For homeowners, preparing for colder months means getting things right outside. Caulking leaky windows, installing spigot covers, and prepping the yard for winter are a few steps. But winterizing your home from the external elements also takes internal maintenance. And your furnace is the best place to start. After all, it’s the thing that beats back the cold winds. But furnaces are complex pieces of equipment that can overwhelm those new to heating. So, here are four furnace tips to make maintaining and repairing your heater easier this year.
1. Service Your Furnace Every Year
Most furnace manufacturers suggest annual furnace maintenance and inspection for their equipment. For some homeowners, yearly furnace maintenance may seem like overkill and too costly. After all, you can expect to pay anywhere from $80 to $100 per visit without a service contract or maintenance program. But homeowners who service their furnace every year get a hefty return on their investment.
For one, a well-maintained furnace is more efficient. That means lower heating bills and a warmer domicile. And a regularly tuned up heater will last you longer too — with regular inspections and maintenance, you should get at least 15 years or more. You may need to troubleshoot your furnace to ensure that it’s working properly every year. But if there are more significant problems, contact a local HVAC specialist for your annual service and repairs.
2. Clean Your Furnace System Inside and Out
Furnace systems move thousands of tons of air every season. And all that airflow transfers dust and grime throughout your system. While a clean filter catches the bulk of the debris, it can’t remove everything. As part of your annual tune-up, clean dust buildup from your vents and registers. And have the inside of your ductwork professionally cleaned every two to five years.
Keeping your system “clean” also means removing any obstruction to airflow. Your return vent allows air to get to your heater. So, keep the area around it clear of furniture, drapes, and artwork that restrict air intake. Gas furnaces often suffer from soot and rust buildup. Burning gases leave carbon flakes and dust, which can accumulate on pilot lights, burners, and exhaust flues. Vacuuming the interior spaces of your unit is key to proper gas furnace maintenance.
3. Air Filters are Complicated
You can increase your furnace’s efficiency and extend its life if you change the air filter when it needs it. But furnace filters are more complicated than you think. And the best time to change them depends on many factors. To start, get the filter size right? Refer to your owner’s manual or check the size of your current filter if you know it’s correct. Filters too large or small don’t function correctly.
Next, decide on your budget. Filters come in a variety of ratings, thicknesses, and materials that impact their price. Unsurprisingly, the more expensive the filter, the longer the life span. A standard 1-inch thick fiberglass filter might cost you a dollar. But you’ll need to replace it every month. Plus, these cheap filters don’t filter out smaller particles. A thicker, pleated polyester filter will cost you around five times more, but will last up to three months and captures small airborne pollutants. Generally, the thicker the filter, the longer it will last.
Finally, to get the longest-lasting filter, check its MERV rating. This is an industry-standard rating for filter performance that runs from 1 to 16. A higher number equals better performance and longer lifespan. Two other rating systems you’re likely to encounter are MRP and FPR. Know the difference between these filter rating systems when purchasing.
4. CO Detectors Are Part of Your Furnace System
Gas and oil furnaces emit carbon monoxide (CO) as a by-product of combustion. Ideally, CO and other gases escape through the exhaust flue — the large metal tube that runs through your roof or external wall of your home. But things happen. Flues can leak because of holes, loose fittings, or corrosion. Or an exhaust tube end can get choked off by debris, snow, or bird nests. The result is a leak of poisonous CO into your home. This is a life-threatening problem. That’s why you should consider a functioning CO detector as part of your furnace maintenance.
So, making testing and replacing your CO detector as part of your annual furnace tune-up. Check and replace old batteries. Test every detector in your home at least twice a year. If it’s older than five years, replace the detector altogether. Swap out older models for a wireless interconnected CO detector system. When one sounds an alarm, it will trigger every other detector in the home.