For many, a home furnace isn’t just about personal comfort—it’s an actual lifeline that keeps their home warm enough to survive in freezing temperatures. A system that important to your health and well-being should be taken care of carefully and maintained for long-lasting performance. Whether you’re a hard-core DIYer ready to tackle any project, or you’re the type of person who prefers to hire out all those homecare tasks so that you don’t have to deal with them, there are still a few key furnace maintenance tips that you should know about.
Replace the Air Filter Frequently
One of the most important things you can do for the health of your home’s furnace is to replace the filter frequently. If you haven’t done so yet, go down to your basement or wherever your furnace is located and remove the air filter to check its condition. If it’s a paper filter, replace it if it looks dirty and dusty. If it’s a washable filter, it will be made from a more rugged foam or plastic material. Wash it out and put it back in place. If you rely on disposable filters, make sure that you have a stockpile of them. They should be replaced once every one to six months, depending on how quickly they fill with debris.
Keep Everything Away from Your Furnace
Your furnace likely heats up quite a bit during operation, and it has many delicate systems running at the same time to keep your home comfortable and warm. To make sure the system is able to run safely and effectively, clean all around the furnace regularly and avoid cluttering up the space around the unit.
Do a Thermostat Test
Before it becomes too cold outside, it’s important to test to make sure your system is functioning properly. The first step of that is testing the thermostat. Set the thermostat to a warmer temperature than outside, and wait for the furnace to kick on. For a very accurate test, you can leave the furnace running to see if it reaches the desired temperature, but simply checking to see if it kicks on and off is likely enough to ensure that the thermostat and the rest of the furnace is functioning.
Have an Inspection Done
Unless you’re a certified HVAC technician, there’s a good chance you aren’t doing all the maintenance necessary to keep your furnace running properly. Make sure to get an annual inspection to make sure all the components are performing properly, and to help guarantee that all the necessary maintenance is being performed. An annual inspection will help you avoid expensive repairs or having to replace the entire furnace later on, and it’s relatively affordable to have one performed.
More Involved Maintenance
If you’re comfortable with simple maintenance projects and you’re willing to take your maintenance one step further to cut down on what you pay a professional, and to help your system run more effectively each year, here are three additional steps you can take to keep your system running well.
Take these Safety Precautions
For any maintenance task on this list other than changing the air filter, it’s important that your furnace is completely powered down. First smell around the furnace for any gas present. If there is a strong gas odor, call a professional and get out of your home right away—do not try and fix the issue yourself! If not, flip the breaker that goes to your furnace to remove all power from the system so it won’t activate while you’re working on it.
Clean Out the Blower
Most homeowners know about the importance of replacing or cleaning out air filters regularly, but few know that they should be cleaning out the blower as well. When a furnace operates, some of the dirt and debris that the filter stops makes it through to the blower of the system. Here, the debris accumulates and can cause potential problems and definite inefficiencies over time. Remove all the panels that cover the blower—they are typically right around the section with your air filter. With the panels out of the way, wipe down the blower as well as all the pulleys with a damp cloth. You’ll be surprised at how much dirt and grime comes off, especially if this hasn’t been done yet.
Clean Out the Gas Vent
If you have a gas furnace, the fumes from it have to be vented out of your home. Over time the vent can become clogged and lead to unsafe leaks around your home when the furnace runs. Remove the cover over the gas vent. Use a large bristle brush and a vacuum hose attachment to remove any dirt, dust, and debris from the vent to allow those fumes to flow freely.
Follow these simple steps and you’ll have a smooth-running furnace that lasts for quite a long time. Of course, you’ll have to replace your furnace at some point, but with the right maintenance routine, you’ll get more time and value out of your investment before having to make that replacement.