Getting Your Furnace Ready for Winter

Cooler temperatures are already here, and you may have already turned off your air conditioner. The stretches of cool weather will keep getting longer. It might not be time to crank up the furnace just yet but when the sweaters and pumpkin spice lattes aren’t enough to fight the chill and it’s time to turn on the heat, the last thing you want is a furnace problem. Now is the time to make sure your furnace is in working order so you won’t be left in the cold when you really need the heat.

You should have your furnace regularly inspected and maintained by a professional. A well-kept furnace is important not just for your comfort in the cooler months but for your families safety. An improperly functioning furnace can be both a fire risk and a C/O concern, so it’s important to use a professional for repairs and inspection. However, there are a few items you can tend to yourself to make sure your furnace is ready to go.

Check the Thermostat

The first step is to switch your thermostat to heat and set the temperature a few degrees higher than the current room temperature. The furnace should kick on within a minute or two. If it doesn’t, take off the thermostat cover and make sure all the wire connections are intact. If the furnace still isn’t turning on, make sure the power to your furnace is on. This is often a light switch located close to your furnace but could also be in your electrical panel. You may also need to reignite your pilot. In newer models there is often an electronic ignitor but in older models it will need to be manually lit. Additional sources of problems getting the furnace started could be with the fan, heat pump, or blower. However, if you’re not well versed in HVAC repairs, it might be best to call in a professional.

Even with a working furnace, the thermostat plays an important role in the heating of your home and contributes to the efficiency of your furnace. If you have an old or outdated thermostat you might consider replacing it with a new smart thermostat. These thermostats allow more accurate setting of the temperature, plan temperature settings on a schedule, and will automatically learn your preferences. As well, some units will adjust when the home is empty or when you’re sleeping. You can save a lot of energy and money by switching to a smart thermostat.

Clean and Clear

Clean and Clear

Make sure that your vents are cleared and not covered by furniture or other items. Blocked vents don’t just keep the heat out of the room but also cause your furnace to work overtime and can overheat the furnace while driving up your utility bill. Make sure nothing is stored too close to your furnace as this can be a fire hazard. Clear the area around the furnace and make sure there is a few feet of space between it and any items, particularly anything flammable.

Additionally, there are a few items you can clean and clear yourself, but you might also consider calling in a professional if you’re not familiar with maintaining your furnace.

  • Check your furnace’s chimney and make sure it is clear of any obstructions. Soot can build up and cause fires.
  • The furnace’s burners can collect a build-up of debris over the summer and should be cleaned as well as checked for damage and rust before their winter use.
  • The heat exchanger should be checked and cleaned annually.
  • Some models will need their blower motor cleaned and lubricated on a yearly basis.
  • Oil burning furnaces require filter changes and burner nozzle cleaning as well as heat-exchanger cleaning to keep them in good working order. Getting your tank refilled before the colder season starts is also a good idea that could save you money and stress because you won’t run out when you need it most.

One item of furnace upkeep that everyone can and should do regularly is change their furnace filter. You should change your filter every couple of months. If you have a permanent electrostatic filter, don’t forget to give it a regular cleaning. This will help to keep the dust out of your furnace and give it a longer life. You should also take this opportunity to change the filter in your humidifier if your furnace has one. Stock up on filters during the warmer months to save on this regular purchase.

Keep Your Home Safe

Keep Your Home Safe

While you’ve got your furnace on your to-do list, add checking or updating your C/O detectors and fire alarms to the list. You need to have a working smoke and C/O detector on each floor of your home and near all sleeping areas. You should also have both alarms near your utilities. These alarms come in many types and styles: battery operated, hard-wired, or plugged in to your outlets. The most important thing is that they are present and working at all times.