DIY Furnace Maintenance Tips

Man checking his furnace to ensure optimal working conditions

Importance of a Yearly Furnace Check

A furnace is like any other appliance in your home: it needs to be properly maintained to ensure it continues to function. Most homeowners tend to ignore the furnace; in fact, quite a few don’t even know where it is located in their home.

Neglect can result in the furnace breaking down at an inconvenient time. In the worst-case scenario, a poorly-maintained furnace can also start to produce carbon monoxide, which can be hazardous for everyone in the house.

To avoid such situations, it is important to perform a regular furnace tune-up. You don’t have to service it every month, but make sure to do it at least once a year. This will ensure that the furnace functions well and does not become a hazard for you and your family.

Five DIY Maintenance Tips

Before you start any type of furnace work, be sure to turn the power and fuel supply off. The power switch is usually somewhere in the same room as the furnace, while the gas switch is usually located on the gas pipe. Once done, you can proceed with maintenance.   

1. Replace Furnace Filters

The furnace has an air filter that should be replaced every three to four months. The quality of air in the vents depends on this filter, so an unclean filter can lead to you and your family breathing in more dust and other allergenic particles. A clogged filter also leads to a drop in furnace efficiency. That is why most servicemen will tell you that the filter is one part of the furnace that should be replaced often.

You need to locate the air filter, take it out, and inspect it. If you notice that there is a lot of dust, you need to replace it. The new filter will have arrows on one side, which tells you which side needs to go in.

When purchasing an air filter, you should consider getting either electrostatic or HEPA filters, which filter out more particles and provide cleaner, healthier air. Performing this task will help your furnace perform better.

2. Check Vents and Ducts

Once you’ve replaced the filter, you need to inspect the vents and ducts of your home. Dirt can build up in the ducts, and they need to be cleaned so the air quality of your home is clean and dust free.

The process of cleaning your vent requires you to take the vent cover off. You can first swab the dust or dirt from the vent with a piece of cloth. Then take a vacuum with a long hose and vacuum inside the vent to remove anything you missed. Be sure to use the longest hose you have so you can go deeper into the vent.

3. Inspect the Exhaust Flue

It’s fairly simple to inspect the exhaust flue for holes. The holes lead to the release of carbon monoxide, so you want the flue pipe to be in top shape. Pay close attention to the spot where the pipe connects to the furnace, as this area tends to develop holes more often than other parts.

When you detect holes, you can patch them up with foil tape. If your flue is in very bad shape and shows corrosion, then you will need to replace it entirely.

4. Inspect the Belts

The belt may be a small part of the furnace, but if it breaks or is in bad shape, it can result in your furnace not functioning properly. You’ll want to inspect it on a regular basis, once every six months or so, to make sure there are no cracks and the belt fits well. A loose belt can affect the efficiency of the blower of the furnace.

5. Vacuum Out the Burner and Blower Compartments

The burner and blower compartments produce as the air mixes with fuel and ignites. This also leads to the production of water vapor, carbon dioxide, carbon soot, amongst other material. Corrosion of the chamber walls can occur if the soot builds up.

To prevent this from happening, use a wire brush to scrape the walls of soot. You can then vacuum the burner out. After it’s clean, inspect it to make sure there are no further corrosion or holes. This particular task is an important aspect of furnace cleaning.

DIY Maintenance Vs Calling the Pros

These tips should help you take better care of your furnace. Barring catastrophic damage, a few simple service tasks can ensure that your furnace functions well and is in good shape for the life of the system. They may also help you save money; however, you should know that these tips don’t make you an expert on furnace care.

If you have any problems with or questions about your furnace, it is always better to consult a maintenance expert than try to make major repairs by yourself. A furnace is a delicate appliance and it is important that it is handled in a certain manner. Items like the flue pipe and burner need to be handled with care, being too rough can result in additional damage to them.

If you feel you are not up to the task or it is too much for you to handle, be sure to contact the pros. It is better to spend a little money on maintenance and repairs, rather than damage the furnace and have to pay a lot more to have it replaced.

Here are some of the benefits of going with the pros:

  • Professionals will have experience handling furnace maintenance work.
  • There are less chances of any problem arising post-maintenance.
  • If anything is damaged in process of the repair, the pros will cover it.
  • Pros have all the tools required to perform the task.

Even with the most careful maintenance, however, furnaces don’t last forever.  The life span of these systems is usually between 15 and 20 years, so if you’re approaching this limit and seeing more and more problems with your furnace, it may be time to consider a replacement.  Professionals can help advise you in this area, as well, so you don’t get stuck with a broken furnace.

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