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Proudly Serving the Puget Sound Area Since 1977

Fall 2014

Important Safety Tips for a Gas Furnace

Natural gas furnaces in homes have an exaggerated reputation as dangerous appliances. Perhaps many decades ago there was some cause for worry; but the manufacturers of modern gas furnaces design them with safety uppermost in mind. With the proper care and a bit of caution, you shouldn’t need to worry about hazard from leaks or fire with the gas furnace that keeps your home warm.

Here are a few tips to help you maintain a safe furnace. If you ever have any doubts about your furnace’s operation or concerns that it become unsafe, call for professional heating technicians. You should never attempt repairs on a gas furnace on your own—let the people with years of training handle the work!

Safety tips to keep in mind

  • Know where the gas shut–off valve is located: In case of emergencies or any situation where you feel the furnace could be turning hazardous, you must know where you can shut off the gas to the furnace. Close off the flow of gas before you call for repair technicians.
  • Listen for clicking sounds from the cabinet: Some clicking noises from a furnace are common when it first comes to life. However, if you hear a clicking sound right before the blower fan comes on, it could indicate that there are cracks along the heat exchanger. This is a potentially dangerous scenario, since the heat exchanger will start to leak carbon monoxide exhaust. Call for repair technicians to investigate and see if the heat exchanger should be replaced.
  • Make sure children know not the play around the furnace: The surface of a furnace will become hot when it is working. If you have children in your home, make certain they are aware of this and reduce the chance of one of them becoming injured.
  • Replace a rusting furnace: Under most conditions, a furnace will not develop corrosion. However, when a furnace ages to the point where it is no longer venting correctly, the reaction of metal with the combustion gas will trigger rust. When you see signs of this, the furnace should be replaced with a new unit for the sake of safety.
  • Schedule annual maintenance: This is the most important step to take to keep a furnace in safe condition. Every year, usually during the fall, arrange to have a HVAC technician from a reliable company inspect the furnace and make tune–ups and adjustments. The maintenance technician will detect any places where there are malfunctions or the potential for malfunctions and help you schedule any repair necessary to see that the system works safely for the coming cold season. If your furnace becomes too aged to work adequately, you should consider replacing it before it can become a potential risk.

If you follow these guidelines and listen to the advice from your professional heating technician, there is no reason you shouldn’t enjoy a long and worry–free service life from your furnace.

 

How GFCI Outlets Protect the People in Your Home

A GFCI outlet is easy to visually identify: it looks like a standard two–plug outlet, except with a pair of buttons between the set of slots. The buttons are usually marked "reset" and "test." GFCI outlets are now standard installations for new buildings, and they perform an important safety function.

GFCI stands for "ground fault circuit interrupter," and the outlets work in a fashion is similar to a fuse or circuit breaker. However, a GFCI outlet serves a much different purpose. Fuses and circuit breakers are designed to protect a home’s electrical system from damage in case of an increase in voltage such as a power surge. A GFCI outlet is designed to protect people in the home from receiving electrical shocks from the outlet or a device hooked up to it.

How a GFCI outlet works

If you look at an outlet, you’ll see that the two slots for the prongs from a plug are different sizes. The larger left side slot is "neutral," and the smaller right side is "hot." When an appliance is plugged into the outlet, electricity flows from the hot side, through the appliance, and then to the neutral side. What a GFCI outlet does is monitor the amount of current that moves from one side to the other. Should a difference as small as 4 or 5 milliamps occur, the outlet trips an internal circuit that quickly shuts off the power. The reaction time is around a thirtieth of a second.

Why is this important? The reason is that a fluctuation in the difference between the hot and neutral sides indicates that electricity is flowing into something other than the appliance in order to reach the ground—and that something is probably a person. The outlet cuts the power before any more electricity can cause further damage. The delay time is brief enough that a person will still feel a slight shock but shouldn’t suffer serious injury. The outlet will also stop the flow of power in situations where an electrical cord breaks and electricity threatens to start a fire. After the circuit has been tripped, the outlet’s power can be restored by hitting the "reset" button.

If your home does not have GFCI outlets installed, you should contact a professional electrician to perform the service. You already have a fuse box or circuit breaker panel to protect your home’s electrical system from damage; now see that you have GFCI outlets to protect you and your loved ones from damage as well.

 

Reasons to Invest in a Generator This Fall

The majority of your home’s critical appliances probably run on electricity. Obviously, your lights are a huge part of your home’s comfort and if you have an electric water heater or furnace then you rely on electricity even more. If any winter storms knock out power in your area, then your home’s comfort and safety can be threatened. Protecting your home with a whole–home generator is a great way to get peace of mind no matter what. Check out a few reasons why you may want to think about investing in a generator for this fall.

Probably the most important reason to get a generator for your home is that it lets you run your electric appliances even when the power goes out. Depending on the type of generator that you get, it can automatically detect when the power has gone out and start up so that you don’t have to go out in the bad weather to start up the generator manually. In order to install this type of generator, you need the help of a professional electrician who knows how to connect it to your home properly.

While the power goes out in winter more often than other times of the year, the electrical grid may fail you at any time. For example, you may experience brown outs during the summer when many people are running their air conditioning systems and the grid can’t keep up with the demand. In these cases, you could be able to reduce the load on the grid by running your generator, ensuring that everyone gets the electricity that they need.

The most common type of generator is the gas–powered type. These use gasoline to power a motor that creates electricity. There are also natural gas powered generators as well. Because these types of generators use the near–endless supply of natural gas from your utility they can run for a very long time without needing to be refueled. However, in the event of a severe storm, you may not have access to natural gas, which could pose a problem.

Make sure that you call your local generator installation expert for any generator questions that you might have.