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Imagine a cold, dreary winter night and suddenly your furnace dies! This inconvenient (and every bit scary!) scenario is very much possible if you’re not careful enough. Keep in mind that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And, this is especially true when it comes to home furnace maintenance.
There is no doubt that routine furnace maintenance will add to your home’s comfort and make your heating system more energy-efficient, prolong the furnace’s lifespan, and help reduce your heating and repair bills. A win-win situation for every homeowner!
So, if you’re looking for good home furnace maintenance tips, you’ve reached the right spot. Fortunately, you can take care of some of the home system maintenance yourself, and we’ll show you how. Through these preventive measures, you can thoroughly inspect and tune-up your heating system — successfully avoiding future sudden breakdowns.
Ideally, you should call an HVAC technician once a year to do service maintenance checks on your appliances. Maintaining your furnace will keep it running safely and longer. But, before you hire an HVAC expert, you should follow these simple DIY home furnace maintenance steps — and save yourself some hassles and headaches. And yes, repair money!
Remove combustion chamber door and inspect burner flames
Begin the DIY furnace project by switching the electrical power off. Remove the combustion chamber door and remove the burner cover — usually held in place by two screws.
Turn the power on and turn your thermostat up. This will activate the burners. Check if the burner flames are even and blue. If they are yellow, it indicates that you have a dirty burner. It’s best to hire a professional HVAC contractor to clean the burner.
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Clean the blower cavities
Once you’ve checked the burner flames, turn off the power and shut off the gas. Look for signs of soot and dust in the blower cavities. These can accumulate over time and be responsible for poor combustion. Using a vacuum hose, clean the furnace burners and the furnace base. Lift the blower door and clean out that compartment too.
Gently lift out the blower or squirrel cage, by loosening the control panel, and vacuum clean it. Make sure you clean the blower blades thoroughly. Use a small brush to clean out the hard-to-reach places. DO NOT disturb the wiring or counterweights on the fan blades.
Make sure there’s no extra noise from the blower motor
A furnace blower motor’s role is to drive the fan — providing the required air movement. The heating element heats the heat exchanger and then the blower motor pushes out the heated air and helps distribute it throughout the home. If you notice your blower motor being noisy, there could be a problem with any of its working parts — either due to an electric motor problem or a loose blower wheel. You’ll need to call a trained technician to identify the source and make suitable repairs.
Replace the furnace filter
A furnace filter plays an important role in removing particulates — such as dust, dust mites, pollen, pet dander, bacteria, and spores — from the air before it moves into the furnace equipment and is heated. A dirty air filter will not just make the airflow inadequate and inefficient, it will not improve the air quality that it’s supposed to.
You must change the furnace filter every one to three months — depending on the type of air filter.
Dust the pilot and flame sensor
Make sure the pilot is clean. If you see dust, just blow through a drinking straw to remove the specks. Keep in mind that a dirty pilot can cause a fault in the flame sensor. Modern furnaces these days have hot surface igniters in lieu of pilot lights and electronic igniters. You must remember that igniters can break easily and are not to be touched. Just blow air through the straw to clean it. Nothing more.
Sometimes, the flame sensor becomes coated with residue over time. This can prevent your home furnace from lighting. Remove it from its bracket and clean the flame sensor surface lightly with a fine emery cloth before putting it back. When you close the furnace doors, be very gentle, or else, you may break the igniter.
Inspect the drive belt
Check if the drive belts on your blower have any cracks or frayed areas that may need adjustments or a complete replacement. If you’re installing a new belt, make sure it deflects 1/2 to 3/4 in. Call a pro if you’re not confident about replacing the belt.
Lubricate the motor bearings
In case you have an old home furnace, you’ll have to keep the motor bearings and blower shaft bearings well-lubricated through oiling. Annually. Make sure you apply two to three drops of lightweight machine oil and clean around the oil caps. DON’T over-lubricate.
Make seasonal adjustments on dampers
If you use the same ducts for your furnace heating as well as air conditioning, you will have to make adjustments to the dampers to accommodate the seasonal changes. Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s manual for the seasonal settings.
Seal all leaky air ducts
The air ducts should be properly sealed with special metal tape or high-temperature silicone. Consider getting your ductwork cleaned by a professional, especially if it’s been a while, or you’re contemplating making significant renovations to your home. Sealing up your air ducts reduces heat load.
If you’re still experiencing heat loss within your home, contact an HVAC contractor for a home energy audit. It will help you determine the source of the problem and fix it. They will tell you if you need weather stripping on your windows and doors or sealing and insulating ductwork.
Clean your heating system vents
Inspect your furnace’s exhaust vent pipes and water heater. If you see a white powdery residue, it could indicate corrosion. Contact an HVAC pro to fix the problem. If everything seems fine, give the vents a good cleaning.
Keep all the vents in the house free
A good air circulation is important for your heating system or air conditioner to work properly. Make sure all the vents in your home are open and allow air to flow freely. Any blockage or back-drafting can cause the furnace to work even harder and less efficiently. This will eventually damage it before its time.
For natural gas furnaces, make sure the exhaust flue to the outside is clear. Or else, you could be inhaling carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide from the fumes. These could have serious health effects, including headaches, dizziness, or nausea.
Remove any flammable object from around your furnace
A home furnace is usually located in a basement, a crawl space, or a storage room. Make sure there’s nothing flammable – clothes, paint, aerosols, or gasoline – around your furnace or water heater.
Maintaining your home furnace and keeping it in perfect working condition doesn’t take too much time or effort. Just a thorough inspection and some TLC. Good home furnace maintenance will ensure that your heating system will deliver maximum heat output without wasting energy or causing harmful emissions.
And, you certainly don’t want your furnace to become costly to run, harmful to indoor air quality, or have sudden breakdowns. Most importantly, if any furnace service reports that your HVAC system failed due to lack of routine maintenance, the repair bill could cost you dearly!