It's autumn time! The kids are back in school, football season has begun, the leaves are changing color and the temperatures begin to drop. With everything going on, the last thing on your mind is worrying about what would happen if your furnace stopped working mid-winter. Here at Landmark Home Warranty, we worry about that for you, because as a home warranty company we have to! A home warranty company will repair or replace your heating system for a small service call fee, as long as it has failed from normal wear and tear. That means you have to properly maintain your furnace!
Luckily, basic maintenance on your furnace is easy to do and can keep the machine running smoothly; saving you from an extremely cold winter day without a source of heat. Here are six ways to make sure your heater is properly maintained this fall season:
- Get a Furnace Tune-Up
Every fall, you should hire a trusted HVAC contractor to perform a furnace tune-up. This isn’t just something that contractors have come up with as a way to make money though. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, you should ensure your furnace is inspected every year. A furnace tune-up from a property HVAC technician can help to prepare your furnace for winter and find smaller problems before they become larger ones and cause a major system breakdown in the cold winter months!
With a Landmark Home Warranty, furnace tune-ups are included in your home warranty coverage. Our contractor will calibrate your thermostat, check the heating operations, clean or replace filters, clean and tighten electrical connections, test safety switches, test limit switches and clean your burners. All you have to pay is the cost of your plan’s service call fee. Getting a tune-up before each heating season can provide more in-depth maintenance than what you can do yourself, although you shouldn’t discount the next five maintenance steps.
- Clean Your Furnace
Cleaning your furnace is one of the best ways to keep it running for its entire lifespan. Removing dust and dirt from the inside of the unit is easy! First, make sure the furnace is shut off. You should also turn off the circuit breaker that powers the unit. If you have a gas furnace, make sure the gas valve is shut off too.
Next, take off the sides of your furnace and vacuum out any dust, dirt, or debris that may have built up over the past few months. Clean dirt and dust off the blades of the blower fan with a wet cloth, and clean off the sides of the furnace. If you have a gas furnace, you’ll want to clean out the combustion chamber, as well as the blower fan chamber.
When you finish cleaning (and throughout the year) make sure to never place obstacles that can block the intake vents of your unit! This can make your furnace work harder than it needs to and cause dirt and dust to build up faster in the furnace body.
- Check for Corrosion or Holes
If you have a gas furnace, as you’re cleaning, check for rust and corrosion and any holes within the combustion chamber. Forced-air gas furnaces produce carbon monoxide in the process of heating your home. Usually, this colorless, odorless gas is vented outside, but if your furnace has corrosion or cracks in its heat exchangers, it can leak out and into the air of your home. Visually check for cracks inside the combustion chamber. You should also check for loose joints in your furnace’s vent. According to the Washington Post, rust on top of the heater or on the vent can be indicative of a carbon monoxide problem, as can peeling or bubbling paint. If you see any of these signs, ensure that you ask your HVAC professional about them during your tune-up. Although you can’t always see the corrosion, holes, or cracks, in your furnace, you can install commercial grade carbon monoxide detectors in your home (close to the ceiling, as CO is lighter than air) that will alert you if the gas is at a dangerous level. If this happens, turn the unit off, go outdoors and open windows and doors in your home, and call a professional immediately.
- Replace Your HVAC Filters
Before turning on your furnace for the first time this fall season, change your air filter. During the heating season make sure to check and change your furnace's filter every 1-3 months.
Even with a good filter, dust can accumulate around the furnace and on the blower fan, so it is a good idea to turn off your furnace and check and clean the inside of the furnace every few months during the winter months. You can learn more about how to change your furnace filters using our how-to article, and if you want to sign up for monthly filters delivered to your door, you can get a free month using the service FilterEasy by going here.
- Check Your Furnace’s Pilot Light
If your furnace is gas powered, when you turn it back on inspect your pilot light. Your pilot light should have a steady blue flame with the tips being a light yellow or orange. It should never flicker, or have spurts of yellow or orange. Yellow or orange light means that the gas isn’t being burned efficiently. This could be because of a dirty pilot tube. A flickering light can be caused by a dirty pilot tube, or a draft in the furnace. If you do see a full yellow or orange flame, flickering, or soot build-up, you should call a professional.
- Clean Out Your Vents and Ducts
Finally, make sure to vacuum and clean out the vents and ducts around your home. You don’t need to pay for a full duct cleaning, but taking the registers off of your ducts and cleaning out any dirt, debris, and toys from the vents can make sure your furnace isn’t working harder than it needs to, to heat your home. Vacuuming the register covers with a brush attachment can help as well.
Of course, even if you follow all of these tips and eventually your furnace will still fail, simply because it has an intended lifespan, which is about 15-20 years. If you have a home warranty and you’ve done proper maintenance on your heating system and the system fails from normal wear and tear, Landmark Home Warranty will cover to repair or replace it. All a homeowner has to do is open a service request and then pay a small service call fee. Take a look at what else our home warranty plans cover here, or purchase a plan to protect your furnace here.