Christmas morning a little more enjoyable for a child in need. It’s important to us as parents that we teach our children the importance of charity, especially during the holiday season. As well, one of Family Plumbing’s core principals is to ensure we always help out within the community where we can. We’re very appreciative to the community that allows us into their homes and businesses, it wouldn’t be fair if we didn’t give back.

Santa smith:callie

  Anyone else looking to help participate in Santa’s Anonymous can join them for wrap-day Saturday, December 14th. Activities begin at 8am at the Regina Food Bank.

Santa’s Anonymous Wrap-day information

 

Thanks,

Brenden

Family Plumbing: A Jiu Jitsu Story

 Last month Tyler and I competed in the Queen City Open, an annual Brazilian jiu jitsu tournament held in Regina every fall. Humble brag: both Tyler and I were able to walk away with multiple pieces of hardware. Jiu jitsu actually plays an important role in the formation of Family Plumbing and Heating. We get asked a lot if Tyler and I are brothers but we actually met through jiu jitsu.

Best Plumbing Company Regina

   Pretty shocking eh? I understand how one could come to the conclusion we must be brothers but I originally met Tyler on the mats of Complete MMA in 2016. The first time I remember talking to Tyler was at a Saturday open mat session. I believe Tyler at the time was training for an amateur fight while I was training just to try and avoid getting tapped out too many times in a row. We paired off and I remember making some (likely hilarious) joke to try and break the ice rolling with the guy for the first time. Tyler neither laughed or even cracked a smile and I could tell it was about to get serious. The next five minutes went by in a blur as I proceeded to get tossed around for the remainder of the roll. At the time Tyler had just been promoted to blue belt while I was a lowly white belt with about 4 months experience under my belt just trying to get by. I didn’t talk to Tyler again for almost another 2 years. I usually only saw him when we crossed each other on the mat. My beginner class would be wrapping up as his advanced class was beginning. My next convo with Tyler wouldn’t take place until 2017!

Best Plumbing Company Regina

    Fast forward to my first day with Ambassador Mechanical. I was told to meet at the new Superstore building that was going up on Albert Street. Once I arrived I was told to find “Tyler” and we would be working on some items that needed to be corrected. I found “Tyler” and right off the bat felt like I knew this guy from somewhere. (I guess everyone looks different in coveralls and a hard hat.) It took me about 30 minutes to place him but I finally figured it out.

Me: Hey man, I think I know you.

“Tyler”: Yeah man, I think we’ve met before.

My belief was he only said this to make me feel better.

Me: “I think we’ve rolled against each other at Complete.

“Tyler”: Yes! That’s it.

  After that moment I found it pretty sweet at Ambassador, having a work buddy to prattle on about what’s the best open guard and how to defend against leg locks. Soon we ended up going our separate ways work-wise but were able to keep in touch through Complete MMA, eventually forming Family Plumbing and Heating. While operating Family Plumbing with Tyler has been awesome because it’s so easy to run a company where both owner’s share the same values for workmanship and customer care, it also helps that we can motivate each other in training. Speaking for myself, there are definitely some early morning classes I would have hit snooze on the alarm for if wasn’t for the fact Tyler would be waiting with some chirps once the work day began. Both Tyler and I owe a big thank you to Complete MMA and it’s founder and head instructor AJ Scales. Without Complete, Tyler and I may not have ever gotten to know each other as we did, Family Plumbing might only be a dream in the back of our minds, and we would not have a venue to learn and train in the great sport of jiu jitsu.

– Brenden

Do you want to talk about furnace inspections?

When I go to the mechanic, sometimes they motion for me to come take a look under my hood and describe how everything under there is doing. I nod when it appears to be warranted, I ask questions that seem to be relevant. But do I understand what they’re telling me?….of course (but probably not). I do know that I’m SUPPOSED to know, and have these vehicle inspections done regularly. It is very similar to a furnace inspection. I can tell when homeowners have zero interest in what their manifold gas pressure is, even when I break it down to the simplest of terms. But they do know they’re SUPPOSED to have an inspection done. Why have a furnace inspection completed annually? Well, let’s talk about that.

Regina can be very cold…..very, very cold. And in those freezing winter nights the only piece of equipment keeping you and your home from total disaster is the furnace. Heating breakdowns lead to massive discomfort, cause waterlines to crack and explode, as well as a number of other issues. So it should go without saying that your furnace should receive special attention to ensure it’s going to run safely and efficiently throughout the winter. Furnace inspections allow trained technicians a chance to go over the heating system head to toe. The goal is to find, address, and stop problems BEFORE they happen.

Regina Plumber Emergency Furnace Repair Heating

Client – “Do you clean out the ductwork?”

Us- “No, but we can offer you some names of some very good duct cleaning companies.”

Client- “Does it matter the age of my furnace?”

Us- “The sooner the better. For any furnace over 5 years old its a good idea to start having inspections done yearly. The older your unit gets, the more important these inspections become.”

Client- “What time of year should I call to book?”

Us- “Furnace inspections can be done year round. Whenever you’re ready, we’re ready. Our recommendation is let the unit run a couple times once it starts to get chilly in the fall then call us out. This gives us the chance to hopefully catch any issues before the big chill sets in.”

Client- “Do you carry parts on hand to change any parts if need be?”

Us- “No, not really. Due to such a large range of types and brands of furnaces it’s very hard to keep all the proper parts in our vehicles. We also provide an estimate for any parts that will need to be replaced before we proceed with repairs for your convenience.”

Client- “Is this covered under my manufacturer’s warranty?”

Us – “lol”

IMG_6272-4_web

Like I said earlier, we go over the furnace head to toe. We start with inspecting the duct work to make sure there are no major issues with air restriction or air loss and work our way down to the blower motor. Some of the other key inspection points are as follows.

Checking and adjusting gas pressure: This is something that should have been set at the time of installation (but was it really?). Over time maybe this setting has changed. Using too much or too little fuel can cause various issues with the furnace and lead to premature failure. 

Heat exchanger inspection: In terms of safety, this is the big one. Heat exchangers are what the flue gas travels though before it leaves your home through the venting. Over time, they can crack, rust, etc, and allow that flue gas into the duct work. The effects of this are carbon monoxide poisoning. A cracked heat exchanger is the last thing you want to be living with in your home.

Measuring and cleaning flame sensors: Whenever you see your furnace light, go out, light again only to go out again. Likely you have a dirty flame sensor. Trust me when I say it’s much easier to to pay for a furnace inspection which includes cleaning the flame sensor, than to see how much it costs when it needs to be done in the middle of the night on New Year’s eve. 

I could go on about all the different areas of the inspection, but I don’t need to. What’s great about calling out Family Plumbing and Heating for a furnace inspection is that at the end of the inspection we sit down with you and go over everything we documented and can answer all your questions you feel are relevant. (I love it when stories go full circle) 

Feel free to call us anytime to talk further about having your heating system maintained this winter! 306-519-3722.

PS- Everything you just read applies to boilers as well! 

boiler plumbing heating regina

Bad luck and the litter box

  As a homeowner it’s the little things you don’t know exist that can give you the biggest headaches. Sometimes these issues are seemingly invisible, but for techs they stand out like a oversized stop sign. We recently encountered this type of invisible headache and assisted a homeowner with changes to improve the comfort in their home.

  We were called out to a no heat (yes, it’s that time of year again). The homeowner explained that starting last year they’ve been needing to replace their furnace filter monthly (as opposed to every 90 days), and now their furnace had completely stopped working for them! On site diagnosis proved that the high limit switch was tripping, shutting down the furnace. This switch measures the temperature of air leaving the furnace and will shut down the unit if it senses the temperature rising too high for safety concerns. Over time if the high limit is tripping often, each time it will open at a lower and lower temp until even normal operating temperatures shut the furnace down. When a furnace is not working due to over heating there is almost always a more major problem as to why the furnace cannot distribute the heat fast enough.

  As a tech, this is when we team up with the homeowner. We put our HVAC knowledge together with the knowledge they possess about their home’s operation. At this point we found out about the constant filter changes. Plugged filters reduce the return airflow, easily causing a build up of hot supply air. So we look for what is causing the filters to get so damn dirty…..And then we found it.

Several small holes had been drilled into the return elbow, likely a DIY repair to increase the amount of return air needed. Sitting directly beside those holes was the cat’s litter box. Everything made sense now, the blower fan bringing in return air was also bringing in particles from the litter box that was eventually clogging the filter. The homeowner had no idea, for them this was an out of the way spot where their cat could splat in private. With the new information we provided they were able to find a new spot for the litter box that wouldn’t affect their home comfort as well as solve their need for excessive filter changes. Following up with he homeowner everything was back working again, besides the cat being pretty miffed about the change.

    Moving into the Fall and Winter it’s always a good decision to have your furnace maintenance/inspected no matter its age (even the new ones can have problems). A maintenance will provide you a baseline for how your heating system is likely to operate during the incoming cold months and help prevent breakdowns BEFROE they happen. We can get your HVAC system working to peak efficiency and provide a heads up for any issues that may be coming your way. 

   Feel free to call us @ 306-519-3722 to further discuss having a maintenance completed.

Thanks,

  Brenden