Articles & Advice

Furnace Tune-Up

by Matt Myers

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Nobody wants to think about a heating system when it's still warm and sunny outside, but winter is never that far away, and servicing a heating system now will ensure that the heat will click on when you want it to.

Furnace Check-up
A furnace check-up or tune-up is much like a visit to the doctor or taking your car to a mechanic. However, specifically in the case of your home, a furnace check-up consists of the following steps:

  • Inspect thermostat for proper operation.
  • Inspect filter and change or clean as needed.
  • Check all electrical components and controls.
  • Oil motors as needed.
  • Inspect heat exchanger for possible cracks. A crack in the heat exchanger will introduce carbon monoxide into the living space.
  • Check air flow. If diminished, it may be necessary to clean the evaporator coil.
  • Check air fuel mixture, where appropriate.

Furnace Maintenance
While having your furnace tuned and checked each year before the cold weather is wise practice, there are also a few things you can do to assure that your furnace is operating properly, safely, and to its fullest capacity.

  • The very first thing to check before turning on your unit is to make sure nothing flammable has been stored next to the furnace over the summer. Many, many people have set their weedeaters, lawnmowers, and gas cans against their furnace in the garage. This is just asking for a fire or an explosion.
  • Run your heater for a few minutes before you actually need it. Waiting until the first cold morning to discover it isn't working will land you at the bottom of a waiting list before a heating and air specialist can come to fix it.
  • Change the filters regularly. Dirty filters restrict air flow, reducing efficiency and worst case, can cause the heat exchanger to overheat. Disposable fiberglass filters should be replaced.
  • Electrostatic or electronic filters need to be washed regularly.
  • Be sure all access panels are secure, with all the screws in place.
  • Be sure the thermostat is set in the heating mode. Just setting the dial above room temperature will not activate the heat if still set in the air conditioning mode.

How to Change Your Furnace Filter

Things You Should Know About Your Furnace
Many homeowners find that when they turn their furnace on for the first time that it emits a noxious smell. This is not Carbon Monoxide. Carbon Monoxide is odorless, so you wouldn't be able to smell it even if it was. What is happening here is that dust has settled on the heat exchanger over the summer and turning on the unit for the first time is just burning off the dust. Be sure to open some windows to dispel the odor quickly.

Matt Myers is a freelance writer for the home maintenance and remodeling industry. Formerly a contractor specializing in deck building and casework, Matt has written over 500 articles for both homeowners and contractors.