You probably don’t give your furnace much thought on a daily basis – but it would likely be top of mind if it stopped working during the middle of a particularly cold winter!
The good news is that it’s pretty easy to avoid getting into a situation where you’re left without a functioning furnace. The best thing to do is to have a professional check your furnace once a year, either before or after the heating season, to make sure that everything’s running properly.
While the yearly maintenance check should be left to a professional, there are several things that homeowners can look at first to ensure their furnace is working properly. Always turn off the power before performing any cleaning or maintenance tasks.
5 Steps a Homeowner Can Take
Check the power source. Look for a tripped circuit breaker or blown fuse near the furnace’s entrance panel if you think there is a power issue. Some units have a separate power switch, so check your manual to see where this is and make sure it is in the on position.
Check your thermostat. It seems like a minor thing, but if you feel like your house isn’t being heated properly, try turning your thermostat up five degrees and see if that makes a difference. Of course, if you have to turn your thermostat up a lot just to stay warm, there is likely a problem with one of the distribution components of your furnace, and you will need to talk with a professional in order to avoid wasting fuel all winter.
Reset furnace. Some furnaces have a reset button near the motor housing unit, and if your furnace’s power switch is on but warm air doesn’t seem to be coming out, you can try hitting that reset button. Wait 30 minutes, and if nothing happens in that time, try hitting the reset button again. If air still isn’t flowing after several tries, there is likely another source to the problem.
Check fuel levels. If your furnace runs off of oil, check to see if there is enough left for the winter season. If it is a gas furnace, check to see if the gas supply is turned on.
Clean your furnace filter. Sometimes an inefficient furnace doesn’t actually have a mechanical problem—there may just be too much dirt and grime built up on the unit to allow enough warm air to pass through and heat the house. Take the furnace cover and blower components off to access your filter. Remove the filter and either clean dirt off with a hard brush or replace it with a new filter.
A heating professional should be able to clean or replace your filter for you if you are uncomfortable removing it yourself. Here are some other things that you can expect a professional to do during a routine furnace checkup.
4 Steps a Heating Professional Can Take
Check the venting ducts. Your furnace’s venting ducts are essential when it comes to removing flue gas from the unit, so a professional will inspect them and make sure they are tightly sealed. If there is a leak or crack, they will make the necessary repairs.
Inspect the blower. The blower is another key component that helps circulate warm air throughout your home. A professional will look for dirt or other obstruction on the blower and lubricate the blower motor if necessary.
Clean the burners. The burners contain the actual flame within your furnace, so it is important that they continue to function properly. A professional will remove the burners from your furnace and cleaned off all dust and debris. While the burners are out of the furnace, your service person should also inspect the inside of the furnace for any problems such as cracks, rust, or separated seams.
Check furnace for safety. After cleaning and properly reassembling all furnace components, your heating professional should check your high limit switch. The high limit is a safety feature that cuts off the power from the furnace if it detects that the unit is overheating, and it needs to be kept in good working condition in order to prevent serious problems like a fire. A service person will also check the gas meter to determine the rate at which fuel is being burned in your furnace and check to make sure the furnace is burning cleanly by using a carbon dioxide meter.
Furnace maintenance might seem like a chore, but it’s a task that needs to be performed only infrequently. By making sure your furnace is cleaned and maintained at least once a year, you’ll prevent problems that develop from lack of maintenance, give yourself greater peace of mind, and keep your home comfortable as the weather turns colder.