Though you’ve most likely forgotten about it, your furnace is an important appliance that serves a crucial function in your home. Besides making sure that you are continued to be kept comfortable and warm throughout the winter months, keeping your furnace well–maintained can ensure fuel efficiency, saving you money on your heating bills. An ounce of prevention is always better than a pound of cure, and full maintenance will take only a few hours, a few dollars, and a few basic tools.
The Importance of a Furnace Tuneup
More importantly, many warranties contain language saying that damage to units caused by improper maintenance is not covered under warranty. So how can you renovate and reinvigorate your furnace to get the most bang for your buck throughout the year?
Annual Furnace Check-Ups
You should be going to the doctor at least once a year for a check-up to make sure that everything is running smoothly and that nothing is wrong. In the same vein, your furnace should get a check-up once a year to look for problems that may have arisen. This is especially true if the unit is more than ten years old. Unless you already have significant experience in working on a heating system, it’s a good idea to delegate this to a qualified technician. Additionally, to ensure safety, make sure that all of the power to the system has been turned off before doing any work on any kind of heating or cooling system.
The technician should
- Inspect the thermostat, or control, to make sure that everything is calibrated and operating properly. A faulty thermostat could prevent the system from turning on or could cause it to turn off and on repeatedly.
- Clear the air filter, or perhaps change it altogether. To check the filter to see if a replacement is needed, hold it up to the light. Regardless of the length of time that the filter has been in place, if it looks clogged you should replace it with a new filter.
- Inspect the belts on the blower, if one is present. If the belts seem over-worn or frayed, replace them with belts of similar size.
- Check all of the controls and electrical components.
- Use a vacuum to dust the inside of the furnace unit and clean the air filter blades.
- Oil the motors if necessary. Some motors are permanently lubricated and sealed, while others have covered oil ports for lubrication. If the latter is true for your unit, it should be lubricated annually.
- Inspect the heat exchanger for possible cracks. A crack could allow carbon monoxide into your home, which is extremely dangerous. Carbon monoxide can lead to flu-like symptoms, and a serious leak can be fatal.
- Check the air flow and the mixture of fuel/air.
- Ensure that the flues and chimneys are properly connected and that they are in good condition. Check the flue to make sure that there aren’t any holes. Make sure that these aren’t blocked.
If your furnace runs on oil or gas, it needs some extra inspection. If this is the case, your technician should also:
- Examine, and if necessary, replace the thermocouple. This makes your furnace less likely to have a catastrophic incident, such as an explosion.
- Check the combustion gases and compare the results to the furnace’s specifications.
- Check that the electric ignition or pilot is properly functioning.
- Test the burner to see if it is operating correctly, and clean the burner if they find it to be necessary.
- Check the fuel lines for leaks. Leaks could pose a fire hazard or could allow fumes to escape that could cause serious harm.
- Test the manifold gas pressure. This will ensure that the right amount of fuel is able to reach the burners. This too will reduce the risk of something going wrong.
After the inspection, remember to turn the power back on.
Ongoing Furnace Maintenance
Here are some tips on how to be a responsible homeowner and give your furnace the regular maintenance and care it needs.
To get the most out of your furnace on a daily basis, ensure that you
- Program your thermostat so that it is more effective. When you’re sleeping or out of the house, automate it to use less energy. This can have a huge impact on savings -by turning a thermostat 10 to 15 degrees lower for 8 hours a day, a family can save up to 15% on their heating bill annually.
- During cold weather, when the furnace is under heavy use, ensure that your air filters are changed once a month. A filter as cheap a $1 can adequately protect the blower and motor. More efficient filters are available for a higher cost.
- Keep open the registers and vents. Closing a vent can add pressure and increases the risk for an air leak occurring in your system, causing energy waste and costly repairs.
- Every couple of months, vacuum the vent covers along with the register. This will remove dust and debris, which can reduce efficiency if too much is built up.
Basic maintenance should also include cleaning other parts of your unit of debris such as dirt, which can waste fuel and lower efficiency drastically. All the main parts of the furnace -the filter system, the blower, and the motor- should be cleaned regularly.
Your furnace can be a valuable tool and a great friend. Take care of yours and it’ll take care of you. It will lead to a much much happier and warmer household for you.