An inefficient furnace will, at best, increase your energy costs this winter. It can also constitute a serious safety risk for your family, so it is important to conduct a simple furnace maintenance check every year. Once it is done, you can feel confident that your furnace is operating at peak efficiency with no danger to your home.
Prior to conducting maintenance on your furnace, make sure the power to the unit is disconnected.
1. External Cleaning
Dust and dirt build-up is common on and around the furnace. Before winter, wipe down the unit and surrounding area. Use the hose on a vacuum cleaner to remove loose debris, dead insects, and anything else that might have accumulated in the area. Clean cloths are appropriate for most of these tasks, but you can also use a toothbrush for hard-to-reach areas.
2. Leak Inspection
A gas leak is a serious issue that should be dealt with immediately. A rotten smell around your furnace is the first sign of a gas leak, but you can also purchase a detector to alert you to a leak. The National Institute of Health recommends detectors with a small LEL (e.g. 15 percent or less).
If you discover a gas leak, leave the house immediately and call a professional. Even if the leak is not sufficiently serious to pose a safety risk, it is always better to hire someone who knows what he or she is doing.
3. Change Air Filter
The air filter is one of the most important aspects of heating system efficiency. Depending on the quality and thickness of the filter, you should change it every one to three months, but always make sure a new filter is installed just before winter. Depending on the quality, air filters can cost anywhere from $15 to more than $75. Just keep in mind that better quality filters need to be replaced less often.
4. Clean Burners
When your furnace's burners are coated with dust, soot, and dirt, they reduce the efficiency of the unit and shorten its lifespan. Remove the burners to inspect them for soiling, then clean them as needed. This will ensure maximum productivity.
5. Clear Vent Lines
When furnace vent lines are clogged, carbon monoxide poisoning becomes a real possibility. A coat hanger, brush, and soft white cloth are needed to remove any blockages. Just make sure you wear rubber gloves and a face mask while you are working on the vent lines or pipes so you don't inhale anything that is removed.
If, at the start of winter, your furnace does not seem to be heating properly, call a professional to evaluate the unit. It could be as simple as a faulty thermostat, or it could be indicative of a more serious problem. Unless you have experience diagnosing furnaces, it is best to have it looked at by a professional.
Furnace maintenance, when conducted every year before winter, should take no more than an hour of your time unless a serious problem is detected. If you are confused or concerned by something you find, such as a leak, make sure to call a professional immediately.