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Frequently Asked Questions

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Published
July 10, 2009
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Some rooms get too hot, while others are too cold. What can I do?

There is an air-balancing problem with this system. Ideally, we set up the system so that when the thermostat senses the desired temperature and shuts off; all the rooms are more or less the same temperature.Unfortunately, this isn't possible under all conditions.

As the sun moves across the sky, it shifts the heating load from one part of the house to another. So, a particular room that is colder in the morning may be much warmer in the afternoon as the sun beats down on the ceiling and windows.

Most homes don't have automatic damper systems. The duct system is often setup for an average heat loss(for heating operation) and an average heat gain (for cooling operation). Suspect an air-balancing problem if a particular room is always cold in the winter and always warm in the summer (if the system provides cooling as well).

Air balancing involves opening and closing the volume dampers to adjust the percentage of air flowing to each room or area in the structure. Volume dampers should be at each takeoff along the main trunk line of the air distribution system.

By opening a volume damper, a larger percentage of air will flow to that area, but it will also cause other areas to get less air because the additional air has to come from some place.

Air balancing is a very delicate and time-consuming process.


I am going to have my walls patched, sanded and painted. Do I have to do anything special to my hot/warm-air heating system?

Patchingand sanding walls is a dusty and dirty job and you want to get thisdone with minimal disruption to your home's mechanical system. Here'show:

  • Pick a relatively warm day to have this work done.
  • Turn off the heating appliance at the switch located on the side of the unit.
  • Cover the supply and return grills with plastic and tape it in place.
  • Have a professional remove the thermostat from the wall, and then have him put it back once the job is done.

Allowingthe system to operate while this work is going on will create anabsolute mess in your home that will continue to haunt you afterwards.Sanding creates fine powder that will pass through many air filters.This will coat your heating system and ductwork, and long after thecontractor has left, you will be reminded of his presence as the dustsettles onto your furniture.


I am going away on vacation. Do I have to do anything special to my hot/warm-air heating system?

If there is no danger of having pipes freeze, or the temperature of the home dropping too low, go ahead and turn the system off.

Ifthere is the chance of freezing temperatures while you are away, leavethe system on, but set the thermostat to a temperature that is lowenough to prevent the system from operating all the time, and highenough to prevent damage to the mechanical systems.


While playing in the basement, my son knocked the front cover off the furnace. Now the heat doesn’t work. What's the problem?

Thefirst problem is that your children shouldn't be playing near theheating system. There are very sharp edges on most heating appliances,and these can cause injuries. Some of the pipes and ducts connected tothe appliance will be very hot and can cause severe burns. And thereare often lines that carry fossil fuels such as gas and oil to theappliance. Tripping over, or stepping on these lines, can break them,resulting in the release of gas or oil. So, no horseplay around heatingappliances.

The cause of the system not working in this caseis probably the way the door is hanging. Most furnaces have safetyswitches on the door that disable the appliance if the door isn'tproperly secured. Check that and it should start for you.


I have strange smells coming from the air ducts. What could be the problem?

Often, strange smells from the air ducts originatein the basement. If the ductwork is not properly sealed, the blowerwill pull air into the appliance from the surrounding space. If thereis a litter box near the furnace, for instance, the odor from the boxmight enter the ducts along with the air. The air will be heated (orcooled) and then distributed to the entire structure.
The air distribution system takes air from theoccupied space, heats or cools it, and then returns it to the space. Aslong as the duct system is tight, and properly sealed, there should beno infiltration of odors from the surrounding air (from either thebasement or the attic).
A heat exchanger separates the air flowing to andfrom the building from the gases produced during the combustionprocess. If the heat exchanger is in good shape, the byproducts ofcombustion should not intermingle with the air from the space. If thereis damage to the heat exchanger, the fumes from the combustion processcan seep into the air in the space. If you suspect this, call aprofessional immediately to inspect the system and the integrity of theheat exchanger.

There is a smell of oil coming from the furnace. What should I do?

A smell of oil coming from the furnace is anindication that there is an oil leak or that there is unburned fuelremaining in the combustion chamber. If you smell oil, call aprofessional to find the cause and fix the problem. An oil leak couldbe the result of a cracked oil line, a loose or damaged flare fittingor oil filter, or a mechanical problem with the system. A very slightoil odor without any noticeable oil traces on the floor or on theequipment could simply be the normal “fragrance” of the system.

There is a smell of gas coming from the furnace. What should I do?

Turn off the appliance (if you are already next toit), and leave the structure immediately. Call the Fire Department andlet the experts locate and fix the problem. Do not call the FireDepartment from inside your home. Go to a neighbor’s house or call fromyour cell phone from outside.