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Let’s be honest with ourselves, home maintenance is not an expense many homeowners get excited about.  However, the reality is that it is important to maintaining the longevity of your assets.  The more expensive the asset, the more it makes sense to have maintenance performed on whatever basis it needs to be.  A furnace tune-up fits this category to a tee.  Not just because a home heating system can often cost hundreds to thousands of dollars to repair or replace in the event of failure, but also because the comfort of your home is directly tied to how well your furnace heats it. 

Despite these common-sense reasons, many homeowners still choose to ignore having a furnace tune-up performed every year.  These are often the same group of people who choose to drive their car 10,000 miles between oil changes, but we don’t judge.  But if there is anything 2020 has taught us, it is that this year has been different, and if there was ever a year to consider paying the $85 for furnace maintenance, this is it.

The Pandemic Has Shifted Where People Are Spending Their Time

With restrictions and precautions being put in place due to the pandemic, social behavior has changed for many St Louis area residents.  As we look towards the winter of 2020-2021, these shifts will likely stay in place until we get back to normal.  Most of these new trends have the same underlying factor.  People are spending more time in the home.  Google has recently put forth a useful resource that tracks mobility data trends using geo data from mobile phones.  The data is sorted by the state and county level to provide a snapshot of how businesses have been affected by the pandemic.  Here are some key takeaways:

St Louis County Residents Are Visiting the Workplace 17% Less

This should come as no surprise as many businesses have opted to have employees work from home. Google is reporting a 17% decrease in the amount of time being spent at the workplace compared to the pre-pandemic period between Jan 3, 2020-Feb 26, 2020.

St Louis County is Seeing a 4% Increase In Home Visits

While 4% may not seem like a big increase, the data does suggest that people are taking fewer trips that require not staying at their residence overnight. This also indicates that people are traveling less whether for business or vacation. It is also important to put into context that most families vacation during the summer months, so for there to be a 4% increase during times people were most likely to be traveling suggests that number could be somewhat downplayed.

Parks Have Being Visited Much More Often

Google is reporting a 13% increase in park visits in St Louis County, and a whopping 58% increase in park visits in St Charles County over the course of the pandemic. The shift in those numbers between the neighboring counties is likely due to the ease of restrictions in St Charles County parks. The state of Missouri as a whole saw a 27% increase in park visits.

The Retail & Recreation Category is Down Across The Board

St Louis area consumers are not shopping as much. This may change as we head into the Holidays, but as it stands now, St Louis County has seen a 19% decrease in retail and recreation. St Charles County has experienced a 10% decrease in retail and recreation visits.

How These Trends Will Likely Change As Temperatures Dip

While this data does not provide us with the amount of time being spent at these places, it does give us a snapshot of where people are visiting. Here are some takeaways and predictions as we head into the winter months.

  • The increase in park visits will likely decline as temperatures drop.
  • At the very least, a portion of the time being spent at parks will likely be indoors in the home.
  • Retail will likely see an increase during the holidays, but drastically down compared to 2019.
  • If employees are currently working from home now, the majority will continue to do so through the majority of the Winter.

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How Furnace Maintenance Becomes More Important With More Time Being Spent Indoors

So what do all these mobility trends have to do with home furnace maintenance? It is pretty straightforward. The more time you are spending in your home, the more your furnace is likely working to keep you (and your family) at comfortable temperatures. The data shows that furnaces will likely be working harder this winter than in years past. Annual furnace maintenance makes even more sense under these circumstances.

The Efficiency of Your Furnace Needs To Prioritized With Rising Energy Consumption in the Home

An expected increase in furnace usage also brings an increase in fuel usage. Whether your home heating system runs off an electric furnace or a gas furnace, you can likely expect higher energy bills with more time being spent inside the home. This is important to note because most furnaces that don’t have regular maintenance performed are often less efficient.

They tend to work harder to maintain comfortable temperatures and operate at less than optimal Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE). Having furnace maintenance performed can often ensure maximum efficiency for that equipment helping keep your home warm while using less energy to do so. Saving you money on your monthly energy bills in the process.

The More Your Furnace Runs The Higher Chance It Has of Breaking Down

As furnaces cycle more, the likelihood of them breaking increases. Having furnace maintenance performed by a professional HVAC technician can drastically decrease the chance of this happening. Furnace tune-ups also allow technicians to identify potential trouble areas that could lead to your furnace breaking in the near future. A great example of this is heat exchangers. Heat exchangers can often crack over time as heat makes them expand and shrink. A small crack often turns into a large crack over time which can result in carbon monoxide being released within the air of the home. This is just one example of potential problems HVAC technicians inspect over the course of a routine heating system check-up.

st louis google mobility data

Early Signs Your Home Is In Need Of A Furnace Tune Up

We always recommend having annual furnace maintenance performed every year as the weather starts getting cold.  However, there are some scenarios that should carry a higher sense of urgency when it comes to scheduling this type of HVAC service.  These include:

Your Heating System is Having Problems Maintaining Comfortable Temperatures

There is nothing more frustrating than always feeling cold inside your home.  A primary sign of an underperforming furnace is when it is not keeping your home warm.  If you find yourself constantly checking the thermostat because it is feeling cold inside your home, your furnace might not be working properly.  If you notice your furnace is constantly running, yet not hitting the benchmark temperature set on your thermostat, it probably needs to be looked at by an HVAC professional.

Does your Thermostat Read 75 But It Still Feels Cold? A Whole House Humidifier Might Be the Answer.

75 degrees doesn’t always feel the same from home to home.  If your home always feels like the arctic despite your heating system maintaining temperatures in the mid-seventies, it is likely due to the amount of moisture in the air.  As temperatures decline, so do the humidity levels.  Gas furnaces are an extremely efficient and affordable method to heat a home, but the heat they put off is often dry heat.  Dry heat often feels colder.  Installing a whole-house humidifier will ensure proper moisture levels in the air, making the air feel much warmer at lower temperatures.  Other benefits include a decrease in static, dry skin, and energy bills.

Noticeable Increases In Energy Bills

Energy bills often have a direct connection with the performance of your HVAC system.  Higher-performing systems result in lower energy usage and vice versa.  With energy bills now offering historical energy usage data on the bills themselves, it gives homeowners an excellent snapshot of what they should expect their usage to be that month.  If you notice a steep increase in usage, the first place you should look is your HVAC system. Heating and cooling systems can account for up to 25% of a home’s energy usage.

Foul Smells Coming From Your HVAC Vents

Smells and strange odors are common in home furnaces.  Many furnaces will put off a weird smell the first time you turn them on in the Fall.  These odors can range from smelling like rotten eggs to a bonfire.  If any smell persists, and you have not had a furnace tune-up performed for the year, we recommend you do.  The best-case scenario is that your need to have your furnace cleaned.  Worst case scenario is that it may be leaking carbon monoxide or natural gas.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors Are Going Off When You Turn Your Furnace On

As mentioned above, cracked heat exchangers can lead to carbon monoxide being released into the home.  This can be extremely dangerous for those breathing the air.  If your carbon monoxide detector is going off, especially in conjunction with your furnace running, turn off the furnace and call an HVAC company as soon as you can.

How A Furnace Tune Up Can Affect Your Warranty

Many of the manufacturer’s warranty programs require an annual furnace tune-up is performed. If not, the warranty could be voided in the event of a technical malfunction. Annual furnace maintenance meets these requirements covering your equipment in the event that something defects down the road.

Schedule Your $85 Furnace Maintenance Today

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