We are big proponents of preventative maintenance of your heating and cooling equipment. We recommend it to all of our clients because we believe that it really does make your equipment run more efficiently, safely, and reliably. If we can imagine for a minute that your furnace is a car and a Chicago winter is a long, not particularly enjoyable, trip you're about to embark on. If the average speed of that "trip" was 60 miles per hour, you would travel over 140,000 miles and turn off and start your "car" at least 10,000 times - in a single season. (see the end for the math)
Many people never drive a car that far the entire time they own it, and 10,000 starts is probably enough to last most folks 8 or 9 years, but I'm guessing that every single person would have had maintenance performed on their car at least once in that span of time. We change the oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles and might even get a tune-up at 30,000 or 50,000 miles (especially if we buy the car new!). Furnaces? Air Conditioner? Every day we see decade-old units that have never been touched since the day they were installed and unfortunately these wonders of modern technology often face expensive repairs and premature deaths that often could have been avoided.
Get on with it already
Now, I promised pictures and all I've done is type, so I'll get to the point. Below you will see the picture of a set of burners that was keeping a furnace from running properly. The problem, as you can imagine from their appearance, is the the flame was not properly and consistently spreading across the burner faces to all the burners and was consequently tripping the flame-sense safety feature of the furnace.
As you can see, they're not pretty. This is much more than surface rust - this has actually corroded and eaten away at the metal of both the burner face as well as the crossovers, some of which are completely closed off from the rust. So you might be thinking to yourself, "Wow, that's bad, but I bet this is from a 20 year old furnace that needed to be replaced anyways."
NOPE! These are from a 3 year old furnace. Can you guess now much maintenance work has been done on this unit? None. The rust that could have been cleaned off when it was still just surface deep during an annual cleaning was instead left to its own devices and caused the customer to have a no-heat situation as well as an expensive repair. Let's see what those burners are supposed to look like
These are shiny and new and after a season of "driving" a long Chicago winter they will probably show some surface rust, particularly if they are used with LP gas as the worn ones were. However, annual cleaning of the burners as well as the rest of the unit will keep these lasting much longer and keep the customer from waking up to a cold house some morning when the heat is needed the most.
It's amazing what we find inside of people's furnaces during Precision Tune-ups that people would have had no idea about except they had a thorough inspection and cleaning - water leaks, animal nests, failing components, etc. Things that can cause equipment to break down and wear out much more quickly than if they were properly maintained.
Let's be honest, when's the last time you even thought about the condition of your furnace, let alone opened it to thoroughly inspect and clean it. On second thought, leave the cleaning and inspection to trained professionals or better yet, get on an maintenance plan like our Goldstar program so you don't have to worry about forgetting to keep your "car" running right for years to come.
Chicago has around 6,500 heating degree days according the National weather service. To get that into Heating load hours we need a few more pieces of information. 24 hours in a day - that was an easy one. Design temperature for chicago. We're going to use 0 degrees, but you could use 2 or -2 or any number of other values depending on which weather station you use. We're going to use zero. The heating degree days are based on 65 degrees as the base temperature. So:
Heating Hours = (Heating Degree Days)*(24 hours/day) / (65 degree [base temp] - 0 degrees [design temp])
Heating Hours = 6,500 * 24 / (65 - 0) = 2,400 hours
Driving 2,400 hours at 60 miles per hour = 144,000 miles!! And that's just a single heating season!