No matter what type of furnace you have, there are several things you can do to keep your heating system working efficiently and trouble-free for years.
While most repairs will need to be done by a professional, the key to avoiding expensive repairs is to keep up with basic maintenance and to consistently monitor your heating and cooling system throughout the years.
If you want to save money and maintain your furnace’s efficiency, follow these simple steps.
Probably the easiest and best way to avoid expensive furnace repairs is to clean and replace the system’s filter on a regular basis.
The filter system helps prevent dirt from entering the furnace — dirt that comes through on the air the furnace is using to heat your home. The standard recommendation is to replace this filter at least once every three months. If you skip doing this, the filter will start to struggle with its primary job: to trap dust, dirt and other debris.
While four times a year sounds like a lot, keep in mind that a clogged filter in your furnace is like taking a big gasp of air through a straw — you’ll achieve your purpose, but have to work twice as hard. If your furnace is consistently working harder than necessary to do its job, then parts and components are more likely to fail. Given the relatively low cost of filters, this is one of the simplest ways to maintain your furnace and prevent expensive repairs.
An easy, free way to do this check is to alter the temperature in your home to prompt the thermostat to start working. At this point, go to the furnace to make sure the thermostat is sending the necessary information. If you don’t hear your furnace start to operate, your thermostat may not be working properly.
If your furnace does start to work, then return to your home’s primary rooms and wait to see the results. The new temperature should correspond to the current thermostat settings. If it doesn’t, then chances are your thermostat has stopped working and needs to be replaced.
While there are many companies out there that advertise their service to clean your furnace and air ducts, don’t assume you need this service. Quite often, a professional cleaning of your air ducts isn’t necessary unless you’ve undergone a major renovation — where much more dust and debris can accumulate in your ducts — or your furnace is over 10 years old.
If neither of those conditions is present, then you can clean your furnace ducts with the help of a simple, high-powered vacuum. Simply use the vacuum to clean out any covered openings to your ductwork. Once done, make sure you replace the covers.
To spot the need for repairs, consider a visual inspection — where you simply look at all exposed ductwork to see if there are rips, tears or holes in the ductwork. You can hire a professional to conduct a blow test, which helps assess whether or not there are leaks in your system. However, you really don’t need to take on this added expense until your furnace is older than a decade.
In order for a gas furnace to work, it needs air. To get this air, intake and outtake vents are placed all over your home — the outtake vents provide the heating and cooling to each room, while the intake vents are where the air is sucked in from your house into the furnace. Typically each vent is covered with a grate. Over time, these grates can become blocked due to large amounts of dust and debris.
Blocked ventilation can lead to serious problems and expensive repairs in your furnace. To prevent this, use a large brush and scrub the vents. Another option is to use a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment and clean the surface of each vent. Once done, remove the vent cover and vacuum the back and the inside of the cavity. This helps remove the accumulated dust and debris and prevents potential blockages.
While you’ll want to replace your furnace filter every three months, you should also anticipate cleaning the furnace’s blower at least once per year. The blower assembly is usually located right after the air filter. To be sure, read your owner’s manual.
The blower is where little particles of dust, dirt and debris that are too small for the filter to trap, are caught before entering your furnace. Use a damp cloth to wipe down all components, including pulleys, belts and other areas where dirt has accumulated.
Every year, inspect the furnace fan and its components. While you’ll probably have to call a professional if you suspect a problem, this annual inspection can help catch potentially expensive problems before they start. Look for dust and other components on the fan. If there is a lot, your filter system may not be working effectively.
Probably the cheapest way to avoid a repair is to read the owner’s manual for your furnace. Quite often, people buy a furnace assuming that the stated warranty will protect them from the cost of every repair and service, but that’s not the case. Different parts are covered for different periods of time and, quite often, only if you follow manufacturer’s requirements — such as paying for a professional to annually inspect your furnace. To avoid paying out of pocket, make sure you know what is covered and what is required to maintain the warranty on your furnace.
Get the most out of your gas furnace by using these tips to clean and maintain your furnace. Do this consistently and you will avoid most unexpected or costly repairs.