A Seasonal Guide To Furnace Maintenance

With the heating season fast approaching (and already gearing up in some parts of the country), now is a good time to start thinking about how to take care of your furnace. That machine works hard to keep you and your family comfortable all winter long. Here's what you can do, season by season, to return the favor.

Spring

With spring comes a lightening of the furnace's workload. Spring time is a great time to change out the furnace filter one last time for the heating season, and check all the components, making sure they are all in good repair. A good checklist for spring furnace maintenance is:

  • Check electrical components to make sure there are no fraying or exposed wires.
  • Lubricate moving components to make sure they don't seize up like the Tin Man.
  • Use your thermostat to turn on the furnace and listen for any unusual noises. Turn it on, run it for a minute or two and then turn it off again. Knocking sounds, wheezing, or difficulty turning on or off may indicate a need for professional service.
  • Check fuel connections and make sure there are no gaps, cracks, or imperfections in the pipes.

Summer

While you're not using your furnace, you don't even need to think about it, right? Wrong! When you're sure you won't be needing your furnace for a while, take the time to:

  • Switch off the pilot light. This prevents unnecessary consumption of gas or heating oil.
  • Make certain the thermostat is out of heating mode. If you use the same thermostat for heating and air conditioning, this small step can save you some discomfort and higher utility bills. You might be surprised at the number of people who call for air conditioning service only to discover their thermostat was in the wrong mode.
  • Vacuum out the fan and filter areas. This keeps dust from collecting and causing havoc later on.

Autumn

Nearly everyone loves autumn. What few people enjoy is going to switch their furnace on for the first cold night only to find that something has gone wrong. As the leaves start to turn, check these items off your furnace maintenance list:

  • Check the ducts. When was the last time you had them cleaned? Dust, pet dander, dust mites, mold, and a myriad of other tiny nasty things build up in there. Fall is a good time to have that all removed, before you need to use your furnace full time.
  • Check the system again for unusual sounds.
  • Change out the air filter in preparation for heavier use.
  • Consider making your home more energy efficient. One third of your home's heat loss happens through doors and windows, and that means your furnace has to work harder. Consider insulating window treatments and replacing old weather stripping on doors.

Winter

While your furnace is seeing the heaviest usage, you'll want to keep it running smoothly. That means taking the time to perform monthly maintenance, and ensure it operates safely.

  • Change out the filters at least once per month. If you have pets, live in a windy or dusty area, or have a smoker in the house, you may need to change out the filters more often to make sure your furnace is running at its peak.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector in the home if you haven't already done so. All furnaces create carbon monoxide in small amounts, but if something goes wrong, you need a warning system in place.
  • Call for service right away if the carbon monoxide detector sounds an alarm, you start hearing funny sounds, or you smell gas.

Your furnace works hard for you for months at a time. Taking a little time to make sure its needs are met will keep it running smoothly for years to come. Be sure to learn and read more about your furnace's needs so you can be prepared when winter hits. 

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