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Call an HVAC professional for furnace problems

Posted: February 6, 2009 9:28 p.m.
Updated: February 7, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Robert Lamoureux Robert Lamoureux
Robert Lamoureux
Hi, Robert:
When we turned our heater on for the first time this winter we noticed that for the first 90 seconds or so it blows out cold air before turning warm.

This is the first time in the five years we've been in this house that this has happened. It does it now every time the heat kicks on. Since its never done this before it makes me think something's not right.

Any ideas or help would be greatly appreciated.
Lisa S.

Hi, Lisa:
If the warm air delay was only 20 to 30 seconds, it could be caused from a combination of things.

When you first turn the heater on, air from the furnace is pushing out the volume of cold air inside your ducts into your home. The colder the outside temperature, then the colder this duct air will be. It's the same principle as turning on your hot water.

Unless it's looped, hot water from the heater first pushes the cold water out of the line before reaching the faucet.

Also, once the furnace comes on, it takes a little time before it heats up to operating temperature. So, this volume of cold air being pushed out with the still warming furnace air will blow cool before getting hot.

Could it be that this is the way it has always operated and you never noticed it until now? Or, are you sure it is blowing cold for a full 90 seconds? If you are certain your heater is operating differently than before, there is always the chance that some of the electrical components like the time delay are starting to fail.

I would recommend calling an HVAC professional and have them check this out. While they are there, also have them check the combustion air fan. This is the fan that purges combustible air out of the firebox before ignition.

Hello, Robert:
The rain is already here but is there anything you could recommend that we could do to inspect our roofs to make sure they are rain ready?

Jay H.

Hi, Jay:
Let me first say that many people get hurt by falling off of their roofs. I would leave this type of work to the pros.

All of the vent pipes need to be checked. If any of the mastic is cracked, you can put on some Henry's 208 from your local hardware store. We've found that it is easiest to apply with a rubber glove. Wear old clothes because this stuff is going to get all over you. Put a nice thin coat over any cracks. While there, make sure all of the hoods on your bathroom and stove exhaust are connected and that water can't get in them.

If you have a chimney, check the flashing. If it's rusted, you might have some pin holes. Scrape the rust away and inspect its condition. Although this should be replaced, you could temporarily put some of the 208 on as needed to help seal.

Make sure all of the valleys are cleared from any leaves. This debris will act as a dam and will cause the water to rise up and over the valley flashing pan and into your roof. This is a very common cause of problems.
Check that all of your gutters and downspouts are clear.

Any loose roof tiles need to be nailed down and secured. If it's a comp roof, you don't want to have any of the corners curling up. Although you have paper under the shingles or tiles, it will fail after one hour of constant sheeting. So, a wind-driven rain will blow up underneath and on a bad enough storm, will cause leaks into your home.

It is imperative that you keep the felt, paper, in good condition. Do not mount anything, like satellite dishes on the roof that will put a hole in this paper.

Also check your area drains. I would water test any of the connections going underground to see if they drain properly. You want to be sure to keep water flowing away from your home or building.

Hello, Robert:
I own a restaurant with a side door that I like to keep open. The other day it broke and won't open or close easily. I was able to get it closed and locked, but would like to know how to fix it. It doesn't have hinges but instead is connected with a bracket arm on the top.

Andy K.

Hi, Andy:
OK, so you have a glass door. On the bottom of the door, it is secured to a "L" shaped pin that comes up through the threshold plate.

This pin is aluminum so on windy days, the open door catches air and it will sheer that pin off flush at the bottom.

You'll have to remove the threshold plate, including the two screws that hold the pin in place to replace it.

To hang the door, first place the door on the pin after you install it, and then set the top because you want all of the weight on that pin.

Hey, Robert:
I'm doing a little remodel around the house. I'm going from a single to a double door. The doors are the same height, so I don't have to worry about that, but I'm not sure what type of header to use.

There is a 4 x 4 in there now. Would this be strong enough or should I replace it?
Scott C.

Hi, Scott:
Yes, you need to replace that header. A 4" x 4" will not work for that large of a span.

The proper size header is dependent on the width of the new opening. A general rule of thumb would be 1 inch of header height for every foot of span; then I usually go up to the next size after that.

For example, if your new double doors are six feet wide, that would call for a header size of 4'' x 6." I would take that on up to a 4" x 8" to make it beefier.

Hi, Robert:
I've got a really low spot in my backyard that floods very close to my house even with a light rain. It is going to cost me a fortune to grade it and fill in that area, so I've decided to install a sump pump.

The plumber said I would need to put in a GFI, but the electrician said no. What do you think?
Jim D.

Hi, Jim:
True, GFIs are designed for wet locations, but in this case, you don't want the pump to go into failure mode. The electrician is right.

First of all, it is a mechanical pump that only qualified people would be working on. Also, if any water or the slightest amount of condensation caused by the dew in the weather tight cover gets into that GFI, it would shut the pump down and then you'll flood.

So, you don't need and don't want a GFI circuit on a pump. Go with a standard receptacle. It will be mounted inside the vault and safe from anyone accidently using it.

Robert Lamoureux has 25 years experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contacting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor, after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Send your questions to


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