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How Can I Service a Furnace Before Calling Professionals?

You hear strange noises in your HVAC ductwork. You notice a weird odor wafting through your vents. Rooms in your home are heating unevenly or won’t heat at all. Your energy bills spike. If you’re facing any of these issues, then you may be dealing with something serious. When this happens, calling a local, certified HVAC company, such as Entek, may be the smartest and most cost-effective move you can make.

But sometimes hiring a professional service may be unnecessary if your HVAC-related problems are well within your ability to solve. Replacing a dirty air filter or clearing clutter and debris away from appliances and vents usually doesn’t require expert assistance. But what if you have a problem with your furnace? You might be wondering how to service a furnace before calling the professionals.

Servicing a furnace can be straightforward, depending on your type of furnace and the size and extent of the issue at hand. However, it can also be potentially dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Read on for some helpful tips about servicing a furnace and knowing when to call a professional for help.

Know Your Furnace


There are a number of different kinds of heating units on the market. Many homeowners opt for gas, oil, or electric furnaces, which require different kinds of services. When inspecting your furnace, be sure to read all operating and safety instructions provided by the manufacturer, including the manual.

Before inspecting your furnace, check the power supply. Ensure that your furnace is properly connected and your circuit breaker (or the corresponding wall switch) is turned on. Reset your circuit breaker if it’s tripped or replace any blown fuses (with the exact same type of fuse). But if your furnace trips your circuit breaker again or blows another fuse, you’re likely dealing with a bigger problem that requires professional assistance.

Check the fuel supply to the unit for any tears, holes, or cracks. If you detect hissing or a strong, foul odor issuing from it, then you may be dealing with a leak (see “Emergency” section below).

Most modern furnaces that use an electric ignition system will issue flash codes when operating. If there’s a problem, the system will alert you with a diagnostic flash code, usually requiring a professional response.

For older gas models, pilot lights may have to be manually ignited. If the pilot light is out, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for resetting it. Some models have a safety shut-off switch that activates when the pilot light goes out unexpectedly, ensuring gas doesn’t leak. Be aware that if there’s no shut-off switch, you’ll need to manually turn off the pilot light and shut off the gas valve before attempting any cleaning. If there’s a clog in the pilot light, it’ll require very delicate cleaning performed by a professional. Don’t attempt the work yourself.

Be Safe

Before cleaning or inspecting other parts of your furnace, ensure the fuel and power supplies are both switched off.

Inspect the motor and blower for dirt and debris. Check the motor belt for any cracks, obvious wear, or slack—you may have to replace it. When cleaning the whole assembly, use a toothbrush, rag, and vacuum with a hose attachment to suck up any loose dirt and dust.

Remember, every furnace is different, so before you attempt to clean or disassemble any part of your furnace, review the manufacturer’s manual. Also, check out HomeAdvisor’s DIY furnace maintenance guide for helpful hints and cost-estimates for supplies and replacement parts for your furnace.

Know Your HVAC System

Besides servicing your furnace, it’s important to inspect your HVAC system for any other potential issues.

Check the air flow in your vents and ductwork. Ensure that you clear any furniture or clutter away from your wall or floor vents and your heating and cooling appliances. Make sure all appliances are connected, switched on, and working normally. Check to see when you last replaced your air filter (these should be replaced monthly during seasons of heavy use).

Depending on what you discover, the problem may not be with your furnace. Issues such as a disconnected appliance, dirty air filter, or tripped circuit breaker can easily be fixed. And even if the issue lies with a troublesome furnace, other problems with your HVAC system, such as clogged and leaky ductwork or a malfunctioning thermostat, will require professional assistance to clean and repair. Be thorough in your inspection and leave no stone unturned.

Know When It’s an Emergency!

If you have an older gas furnace and notice a strong sulfur smell, like rotten eggs, coming from your it or through your ductwork, then you’re likely dealing with a leak. Leaking gas is an emergency and should not be dealt with on your own.

Evacuate your home immediately. Do not turn on or off any appliances, light switches, or operate anything that uses electricity or may cause a spark, including your cell phone. Once everyone in your house is safely outside, call the fire department or gas utility company. And, if possible, shut off the main gas line to the house.

Many furnaces, including natural gas, oil, or propane, can also potentially leak carbon monoxide if there’s a damaged heat exchanger. Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that causes hundreds of deaths in the US every year. The best way to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning is to ensure your furnace is routinely inspected, your vents are clear of debris and obstructions, your air filters are regularly replaced, and your carbon monoxide detector is frequently tested and the batteries replaced every year. If you suspect your furnace is leaking carbon monoxide, then evacuate your home immediately and call the fire department.

After any emergency, it’s always a good idea to contact your local professional HVAC-based company, such as Entek. A professional HVAC company knows how to service your furnace and can provide you with peace of mind. They can perform a number of effective services, including maintenance, repair, cleaning, duct sealing, and installation of any part of your HVAC system.

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