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Winter Maintenance: Filters and Ductwork, Oh My!

Feb 23, 2018 11:56AM ● By Linda Ditch
Has your heating system been getting a workout? Your wallet probably has too. You can increase the efficiency and lifespan of your system by keeping an eye on two key elements—the ductwork and the filter. Regular maintenance on each will ensure that your home is getting the most heat for the smallest financial outlay.

Ductwork, those galvanized metal channels that actually spread the heat from the furnace throughout your home, can be a major source of heating inefficiency. About 10 to 20 percent of heat is lost through the ductwork into unheated spaces. To prevent this, start by sealing the seams in the ductwork with foil tape. Do not use duct tape. Though the name implies otherwise, regular duct tape does not stick well to galvanized metal. Foil tape is best.

Next, insulate the ducts that are near areas such as the attic, basement, crawlspace, and garage. Then the warm air that passes through the ductwork will not escape into the surrounding air.

Maybe you have radiators instead of a forced-air ductwork system. Did you bleed each radiator at the start of the season? If you didn’t, they are probably making a lot of clanging, thumping noises. Just grab a bucket and open up the valve on each radiator one at a time. Once water is coming out and not air, you should be good to go.

If you have a steam radiator system, make sure the air vents on the side of the radiator are open. These often get painted over through the years. A wire or sewing needle should do the trick. 

The other element important to your system’s energy performance is the filter. If it clogs up, the heating unit won’t work properly. In addition, it will have to work harder and use more energy. Keeping the filter clean increases the efficiency of the system.

There are a number of different filters on the market. The fiberglass variety is the least expensive. These are designed to meet the minimum requirements to protect your system and filter out only about 3 percent of airborne particles. These filters should be changed once a month.

Pleated filters are more efficient at cleaning indoor air. Some are electrostatically charged to trap not only dust but also common allergens. Change this type of filter approximately every 90 days.

Washable permanent filters last for about five years. They should be washed and rinsed every month.

Add regular filter changes to your calendar during the heating season and check your system’s owner’s manual on how to change the filter and for the correct filter size. Oh, and be sure you check the air flow direction arrow on the filter’s side since they are designed to allow air movement in only one direction. And if you have pets, you will need to change your filter more often.

Of course, when in doubt, call a pro, such as Cota and Cota Oil in White River Junction, ARC Mechanical Contractors in West Lebanon, J & B Plumbing and Heating in Etna, or Excel Plumbing and Heating in Woodstock.

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