We Yoopers are a hearty bunch. No matter the weather, there we are – out in nature, enjoying the best of the season. But without a warm home to return to, our adventures wouldn’t be as enjoyable.

As we revel in the beauty and warmth of the splendid summer months here in the Upper Peninsula, I’d like to remind you to keep your sights focused on the future, too. Before you head back to the woods, beach, or summer shopping, let’s take a quick look at the furnace maintenance you should do before the colder months set in.  

In this blog, I will be sharing:

  • The 3 most common heating systems I find as a Marquette home inspector
  • The ideal time (and frequency) to conduct heating system maintenance
  • Why heating maintenance is so important for your Marquette real estate investment
  • And more!

Here’s your wake-up call: Summer will, unfortunately, come to an end at some point – let’s get you all squared away, so you’re not left out in the cold come deer hunting season.  I promise, it won’t take long – but it could save you a LOT of grief some frigid night this winter!

3 Most Common Heating Systems I Find as a Marquette Home Inspector in the Upper Peninsula

A home without heat in the Upper Peninsula is about as helpful as a fishing line without a hook. Many of us use our heat for up to 8 months a year. This can tax a system over time.

So, if you’re asking yourself, “what can I do to maintain my heating system in the Upper Peninsula?” stick with me because I’ve got some tips based on my years of experience as a Marquette home inspector in the U.P. real estate inspection industry.

Types of Heating Systems in The U.P.:

An old radiator found by a Marquette home inspector.
Older homes, like those in Marquette county, often have boiler heating systems that emit radiant heat.
  • Boiler systems – Boiler systems emit a lovely radiant heat. They are a favorite here in the U.P. because they have few moving parts, and if properly maintained, are more durable than modern heating systems like forced air heat. Unlike a furnace, which heats up and pushes air around the house, typically through ductwork, boilers heat up and transport either hot water or steam throughout a home to keep it warm and cozy.  This provides a clean, dust-free heat source that won’t agitate your allergies. But boilers have their downside, too. Heat distribution can be inefficient, and without diligent maintenance, they may peter out sooner than you planned for.  
  • How to properly care for a boiler system:  Each year, you should hire a professional technician to make checks and adjustments to ensure that your boiler is operating safely and efficiently. Additionally, you will need to bleed (release trapped air from) radiators that don’t heat efficiently.
  • How to bleed a radiator: Place a protective cloth or bucket on the floor and use a radiator key (or needle-nose pliers if you don’t have a radiator key) to open your radiator valve. You should hear a hissing sound as air (and some water) is released from the radiator. Once the hissing ceases and water starts flowing out of the radiator, close the valve; you’re all done! Now mop up any leaked water.
  • Electric baseboard heating – Electric heat is popular in camps, summer homes, and rental properties. Here’s how baseboard heating works: the heating element is powered by an electrical current that converts cold air near the floor into warm air that rises into the room. Electric baseboard heating is nice because it cuts down on dust (it has no moving parts). However, electricity in the U.P. is EXPENSIVE, and this type of heat can be very costly when trying to keep a big home in the Upper Peninsula warm all winter.
  • How to maintain an electric baseboard heating system: At the end of each winter, it is recommended to vacuum the unit. You should also clean the baseboard heater before using it again in the fall. Investing in a cover for your heating unit is a smart idea as it keeps dust from building up in the off-season.
  • Forced-air heating systems – Forced air is the industry standard for modern homes. I come across many of these systems in my home inspections in Marquette and other areas of the U.P. They are efficient. Still, many people complain of the dust problem they can cause.
  • How to keep your forced-air heating system in tip-top shape: Your HVAC system should be maintained by a professional at least once a year, including a filter replacement and thermostat check. Additionally, you will want to have your ductwork professionally cleaned at least every three years to ensure your air is fresh and allergen-free.  Regular maintenance and cleaning key components will keep a forced-air system running efficiently for years to come.

Why Conduct Heating System Maintenance in The Summer?

Photo of frozen pipes due to a failing heating system found during a Marquette home inspection.
Avoid costly problems like frozen pipes by getting your heating system serviced in the summer.

The fact is heating systems just don’t break down in the summertime. They always break down when it’s cold.

Once the first chilly days start to roll in (as soon as early September), everyone who has a problem with their heating system contacts their local repair company at once. If you’ve ever been in this situation, you know how frustrating it can be to have to call around town trying to book an appointment. It can almost be as challenging as trying to score tickets for the Packers game.

And if it doesn’t happen to you right away, it will happen on Christmas eve. Guaranteed. (Good luck.)

If you want to avoid problems like frozen pipes or living amongst an arctic chill for days on end during the holidays, conducting proper heating system maintenance at the end of the summer is your best move.

How Often Should You Do Heating System Maintenance?

I always recommend having your heating system serviced every 1-3 years, depending on its age and condition. As your system ages, getting a yearly check-up, which can cost anywhere from $100-$150, can extend the system’s life by YEARS. So, I suggest you get on the books with your favorite local heating and cooling experts ASAP.

Take it From Me: A Little Maintenance Now Means a Lot Less Headaches Later

Here’s a story about a recent real estate inspection in Marquette I conducted, which illustrates why skipping furnace maintenance is a really bad idea:

I was doing a home inspection the other day, and as my client and I approached the heating system, he asked me, “what is all that powder in there?”

 Well, after taking a closer look, I determined that the residue was coming from a loose gasket head for the exhaust system. In this particular situation, the water evaporated in the pipe, creating calcified residue that was dripping into the furnace for over a year. The result was corroded burners, which required a complete replacement.

Remember, furnaces aren’t infallible. They tend to be robust and can last for decades when maintained properly, but when you don’t get them checked out often, minor problems – like my client’s loose gasket – can lead to costly consequences. 

To summarize: No matter what type of heating system your U.P. home has, regular maintenance in the off months (summer) will keep you ahead of the eight ball.  

If you have any questions about a heating system in your home, call Rich Beasley, InterNACHI certified home inspector and owner of U.P. Home Inspections LLC., at (906) 360-3879 today.

I’ll help you figure out if your system is operating correctly or needs maintenance. After all, you might as well have it serviced now, so it’s ready to rock when the north winds start blowing.