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7 Tips for Maintaining Your Furnace

Did you know your heating system is the largest energy expense in your home?

Did you know that on average, a furnace accounts for about 45 percent of the average American family’s energy bills?

Good reasons to ensure your furnace is both running properly and operating as efficiently as possible.

That’s where smart decisions about the equipment you choose and how well you maintain it each year come into play. Regular maintenance and periodic checkups are highly important to ensuring your furnace remains efficient.7 Tips for Maintaining Your Furnace

For many, they wait until a problem exists. Yet in most cases, a problem arises after damage has already begun. To catch a problem early ensures that your equipment remains fully functional and operational, no matter if it sits for weeks without use, or is used 24 hours of the day.

With regular care, you’ll experience less downtime. This simple checklist will help you maintain your furnace.

1. Clean or replace your filter

The filter in your furnace serves a crucial job in the process of delivering warm air throughout the rooms in your home. A furnace filter is usually installed where the return duct enters your furnace. It removes particulates from the air before it moves into the furnace equipment and is heated. A furnace filter will remove all kinds of particulates, including dust, dust mites, pollen, pet dander, bacteria, spores, and more.

Inexpensive filters provide basic protection. They are designed to catch a high percentage of the particulates that flow through your home. More expensive air filters offer improved air quality, which can help individuals who may suffer from allergies or asthma.

If airflow is impeded by a dirty air filter, the furnace will have inadequate airflow and won’t operate as efficiently as it was designed. Inexpensive air filters should be changed anywhere from 30 to 90 days. More expensive disposable pleated air filters may last three months or longer depending on the quality of your furnace. Look to your manufacturer’s recommendations, or ask one of our certified technicians for more information.

2. Make sure blower motor is functioning correctly

The furnace blower motor drives the fan that provides air movement for the furnace. A furnace’s heating element heats the heat exchanger until it reaches the desired temperature, then the blower motor pushes the air through the heat exchanger. This warms the air and distributes it throughout the home. In addition to providing air for the furnace, most furnace blowers also provide air for the air conditioning system as well.

The furnace blower is also where the air filter is installed. The blower motor has a lot of working parts, and if not well maintained, can begin to break down. A noisy furnace blower can indicate a problem either with the blower’s electric motor or with the blower wheel. High, shrill sounds can indicate two metal surfaces are grinding against one another. It can be from the blower wheel coming loose from the blower motor’s shaft and scraping the internal housing. A loud humming usually indicates an electrical problem. A trained technician can help you identify the source and make changes before it begins to deteriorate the equipment.

3. Reduce home’s heating load

Any weakness in the structural shell of your home allows cold winter air to seep in and warm air to leak out. Sealing up your home’s envelope reduces heat load, which is the amount of heat needed to keep your house comfortably warm. To identify major sources of heating loss within your home, an HVAC contractor can provide a home energy audit to determine where your home’s weaknesses exist.

Using specialized equipment and infrared cameras, a heating professional can determine where your home has the biggest problems, and help you determine the best places to make improvements. Projects can include things like weather stripping windows and doors, sealing and insulating duct work, or adding insulation to the attic.

4. Make sure all household vents are free

In order for your heating system to work properly, the air in your house must circulate completely throughout the system. That means your furnace should be fully operational. It also means your vents are clear and working properly. Are all vents in your home open, adjusted to allow air to flow freely, and free of furniture, boxes, or other household items blocking the path? Closing a vent down or blocking it can cause the furnace to work hard and less efficiently, eventually damaging it before its time.

5. For gas furnaces, verify the exhaust flue to the outside is clear

There are three main reasons an exhaust flue needs regular attention: carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. These three components can be found in the fumes from your furnace, especially if it hasn’t been serviced in awhile. If the exhaust flue is blocked and isn’t allowing air to freely move from inside the system to outside of your home, problems occur quickly. And they can cause very nasty health effects:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Heart palpitations
  • Collapse
  • Unconsciousness
  • Death

Combustion gasses might not be drafting safely up your flue because of blockage or backdrafting. If you suspect a problem, call immediately and have it checked out.

6. Remove all flammable objects from around your furnace

Your furnace is usually located in a separate area of your home – the basement, a crawl space, a storage room. However, your furnace isn’t designed to operate with storage containers built around it. Anything flammable – clothes, paint, aerosols, gasoline, boxes and other household items should never be placed in the general vicinity of your furnace or water heater.

7. Clean your heating systems vents and ductwork

As with all systems, your entire heating and cooling system needs to be cleaned and regularly maintained to ensure it’s in good operating condition. Take a quick walk around at the start of each season. Are all vents accessible? Are floor registers free of debris, pet hair, dust and scraps of paper? Anything inside the vents can move down into the ductwork and reduce efficiency. Remove floor registers and use a vacuum to clean up any messes that occur near them. You can also consider having your ductwork cleaned, especially if you have made significant renovations to your home, or it’s been several years since they were cleaned.

Maintaining your furnace doesn’t take too much time or effort to keep it in perfect working condition. A little common sense and a small amount of TLC each year can keep a lot of the issues at bay. If you have a question, we are here to help. Just give us a call.