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With the holidays coming up, people are planning their winter vacations. As part of your vacation planning, make sure you take precautions to protect your home and heating system. You'll not only protect your home, but also save energy. Here are some things to consider.

Thermostat

Set your thermostat at about 50 degrees to keep your appliances and pipes from freezing. If you have a programmable thermostat that adjusts by date, set the temperature back to normal for the day you expect to return home.

Water Heater

Turn off the circuit breaker to your water heater. If you have a gas heater, turn off the gas valve. When you return home, run your hot water tap before you turn on the power and gas to ensure that your water tank is full. Turning on your water heater while the water tank is empty can damage the unit.

To keep water from freezing in the lines and tank, set the water heater at the lowest possible temperature--the vacation setting.

Electronics

Unplug every unnecessary appliance and electronic device. That means the televisions, lamps, entertainment center, electric razors, coffee makers and phone chargers. These are energy vampires that drain energy even when you're not using them.

Automatic Light Devices

Use timers to have one or two lights go on at specific times. You might also want a radio to go on. Vary the times to deter burglars who might assume that your home isn't occupied.

Refrigerator

You could empty your refrigerator, keep the door open, and place a box of baking soda inside. Alternatively, you could set the temperature at 42 degrees and your freezer at 5 degrees.

Other things you should do include:

  • Secure sliding glass.
  • Ask a to friend look in occasionally.
  • Lock up.
  • Move valuables away from windows where burglars can spot them.

For more information about protecting your home and heating system while on you're on vacation, contact Gilman Heating and Cooling. For nearly 100 hundred years, we've proudly served the residents of Ashland, Chesterfield, Glen Allen, Hanover, Henrico and Richmond.

Purchasing a high efficiency furnace is a good way for homeowners to be more environmentally friendly and save a lot of money on heating bills. Unfortunately, you can wind up disappointed with your choice if your home isn't properly sealed and insulated. Even the most efficient system on the market can't entirely overcome those deficiencies. To make sure you're getting the most from your high efficiency furnace, take steps to make your home as weathertight as possible. The first step might be scheduling a home energy audit with a professional inspector.  The auditor will come to your home, inspect all rooms, the crawl space--or basement--and attic and will use special methods and tools, like a blower door test or a thermographic camera, to find the spots in the house where insulation is missing or drafts are coming in. Once you know where the problem areas are, you can begin to make the repairs that will help your furnace optimize its efficiency. An essential factor in keeping a house heated is insulation. Check out the insulation aisle at your home-improvement store, and you'll find that you have quite a few options. Your home energy auditor or heating and cooling specialist can help you decide on the best option for your home. Once you get your bearings, put insulating the attic at the top of your to-do list. This is where your home can lose quite a bit of heated air and where heat can radiate in during the summer. It is also essential to make sure your home is sealed. One small leak can make a big difference in how hard your furnace has to work.  Most people realize that there are often gaps around doors and windows, but they may not realize that cold air can also come in through electrical outlets, exhaust vents and baseboards. Use caulk and weatherstripping to seal any trouble spots. For more information or a consultation to make sure your high efficiency furnace is achieving its potential, contact Gilman Heating & Cooling. We serve homeowners throughout the Richmond area.

As cooler weather settles in, and nights get nippy, many Richmond-area homeowners are beginning to think about getting the furnace cranked up for the season. But what if the furnace won't start? Those first few chilly nights of the season are a common time for furnace problems, especially if pre-season maintenance hasn't been done. If your furnace was working well when you last used it, chances are good that it's something simple. Here are a few common issues to look into before you call for repairs.

  • Check your thermostat: Make sure that the thermostat is set on "heat," and the setting is several degrees above the temperature in the home. If your thermostat is digital, a flashing error message or a blank screen is an obvious sign of trouble.
  • Check the power supply to the furnace: When a gas furnace won't start, the problem is quite often an electrical one. Make sure that the unit's main cut-off switch, or SSU switch, which is typically on a wall near the furnace, is in the “on” position. Then check your circuit breakers to see if any have been tripped, cutting power to the furnace.
  • Check the pilot: In an older system equipped with one, the standing pilot light is often the reason a gas furnace won't start. To check, open the combustion chamber access door. If the pilot is lit, you'll see its small flame. If not, turn off the pilot light's gas valve, and allow a few minutes for any standing gas to clear. Then follow the directions you'll find on or near the pilot assembly to relight the flame. If it won't light or stay lit, call your HVAC technician.

If your furnace won't start, and you've done all the simple things, it's time for some professional help. If you're in the Richmond, Ashland, Henrico, Chesterfield, Hanover or Glen Allen area, contact Gilman Heating & Cooling. We've been serving the home comfort needs of customers in our area since 1917.

It's a natural question for a homeowner: How long will a furnace last? With proper maintenance and annual cleaning, a furnace can provide 13 to 20 years of useful life with its original equipment. Of course, you want your furnace to last as long as possible, and you can do that by following some of these tips.

  • Get that annual cleaning and inspection: A decade of yearly tune-ups, inspections and cleanings can add years to your furnace. A trained HVAC service person can spot a little problem and keep it from getting larger. Check and change the air filter regularly, but otherwise let your qualified furnace technician do the heavy lifting when it comes to maintenance. You might pride yourself on your DIY abilities, but a furnace is a complicated piece of equipment.
  • Replace the part, not the whole: If you're diligent about your routine maintenance, you can keep breakdowns infrequent, and when you do have a problem, you can replace the part instead of the whole system.There will come a time, however, when your furnace is well past its parts cycle. Manufacturers may have moved on to newer models and something on your furnace can’t be replaced. Further, when your repair costs begin to mount, it's time to start looking for a replacement.
  • Lighten the load: Keeping ductwork properly insulated, sealing your home's air leaks and regularly replacing the filter will reduce the work your furnace has to do. Installing a programmable thermostat can also ease your system's workload.
  • Choose wisely: Treat your system kindly, but recognize when it's time to consider a replacement. Your furnace may be so inefficient, replacing it with a furnace that meets Energy Star program criteria will save you energy and money in the long run.

How long will a furnace last? For more help answering that, contact Gilman Heating & Cooling. We work with homeowners throughout the Richmond area.

The shorter days and chilly air mean that winter's about to arrive in the Richmond area. Now is the right time to start thinking about how to save money on your heating bill. It's easy to accomplish with a few helpful tips.

  • Call your HVAC contractor and schedule a precision furnace tune-up. This comprehensive checkup can improve its efficiency, and help you save money on your heating bill. The semi-annual maintenance includes cleaning or replacing the filter, but you should check it every month during the winter. If a furnace upgrade is recommended, opt for the most affordable model with the highest AFUE rating.
  • While your technician is there, ask about having a programmable thermostat installed. You could save as much as 30 percent on your heating bill by learning how to program it, and then setting it for a 10-degree temperature drop while you're sleeping, and whenever there's no one home.
  • Seal up leaks to conserve the air you're heating. Weatherstrip exterior doors, re-caulk and cover your windows with plastic film and install a chimney balloon. Don't forget to check the basement, garage and attic for any spots where cold air from these unheated areas can infiltrate your living space.
  • While you're in the attic, check your insulation situation. You should have 7 inches of an R-38 insulation (that's a minimum) to keep warm air from escaping through the roof.
  • Don't leave the basement without checking for leaks in any exposed ductwork. Make sure your furnace blower is running, and hold a lit candle up to the visible ductwork joints. If you find leaks, seal them with mastic tape.
  • Optimize your heat circulation. Set all your ceiling fans on reverse, and turn them on 'low' to push the warm air back down as it rises. If your home has two stories, let the rising heat help warm the rooms on the upper floor.

For more advice about saving money on your heating bill, contact us at Gilman Heating &;Cooling.