By MyPros Staff
One of the unintended, negative consequences of the Internet’s always-on information supply is the false sense of expertise people can develop. Some people seem to think that all they need is the right information and a set of step-by-step instructions, and they can build a lunar module or fix their broken cellphone.
There is nothing wrong with being informed, and it is absolutely a good idea to familiarize yourself with the appliances and systems that help run your home. However, when you consider whether or not you should attempt to repair something like, say, your hot-water or hot-air central heating system, you need to consider more than just what instructions to download.
Information versus expertise
There is a big difference between having information and possessing knowledge. The former is just a set of disembodied ideas if you’ve never put your hands to a heating system. True knowledge equates with expertise, that is, that combination of information and hands-on experience that truly yields effective repairs and maintenance.
Unfortunately, modern heating systems are sophisticated and complex enough to require more expertise than most home handymen usually attain. Because of the dangers inherent in heating systems of any kind – the electrical connections, the gas, the boilers or heating elements, etc. – the short answer to the question posed in the title of this article would likely be, “No.” This is one of the home systems that really should be left to professionals.
The next best thing
This does not mean, of course, that you should not familiarize yourself with your central heating system (or heating and air conditioning, it you have a combination unit). You should have not only a general understanding of systems, but you should also review the manufacturer’s user guide and manual for the one in your home.
Part of your education, whatever level you take it to, should include standard maintenance, as well as list of things to watch (and listen) for that could indicate potential problems. As with other appliances, and automobiles, over time you will get used to the sights and sounds of a system that is operating within normal ranges, which can be quite broadly defined. When the sights, sounds and (at times) smells become unfamiliar or mysterious, it is time to call a professional to see what is going on.
Even if you can’t fix your home’s central heating system, you can maintain it in good operating condition by following procedures both general and specific. The general considerations reviewed above include common sense steps to maintain your system’s condition, while other steps will be specific to your particular unit. Your manufacturer’s user guide will educate you as to particular troubleshooting and maintenance steps that are necessary for your system.
A trained HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) professional can possibly elevate your skills to include some additional maintenance steps, and perhaps even a few small repair procedures. This will depend, of course, on your level of mechanical aptitude and the kind of heating system you have. The major consideration, of course, is safety, as you will be dealing with gas lines, power lines and so forth.
To the extent that you do expand your knowledge and extend your skills, you don’t have to start doing your own complicated repairs to have a positive impact on the cost of your system’s operation. With your increased familiarity comes better, more specific and earlier diagnosis of problems, so over time you will save on repairs – but when you do need them, get a qualified professional on the job. For most of you, in most situations, home heaters are not something you should fix on your own.