7 Tips for Your Furnace This Winter
On average, furnaces last about 15-20 years. Some models will last longer than this, while others may need regular attention to remain working properly. Regardless of how well your heating system typically operates, a furnace’s worst time to stop functioning is on a cold winter day or night.
Whether you have an electric or gas furnace, there are some things you can do to reduce your odds of being surprised by furnace-related problems. Furnaces that aren’t properly maintained are also susceptible to gas leaks and other potential dangers. To help you enjoy maximum comfort this winter, the team at Wade Heating, Cooling, and Geothermal has put together the following tips for keeping your furnace in tip-top shape as temperatures dip.
1. Check Your Thermostat
Before it’s time to start using your gas or electric furnace again regularly, test the thermostat. See if the settings match the temperature of your home. If the temperature is way off, your home won’t be kept sufficiently comfortable. If you have a wireless thermostat, the problem might be the batteries. Sometimes, removing dust and debris from underneath the cover will do the trick. Otherwise, it’s best to call a heating and cooling professional to determine what’s going on with your thermostat. If you recently had an HVAC system installed with a new thermostat and your still getting incorrect readings, it may be because the thermostat is located on a wall that’s getting too much sun exposure. An HVAC technician can also help you correct a problem like this.
2. Check the Air Filters
Air filters reduce your exposure to allergens and other indoor irritants and help keep your indoor air healthy. Filters that are clogged or dirty, however, don’t do this job as well. Your electric or gas furnace will also have to work harder if filters are cluttered with dust and debris, which could contribute to higher utility bills along with a boost in allergy symptoms and respiratory issues. If you use electric filters, they will usually display a light when it’s time to change them. The general recommendation with filters is to change them seasonally. With washable filters, periodically check them every 2-3 months to see if they need to be rinsed.
3. Clean the Air Blower
You may be surprised at how much dirt can accumulate inside furnaces. One area that should be cleaned at least once a year before the cooler months arrive is the air blower. But before you do any cleaning, make sure everything is off and unplugged. Some blower units slide out, while others have parts that will need to be unscrewed. A vacuum attachment can be used to remove loose dirt and debris. A small brush can also be used to clean the blower and the blades. Use a soft, clean cloth to get any other debris that didn’t come out from vacuuming.
4. Check the Belts
An electric furnace has belts and pulleys that work in unison with the motor to produce heat. Because these belts do a lot of work when your unit is operating, they need to be checked before winter arrives. A brush can be used to clean the belts, or you can use a clean, soft cloth to wipe them off. Don’t forget to look for any signs of wear and tear that suggest it’s time to call a technician to have them inspected and/or replaced. Gas and oil heating systems have a belt on the blower that should also be checked.
5. Clean, Clear, and Uncover Vents
Vents are what allows warm air to be distributed throughout your home into various rooms. Before you start using your heating system again, make sure nothing is blocking your vents. A vacuum attachment should be able to remove accumulated dirt and dust from your vents. If you have floor vents, they shouldn’t be covered with furniture, toys, or other objects or items that could block the heat from coming out of them. Blocked ventilation can cause internal parts of your system to heat up and increase your risk of having issues with carbon monoxide buildup. If you have wall or ceiling vents that you normally cover in the summer, double-check to make sure you took all covers off.
6. Oil the Motor
The motor is the heart of any heating system. And most blower motors need to be well-lubricated to work efficiently. Usually, all that’s required is a couple of drops of oil each year just before the cooler weather settles in. Just be careful with how much oil you apply. You don’t want to over-lubricate. Regularly oiling the blower motor can also minimize issues with strange noises during operation that may be distracting during the months when you’re more likely to be spending time indoors. As for what type of oil to use, household oil will work fine.
7. Clean Your Furnace’s Burners
With a gas furnace, dirt and debris can accumulate on the burners during the summer. This may cause problems with how gas is delivered through the burners or interfere with the process of air and fuel-burning to create heat for your home. First, take a look at the burner flames. They should be even and blue. Yellow flames indicate dirty burners. If you see signs of dirty burners, turn off the power and the gas valve. Use a vacuum attachment to clean the burners and the base of your furnace. While cleaning the burners, look for any signs of rust or misalignment. If you spot such problems, contact a trained technician.
Not every gas or electric furnace issue will require attention from a Pittsburgh HVAC technician from Wade Heating, Cooling, & Geothermal. Many homeowners can handle minor tasks like changing filters or vacuuming main components. But if you’ve spotted other issues during your initial pre-winter preparation efforts, such as inconsistent temperatures, irregular cycles, or signs of worn wiring, it’s time to call on a trained HVAC technician. Wade Heating, Cooling, and Geothermal is at your service 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call today to schedule an inspection or request service.