Home furnace maintenance ramps up during certain times of year, and with winter weather bearing down on us, this is one time of year to remember to do some very important upkeep to your home. Make sure you include furnace maintenance on this list, preferably before you begin using the furnace in earnest.
Your furnace runs all winter long, drawing in air, heating it, and then circulating the heated air back through your entire home. Homes with pets or smokers are hit a bit harder with more things to trap and filter from this regulated air, but all homes should regularly replace their furnace filter in order to keep your furnace running at its most efficient.
Replacing your furnace filter
Furnace filters are the barrier to the inside of your furnace; a barrier that will keep your furnace safe from dangerous particles that may block your furnace from doing its job. Due to the nature of the filter’s job, it gets dirty and saturated and will need replaced on a basis determined by various factors that occur in the home.
There isn’t necessarily a set schedule recommended to change your furnace filter, as there are several varying factors that come into play when considering when this should be done. Homes with a pet, or multiple pets, are a factor that will affect when your filter needs replaced. The pet dander and fur that can accumulate in the filter will require the filter to be replaced more frequently than in a home that does not have animals. Generally a home with pets will need smaller filters replaced every month, larger filters replaced every 2-3 months. A home with one pet can stretch it to two months for a smaller sized filter, and 4-6 months for a larger sized filter. No pets means changing the filter every three, six or twelve months, depending on the filter size.
Dust and smoking also affect a furnace filter’s lifespan. Heavy dust in a home, or smoking in the house can require a filter to be replaced monthly, or larger filters every 2-3 months. Multiple smokers in the home would decrease the lifespan of a furnace filter.
If you replace your filter on a regular basis you are on track to keeping your furnace up and running when you need it. A complete inspection should also be done on an annual basis, and you can decide what time of year works best for you. Of course, it’s a great idea to have your furnace inspected and cleaned right before you are going to start needing to use it, however as long as you have this done at least once a year, the actual date of the cleaning does not really matter. You can even take advantage of off-season pricing if that is what you decide you want to do.
If you are comfortable performing furnace maitenance yourself, there are a few simple steps you can take to do this.
- Visual inspection. Make sure the thermostat is set to the “heat” position and kicks in to run so you can check to see that the fuel-burning process initiates properly. Then, turn off the power to the heat and the fuel supply, and check the venting ducts to verify they’re well-sealed, in good condition, and the joints are in working condition and are sealed using a minimum of three metal screws.
- Next remove the blower compartment and furnace covers so you can see the mechanical parts and the filter. Remove the filter to see if it needs replaced. Either replace or return the filter.
- Next, the blower is checked to make sure there are no obstructions. A flashlight and possibly mirrors will be needed for this.
- The burners will need to be removed from the furnace next, in order to be cleaned and to better visually access the inside of the furnace. Inspect this area for separated seams, rust and holes. Clean the burners using fresh water, removing and dust and debris. Clean the sensor and pilot with a wire brush and cloth.
- Finally, reassemble everything and replace the covers. Don’t forget to test the furnace to make sure you got everything back correctly and to see if the furnace is burning cleanly.
If this sounds too overwhelming, or dangerous, to do on your own, a furnace maintenance check typically costs less than $100. The most important thing to do is to have your furnace serviced before it breaks down and causes your family discomfort and other issues by breaking down.