There’s nothing better than cranking up the heater on a freezing cold day—especially when that heater is a convenient central heating system capable of pumping out tons of warm air. What do you do when you go to turn the heater on and it’s not working, though? Many people need emergency heating repairs in the winter, so you could be left high and dry for far too long.
Your best bet is to prevent a furnace breakdown by maintaining it properly throughout the year and preparing it for winter.
Doing It Yourself
As is the case with nearly any maintenance in your home, you can maintain your furnace on your own if you’re willing to use some elbow grease. The most important part of performing your own furnace maintenance is taking the time to research and properly implementing that research.
One thing you absolutely can’t forget to do before servicing your furnace is shut off the fuel supply and the electricity to the furnace. The electric switch looks like a red light switch and can generally be found near the furnace or the stairwell that leads to it. The fuel supply valve can be found on the furnace itself.
If you think you’re up to the task and you’ve got your electricity and fuel supply shut off, you can move on to the next step: maintenance.
Even if you don’t plan on servicing your own furnace, it’s important to understand the process so you can make sure your heating professional isn’t cutting any corners.
Maintaining Your Furnace
When it comes to keeping your furnace in optimal condition, there are a number of steps you should take. Here is a full list of what you (or a heating professional) should do to make sure your furnace is ready to pump out hot air when the frigid months arrive.
- Heat exchanger: Heat exchangers allow heat from one substance to transfer to another substance without the two substances actually having to touch each other. Over time, heat exchangers can crack, exposing you to dangerous fumes which can make you sick.
- Burners: The burner is what actually burns the fuel to create heat, so it gets pretty dirty over time. Your burners should be inspected for and cleaned if they need it.
- Flue pipe: The flue pipe should be checked for leaks and corrosion. Small holes can be covered with foil tape, but a badly corroded flue pipe needs to be replaced.
- Fan switch: Your fan switch should be checked to make sure it’s set properly. If it isn’t, it should be adjusted.
- Gas line: We all know how dangerous gas leaks can be. Your gas line should be thoroughly checked for leaks each time you inspect your furnace.
- Air filter: All the warm air you enjoy comes through this air filter, so it really builds up grime over time. Change your air filter about every three months—although changing it more certainly won’t hurt—and use a filter with a good MERV rating for optimal air quality.
- Oil filter: If your furnace uses oil, the oil filter will need to be changed every so often. If you don’t have an oil furnace, don’t worry about this step.
- Thermostat: A thermostat that isn’t correctly calibrated can cost you money and make your system run when it shouldn’t. Your thermostat should be checked and calibrated with each inspection.
- Pilot: If your pilot is set wrong or has built up lots of grime, it will be easier to extinguish. Make sure the pilot is clean and adjusted properly during each inspection to make sure your furnace easily ignites when you need it to.
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