A properly functioning furnace is a must for winter warmth and comfort. A bit of maintenance in the fall can ensure smooth winter operation.
1. Clean the Filter Assembly
Every furnace has a filter, which must be changed throughout the heating season as well as before the season begins. It's a good idea to check the filter, even if you changed it in spring, just to verify that no mold or mildew grew on it during the summer months. Take advantage of the filter removal to also dust out the housing in which the filter sets. You can do this with a dusting cloth or with the help of a vacuum hose.
2. Dust Out the System
Dust in the system can smell bad as it burns during the furnace startup, and it may also blow out of the vents and into your home. You can't avoid all dust, but you can minimize it. Dust off the burner plate in oil furnaces, and dust the blower fan in all furnaces. Then, use a vacuum hose to clean out the accessible part of each vent and register in the home. This is also a good time to make sure the vents are open so the warm air can properly circulate.
3. Check Valves and Fittings
Gas and oil furnaces need a fuel system inspection regularly. Verify that all gas lines and fittings are in good repair with no signs of damage. Don't overlook the pilot light, which must be burning a steady blue color at all times. Check oil valves to verify they aren't damaged or clogged, and inspect the oil tank and lines for signs of damage. All vent systems should be cleared so that gas and condensation can vent properly. Further, change the batteries in the carbon monoxide detector nearest the furnace and make sure it works properly.
4. Test the Thermostat
Make sure the thermostat is working properly by putting your furnace through a test run. Set it to a few degrees warmer than the home already is at and allow the furnace to cycle on. Listen for odd noises that could indicate maintenance issues. Verify that the home has heated to the set temperature once the furnace cycled off.
5. Schedule a Tuneup
Ideally, the furnace will be tuned up by a professional every year before the winter heating season begins. A furnace technician will lubricate the blower assembly and other moving parts, check electrical systems for wear, and make sure that burner pans in oil furnaces aren't cracked. Consider the professional tuneup as preventative maintenance because it can help prevent a breakdown from happening later in the heating season.
Contact a heating contractor for help in getting the furnace ready for winter.