Winter Maintenance for Your Furnace

On a cold winter day one of the worst realizations that you can have is that your furnace is no longer working. The best way to avoid this major aggravation is to follow a few easy preventive maintenance steps. Proper maintenance will help keep your furnace in top shape and keep your heating bill down.

The most important maintenance step is to schedule an annual “tune-up” with a certified technician. Your technician can spot early warning signs and provide any repairs that might be necessary. In between technician visits, there are also a few simple things that you can do yourself to help keep your furnace running smoothly.

The first thing on your list is your filter. Forced-air furnace filters should be changed on a monthly basis, especially during the heating season. A clean filter will help keep your furnace performance at its peak level and help keep your indoor air free from dust and other contaminants. Once your filter is changed, take a look at the outside of your furnace. Make sure there is no black soot or other residue on the furnace. If there is, call a heating repair specialist to do a more in-depth inspection and diagnosis.

Another thing you want to check is your furnace flame. Turn the temperature up on your thermostat until the furnace is ignited. If the flame is blue and steady, then you are good to go. However, if the flame is yellow, orange or flickering, then you should call a technician. Both soot buildup and non-blue flames are a sign of a larger problem that should be immediately fixed.

After checking the flame, turn the thermostat back to normal levels, allowing your furnace to cool. At this point you want to make sure that you turn off the circuit breaker that powers your furnace to ensure that a motor doesn’t start in the middle of your work.

Once the furnace is cool, remove the sides and vacuum (with a long nozzle) any accumulated dirt and dust. Wipe down the blades of the blower fan with a damp rag. If your furnace has oil cups, make sure you put in a few drops of oil.

If your furnace has an electric motor and fan belt, the next step is to check the condition and tension of the belt (the belt should have about ½ of an inch of play when you push down on it). Adjust the tension if necessary by loosening the electric motor mounts and moving the motor. Replace the belt if you see any cracks.

These are the final checks necessary for your winter maintenance. You can now reattach the furnace panels, turn the power to the circuit breaker back on, and get ready to enjoy a warm and toasty house.

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