How to Maintain a Furnace Throughout the Winter
It’s always a good idea to have your home’s heating system inspected and serviced in the fall before the onset of cold weather. However, that fall maintenance visit is only a part of the furnace maintenance equation. Property owners also need to provide regular, routine maintenance throughout the winter months to ensure their furnace will continue to function properly. Here are a few tips every homeowner can use to keep their home’s furnace operating efficiently throughout the heating season.
Set a Schedule for Maintenance
For the best results, set a schedule for your routine maintenance. Since most furnace filters should be inspected at least once per month, especially during the coldest Raleigh, NC weather months, set up a schedule to inspect and maintain your furnace on the same day every month during the heating season.
Before Starting any Maintenance, Shut Off the Power to the Furnace
Furnaces include a variety of parts that can cause serious injuries should the furnace start while you’re doing any type of maintenance. Rather than risking an injury or damaging the furnace, shut off the power before starting any maintenance. Generally, there will be a power shutoff switch next to the furnace. In some older homes that haven’t been upgraded, it may be necessary to shut off the power to the furnace at the main fuse panel, but that would be rare. Just make sure there is no electrical power to the system before moving forward. If you can’t locate a way to shut off the power, contact an HVAC expert for advice or help.
Take the Time to Visually Examine the Furnace
In many instances, it’s relatively easy to spot major problems with a quick visual inspection of a furnace. Worn belts, an excessive carbon buildup in the combustion chamber, or damaged wiring are all easily seen. A furnace may also show signs of rust, which is never good. Any type of metal deterioration suggests a need for a professional evaluation of the furnace. Even if a corrosion issue can easily be explained, the cause needs to be dealt with to prevent additional damage.
Check all Flue Pipes
All gas and oil furnaces will have flues used to direct waste gases to the home’s exterior. It’s important to inspect all flue pipes carefully to make sure they’re not leaking dangerous carbon monoxide or other gasses into the home. Loose or damaged pipes should always be repaired. In the majority of cases, it makes sense to contact an expert for heating repair rather than dealing with flue repairs yourself.
Change the Furnace Filters
If furnace filters are allowed to get too dirty, the heated air can’t move freely through the home. That means your home may be less comfortable and those monthly heating bills will certainly go up. If you’re unsure where the furnace filters are, ask the technician providing your fall inspection and maintenance to show you where they are. In some cases, the filters are in the furnace itself. In some homes, the filters will be behind an air return vent. In either case, the filters are usually easy to get to and replace.
It’s important to use quality filters. Ask the furnace repair expert to recommend a specific type of filter for your furnace. Most filters are simply replaced when they become dirty, but others can be cleaned and reused. Make sure you’re familiar with the filters your furnace needs and keep replacements on hand.
Check the Thermostat
The thermostat senses the temperature in the home and signals the furnace when to start and shut off to keep the home comfortable. Make sure the furnace starts and stops as required to keep the home comfortable. If you notice the furnace is cycling frequently, it’s time to contact our team to check it out. A malfunctioning thermostat will make it harder to stay comfortable and may cause your utility bills to climb unnecessarily.
Look Closely at All Vents
Far too often, homeowners ignore their home’s furnace heating and return air vents. If those vents are blocked for any reason, it becomes much harder for a furnace to keep your home comfortable. Drapes should never cover any furnace vents. Keep furniture away from vents, and make sure nothing is interfering with the airflow around any vents.
If the hot air vents look excessively dirty, the home’s ducts may need cleaning. When the ducts are not kept clean, that dirty air will continue to circulate through the house, which can quickly make a resident’s respiratory issues worse. Cleaning the home also becomes harder when the dust is allowed to move throughout the structure unchecked. Our team will gladly inspect the ducts to determine if cleaning would make your home more comfortable.
Clean In and Around the Furnace
After the power is shut off, it’s safe to remove the cover from the furnace. That will give you a clear view of the furnace and allow some basic cleaning. In most cases, a wire brush can be used to clean any deposits in the combustion chamber, and a shop vac can be used to remove any dirt. Use caution around the ignitor or pilot light to avoid damaging those components. Keep the area around the furnace free of clutter, and make sure the air intake system for the furnace isn’t blocked. In older units, that might mean keeping any items away from the grills on the front or sides of the furnace. Newer, high-efficiency furnaces may have intake systems that draw air directly from the outside. In that case, make sure nothing is interfering with the exterior air intake.
While these are common maintenance items most homeowners are capable of dealing with over the winter, not all Raleigh area residents are comfortable taking on those chores. If you need help or advice, take the time now to contact our team of HVAC experts. We’re always here to answer your questions. Of course, if you suspect any type of furnace malfunction, we’re here to provide immediate help.