It’s the middle of summer, so odds are good you’re not thinking about keeping your furnace happy, but winter will be here sooner than later, and you definitely don’t want to have to worry about your furnace when it really gets cold.
You can expect your furnace to last 20 years—if you have it serviced regularly. Keeping your furnace happy is all about regular maintenance. When winter arrives, or during late fall (essentially, whenever you start using your heater regularly), perform a maintenance check. As long as you’re using the furnace regularly, check once a month to make sure everything is operating as it should.
Before we get into all the things you should check and maintain, let’s take a look at some safety tips.
Furnace Maintenance Safety Tips
1. The last thing you want to do is electrocute yourself, so make sure the power is turned off. First, check to see if the furnace has its own electrical panel, with its own fuse. If not, head to the main electrical panel and find the appropriate breaker. Flip the breaker and rest easy knowing you’re not going to electrocute yourself.
2. If the circuit trips repeatedly, or the fuse blows when the furnace turns on, your problem is in the electrical system. Don’t try to fix this yourself. Call a professional service technician.
3. If you own a gas furnace, pay special attention to the smell. If you smell gas at any time (whether or not you’re performing maintenance), exit the house immediately. Don’t flip any switches. Don’t bother trying to close the gas line. Just grab your phone, exit the house, and leave the door open wide. Call the fire department to let them know of the gas leak, then notify the gas company. Wait for their okay to reenter your home.
4. This is more of a general furnace safety tip, but make sure that you clear the area around your furnace. You don’t want to store anything flammable near your furnace. Give it at least a foot of space, and if you can, give it more.
Maintaining Your Furnace
1. Regularly Replace Your Filter. Every couple months, you should change your furnace filter. Check it out monthly, and if it doesn’t appear clogged, feel free to clean if off and set it back in; however, if it looks clogged, regardless of how long you’ve had it, you should replace it. (Generally, it’s best to replace it at least every other month, even if it doesn’t look clogged.) Be sure to get the correct size filter for your furnace. It should be marked on the filter itself, and on the ductwork, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding the right size.
2. Clear Your Vents. If your air vents are obstructed, the furnace ends up having to work that much harder to heat your home, meaning your efficiency is going to go way down. And the less efficiently your furnace is working, the shorter its lifespan is going to be.
3. Make Sure Your Thermostat Works. The older your thermostat is the less likely it is to be working as it should. Outright breakdowns aren’t what you need to look for. What you need to look out for is the thermostat’s calibration. If it’s off by even a few degrees, it means that the furnace will keeping heating the home even after it reaches the temperature you want, and it’ll cool your home below the temperature you want. It’s a good idea to have this checked out, and you may wish to preempt your concerns by switching to a digital thermostat.
4. Wipe Down the Furnace, and the Blower. The dirt and dust collecting on your furnace is the number one impediment to its efficiency, so wipe down the furnace to get rid of the dirt and dust. (This is one reason to dust the whole room.) Furthermore, the blower itself is particularly susceptible to collecting dust and dirt, and that’s bad news for efficiency. It may be housed behind a slip-fit panel, or be held in place by screws, but at most you’ll need a screwdriver. Slide it out and wipe down the blower assembly, belts, pulleys, and motor housing.
Make Your Furnace Really Happy
Finally, it’s all fine and good to perform routine maintenance yourself, but you should have them professionally serviced once a year. The best time to bring a technician out is when the temperature starts to warm up again—when they have plenty of time—and you can nab yourself a discount. Google “Vancouver furnace” (or wherever you live) and bring in a professional who can easily determine whether or not it’s feasible to repair existing parts, or if you’ll need replacements.
Chris Miller is a professional writer, blogger, and English grammar enthusiast. Chris enjoys learning about new health products, procedures, and ideas.