FAQ | Frequently Asked Questions | The Energy Experts

Heating Systems

A: Before you call us, go through the troubleshooting steps below to make sure a service call is really needed. It will save you the cost and inconvenience of an unnecessary service visit, and will ensure our technicians are working where they are most needed.

  • Make sure the thermostat is set above room temperature or in the “heat” position. If it’s a digital thermostat and the display screen is blank, you either need new batteries or the power supply has been interrupted.
  • Check for a tripped circuit breaker or a blown fuse.
  • Look to see if the power switch for your heating system is turned on. Sometimes, these get turned off accidentally.
  • Check the tank to see if you have heating fuel.
  • If you have an oil heating system, press the reset button on the burner relay—ONCE ONLY. If your system doesn't start after you push the reset button, do not push it again. Doing so could cause your heating system to “flood.” Too much oil will get pumped into the combustion chamber, resulting in a lengthy and costly repair.

If at this point you still don’t get heat, call The Oehlert Brothers immediately.

When a service technician arrives, let him know everything you did to the system before he begins working on it. You should also let him know if anything out of the ordinary happened, like an unusual noise, a strange smell or smoke.

In many cases, this will help the technician find the problem—and get your heat back on again—faster.

A: Heat is generated by burning oil or propane inside the furnace. This happens in the combustion chamber, which gets very hot. Air absorbs this heat in the furnace’s heat exchanger. Next, the blower sends the heated air through a system of ducts, and warm air circulates through the home.

A: The basic heating principle is the same. The difference is that a furnace heats air and a boiler heats water. With a boiler, a circulator pumps the hot water through a system of pipes, distributing the water to radiators, baseboards or air handlers throughout the home. Some boilers are designed to create steam, which circulates by means of a system of pipes. The pipes are connected to steam radiators throughout the home.

A: The heat exchanger is the main component of your furnace. If the heat exchanger has a crack or a rust hole, combustion fumes (including carbon monoxide) can contaminate the air in your home. This is a potentially deadly situation and should be addressed IMMEDIATELY. A cracked heat exchanger usually requires replacing the entire furnace. If you suspect that you might have a cracked heat exchanger, or a carbon monoxide problem caused by your furnace, turn the system off immediately. Then call us right away for service.

A: There are two indicators of efficiency.

  1. Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE)
    All heating equipment manufactured after 1980 has been required to have a label indicating its AFUE. The AFUE ratio is a measurement of a heating system’s seasonal efficiency, taking into account how well the system performs over an entire season of starts and stops. Modern heating systems can range in efficiency from 81% to 95%. If your system’s AFUE is lower than this range, talk to us about your replacement options.
  2. Combustion efficiency
    When we tune up your heating system, we do a combustion efficiency test that tells us how well your burner is converting oil into heat. If your combustion efficiency is below 78%, you may want to evaluate your upgrade options, which could include an oil burner retrofit. A new burner will burn the fuel/air mixture in a cleaner, more controlled manner, resulting in lower heating costs and less air pollution going out of your chimney.

A: As long as your heating system is working properly, you should not smell oil in your home. If you do, it means something is WRONG! An oil smell could come from a leak, combustion or burner troubles, heat exchanger failure or exhaust system problems. Call us and we'll come over to correct the problem. If you have a leak, we'll remove the oil and help get the smell out of your home. If you ever smell oil coming from your vents, call us immediately. That's an indication of a faulty furnace that may be releasing dangerous gases in your home.

A: Different people feel comfortable at different temperatures. Pay less attention to the number on the thermostat display (or the position of the temperature indicator on a nondigital display) and more to how comfortable the room feels to you. When you feel comfortable, check the setting. That's the right temperature for you.

A: Absolutely! Programmable thermostats are especially useful for people who are away from home at regular intervals. They allow for customized comfort settings around-the-clock, and they can cut heating and cooling costs by as much as 10%!.

Water Heater

A: In an indirect-fired water heating system, the domestic water is heated by hot water from the boiler. A typical design is a water tank with coiled pipes inside. These coiled pipes connect to your boiler. Hot water from the boiler passes through the coil, which heats up the domestic water surrounding it.

A: Heating oil produces the hottest flame of any home heating fuel. This means an oil-fired water heater heats water fast. How fast? On average, oil-fired units heat water three times faster than gas heaters and five times faster than electric units.

A: Every three months, drain a gallon of water from the tank. Do it every month if you have hard water. This reduces the amount of sediment collecting in the bottom of the tank, which can make the burner or heating coils work harder.

Every year have your water heater inspected by a service technician to keep it in peak operating condition.

Air Conditioning

A: There are many factors that determine the cost of a central air conditioning system. Aside from the choice of unit, model and size, the most important factor is proper installation to ensure your new system operates as it should. Contact us today and get a FREE estimate.

A: We can give you a ballpark estimate if we have enough information, but it’s hard to determine an accurate estimate without visiting your home.

A: SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. It is used to indicate the efficiency of air conditioning systems. The higher the SEER number, the more cooling you get per unit of energy. Today’s cooling units are up to 40 percent more efficient than those made as recently as 10 years ago.

A: Yes. Today there are simple, ductless air conditioning options that make it possible for us to install a quiet, efficient air conditioning system in your home even if it doesn’t have ductwork.

Ductless air conditioning systems consist of one or more indoor air distribution units linked by refrigeration lines to an outdoor compressor. This flexible tubing can be positioned inside your walls and ceilings with a minimum of inconvenience. Installing ductless air conditioning costs a little more than standard central air systems, but much less than the cost of installing ductwork and a central air conditioning system.

A: An air conditioning tune-up and inspection will help catch most equipment problems before they result in a breakdown. Many breakdowns occur on the hottest day of the year — because that’s when your air conditioning system is under the most stress. And because a tune-up ensures that your system will run at peak efficiency, it will lower your electric bills. A system that’s running efficiently can save you as much as 10 percent on your annual cooling costs.

Services

A: Absolutely Every day of the year!

A: We guarantee that we will be there within the hour or we will call you.

A: Usually it's only a matter of a couple of days. We can come out to your home at your convenience during the day or in the evening. To recommend the right size system for you, we do a lot of calculations. One thing we look at is heat loss, or the amount of heat your home loses in the winter. This is just one way we figure how much Btu “power” your home’s heating system needs.

A: Most of our installations are done in a day and a half though every job is different and some take longer than others.

A: Yes. The Comfort Plan covers a multitude of things that typically go wrong with a heating system and includes annual tune-ups to maximize performance and longevity. Our Total Comfort Plan includes everything in the Comfort Plan plus coverage for many more parts and services.

A: Yes! Heating and air conditioning systems operate for months on end and need regular maintenance—just like your car. Without the regular maintenance of a tune-up, you lose efficiency and money.

Annual tune-ups keep your system working at peak efficiency and give our technicians a chance to catch minor problems and signs of wear before they turn into major trouble down the road.

In addition, regular maintenance can extend the life of your equipment.

A: The experts at The Oehlert Brothers will be happy to come to your home and calculate your heating and cooling "loads." They will then be able to recommend a system that is the correct size and model to meet your home's requirements. Please call us for more details.

A: As much as we would like to help, our first priority is always to take care of our own customers. Providing our customers with fast, high-quality service (especially in an emergency) is what we are all about. We can’t do this if our technicians are chasing calls at all points on the compass to take care of our competitor’s customers because our competitors can’t. If you buy your fuel from us, however, it will create an obligation on our part to provide you with quality service.

Replace or Repair

A: If you’re like many people, the frustration of an equipment breakdown can make it tempting to solve the problem with a quick-fix repair that doesn’t cost you a lot of money. That way you can get on with your busy life in relative comfort. BUT, while a quick fix may be the least expensive solution in the short run, it may not give you the most value in the long run.

It's a fact of life: Older systems are more likely to break down. That means a bigger chance of emergency service calls and repairs—and paying for them. Worse, a breakdown could mean extensive damage to your home (no heat on a cold winter day can allow your pipes to freeze).

There's also an ongoing cost factor. Repairing an old system can only restore it to something less than its original level of efficiency. After you've recovered from the repair bill and the frustration of a system breakdown, you'll still be battling high energy bills. What’s more, even if a system doesn’t break down, it loses efficiency as it ages. A 15-year-old system doesn’t operate anywhere near the efficiency it had when it was new!

Plus, when compared with modern, technologically advanced equipment, 15-year-old heating and cooling systems are considered inefficient by today's standards. The average homeowner can save up to 40% on heating and cooling costs with new high-efficiency equipment.

Here are some rules of thumb to help you decide whether to replace or repair.

Replace your system if:

  • it is more than 10 years old and only in average condition.
  • it does not keep you as comfortable as you would like.
  • it breaks down frequently.
  • it is burning too much fuel.
  • you will be living in your home for at least five more years.

Repair your system if:

  • it is less than 10 years old and in good condition.
  • your heating and cooling costs have been acceptable.
  • you’re pleased with your level of comfort.
  • its performance is reliable.
  • you will be moving within the next five years.
  • it is still under warranty.

Don't wait for an emergency breakdown—like losing your heat in the middle of the night when temperatures are below zero.

Proper design and replacement of heating systems requires thought and planning. Not all models are in stock and immediately available. It is better—and most times less expensive—to schedule equipment installations in the off-season when we have the luxury of time and warm weather.

Remember, you can trust The Oehlert Brothers with all your installation needs. Our professional service technicians are trained in all areas of heating and air conditioning and fully licensed by the Maine Oil and Solid Fuel Board.