Furnace Maintenance Tips for Winter

Your furnace is something you may not be thinking about in the warm months when you don’t need it. But when the temperature takes a sudden plunge, and your previously forgotten furnace is turned on and doesn’t heat your house, it becomes your first priority. What does your furnace need in order to be effective and safe through the cold winter months?

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One of the easiest things you can do on your own is to make sure to change your furnace filter when it gets dirty. The filter prevents dirt from entering the furnace and becomes clogged with dust, debris, and other impurities. Heating experts may recommend replacing the filter every four to six weeks during the winter. Filters are very affordable and sold in home improvement stores, and even most grocery and “big box” stores. Sizes are not standard, so check your existing filter to find out what size you need.

Gas furnaces have vents that conduct the warm air around your home. Sometimes those vents and vent covers become clogged with debris. You can improve the effectiveness of your furnace by periodically cleaning these vents. Start by taking off each vent cover. Wipe with a damp cloth, and clean the inside of each vent with the hose attachment of a vacuum cleaner.

Other maintenance that may be more complicated includes cleaning the blower, which is behind the filter system, inspecting the fan, and checking that the thermostat is in working order. Yearly maintenance done by professionals will include inspection of all of these elements to ensure that each component is working the way it should. Performing this maintenance in a timely manner will help you get the most out of your furnace, and will cut down on high repair or replacement costs.

A typical residential furnace can last for 10-15 years — but you must maintain it. Unfortunately, many homeowners wait until their furnace stops working to seek professional help. Many common problems are avoidable, however, if you follow some basic maintenance steps.

Replace the Air Filter

Replacing your furnace’s air filter is a quick and easy task that any homeowner can perform. Over time, dirt, dust and debris will build up on the filter, restricting air flow while subsequently forcing your furnace to work harder. Try to get into the habit of changing your furnace’s air filter once every 2-3 months to prevent this from happening. You should replace your old filters before you use the furnace again for the Winter.

Check the Thermostat

When was the last time that you checked your thermostat? If no one is home during the day, there’s no reason your furnace should run during this time. Running a furnace when no one is home consumes power while offering no benefit in return. Program your thermostat to turn on shortly before family members arrive and turn off shortly after they leave.

Clean the Blower

Located next to the filter line in a typical furnace is the blower assembly. The particulate matter that passes through the filter will end up in the blower. If not cleaned, it will then circulate throughout your home, polluting the air. Have your furnace’s blower professionally cleaned to promote better air quality inside your home.

Inspect the Fan

A professional HVAC inspection of your furnace should also include a fan inspection. The fan and its components should be inspected to prevent future problems. If there’s dust or debris accumulated on the fan, it could restrict its power.

Clear the Chimney

Make sure that no tree branches, leaves, bird nests, or other debris are blocking the chimney.

Oil the Motor

You may want to oil the motor, or furnace blower, before you turn it on. This will help it run more smoothly.

Unblock Your Heating Vents

It’s common practice to position furniture in a way that’s blocking the furnace vents during the summer months. However, you must remember to move away any such furniture when the winter comes around. Blocked vents can cause your furnace to overheat.

Schedule an Inspection

If you really want to be sure that everything is safe and ready to use, it’s a good idea to call a professional. A professional will know what to look for, be able to spot potential problems such as cracks, and clean your furnace.

Heating systems have the potential to create carbon monoxide, an odorless gas that can kill. It can create flu-like symptoms. You want to make sure that what you are experiencing in winter is not mistakenly thought to be flu, when it is actually carbon monoxide poisoning. You need to make sure that your system does not have any leaks.

Not only can the repairman clean, service, and check your equipment for carbon monoxide, but at the same time you might also consider getting a special thermostat installed that will take the temperature of your house down at night or when you are at work. It is cheaper and easier to warm a house than to keep it warm all day for when you return home. A serviceman can also check all the vents to make sure they are clean. You don’t want debris from an animal’s nest that was created during the spring or summer to be sent out through the vents. Dust and debris is part of why people suffer allergies and respiratory problems.