If you have not had time all year to tune up your furnace, then fall is a good time to do so before the final arrival of winter. Proper and regular maintenance of your furnace will ensure you have heat when you need it, reduce your heating and repair bills, and prolong the life of your furnace.
Here are eight things to do to ensure your furnace does not disappoint this winter:
1. Conduct a Visual Inspection
Furnaces are typically situated in the basement and out of the sight of most homeowners. Maintenance time is a good time to look the furnace over and check for any tell-tale signs of trouble or issues. Some of the things you may observe that may need further attention include: signs of black soot, condensate tube filled with algae, tubes not properly attached, rust, mainly yellow flames, etc.
Your observations may uncover minor issues that can be corrected easily, or major issues that may need a specialist to look at.
Note: If you are going to be opening up the furnace cover to look inside, it’s a good idea to first turn off the electrical power and gas supply for your safety!
2. Change the Furnace Air Filter
Changing the air filter in your furnace regularly is one of the most important things you can do to keep it working efficiently. When the filter becomes plugged, the furnace has to work harder to get air moving.
Different filter types come with differing recommended replacement periods, for example: every 1 month, 3 months, or longer. A routinely changed filter can significantly reduce your energy bill by as much as 15%.
Newer thermostats have a reminder option that allows you to set a reminder that alerts you when it’s time to replace the air filter.
3. Clean Warm Air Vents and Registers
Floor vents that bring up the warm air into your home may get clogged over time with dust, pet hair, food, and other debris. Remove floor registers and vacuum out the air ducts at least once a year to keep them clean and clear.
Kids can remove registers and fill them with “stuff.” Check that toys are not stuffed down your registers and choking up your furnace.
4. Check Cold Air Return Vents
Cold air return vents carry back cold air from your house to the furnace for reheating. They often get neglected and may even become blocked or covered as you move furniture around. They can also get dusty.
Vacuum cold-air return registers at least once a year and ensure they are not totally closed off or blocked by other things.
5. Check the Intake and Exhaust Pipes
The air intake and exhaust pipes for your furnace can usually be found located outside your house. They may get plugged with ice, snow, leaves, critters, vegetation, or other debris. Check them often to ensure that they are not blocked.
6. Vacuum Accumulated Dust in Furnace
After a couple years of use, dust and dirt may accumulate in your furnace. A vacuum with a long nozzle can be used to get rid of these unwanted visitors. If you hire a professional to tune-up your furnace annually, this is one of the tasks they have on their checklist.
7. Check the Main Air Ducts for Leakage
Check the main air ducts that leave your furnace and carry heated air to different parts of your home for leakage. You can easily seal leaks using foil tape or duct mastic. This will ensure you get the full benefit of the warm air leaving your furnace, reduce energy loss and lower your energy bill.
8. Check the Carbon Monoxide Detector
Although not part of your heating and cooling system, it makes sense to install a carbon monoxide detector close to where your furnace is located.
Carbon monoxide is a very toxic gas and because it’s odourless, you cannot depend on your senses to detect it. At the time of your furnace maintenance, test the detector to ensure it’s in good working order. If you have a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector, consider replacing the batteries as well.
It does not take a lot of time to carry out the simple maintenance tasks mentioned above. When the cold season arrives, do not forget to turn off your air conditioner and protect it from harsh winter conditions. Having your AC come on in very cold weather can cause serious damage to the compressor.
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