Before doing anything to your furnace, ensure that it is completely turned off and that the gas valve is closed. Make sure the power entrance and any fuses are disconnected as well.
Next, open up all access panels and take a look around. Use a wet/dry vacuum to suck up any dust that has collected inside.
1. Change the Filter
Changing your furnace filter is one of the easiest, most affordable and important things you can do to keep your system running properly. A dirty filter not only slows air flow and inhibits heating, it also costs you money because your system has to work harder to compensate. And a filter that is too loose allows particles to enter your home, leading to allergens and other health issues.
The average household without pets requires a filter change about every 90 days. For homes with pets, it should be more often. Keeping up with this simple task will reduce indoor pollutants, improve air quality and may help your family members who suffer from allergies.
Before you start to change the filter, turn off power to your furnace at the electrical switch mounted on or near it. Next, locate the filter access panel and open or slide it. You’ll find the filter in either an air return duct or inside the blower compartment of your furnace. Some filters have a locking mechanism that keeps them in place; if yours does, you will need to use a screwdriver or other tool to unlock it before you can remove the old filter and replace it. When you’re ready to install the new one, make sure it is the right size for your system by looking for arrows on both the frame and the filter itself, which indicate direction of airflow.
Once the new filter is in place, close and secure the access panel and any clips that hold it in place. If you’re concerned about the amount of dust that collects in the access panel, a vacuum cleaner attachment or soft brush should suffice to keep it clean. You may also want to take this opportunity to clean any supply registers in your home that are covered by furniture or other items. This will allow heat to reach living spaces and not get stuck in ductwork or pushed back out through vents.
It’s also a good idea to stock up on new filters during the summer when they are on sale; you can save money and ensure your furnace is ready for winter.
2. Check the Vents
As summer draws to a close, it’s time to flip that switch and start using the furnace again. This can be exciting, but it’s also a good opportunity to do some basic maintenance and ensure that your system will be in good shape when you need it most.
While you’re changing filters, take the opportunity to do a quick check of your vents. Make sure that they’re free of debris and aren’t blocked by rugs or furniture. If they’re blocked, this can create a fire hazard, and it will also prevent your furnace from functioning as it should.
Another thing to check on is the airflow direction. If you’re noticing that the air is blowing out the front of your furnace, it’s likely that your ductwork isn’t working properly. This can cause your system to work harder and use more energy than it should, and it can also lead to a decrease in efficiency and an increase in the amount of dust and other contaminants in your home’s air.
Finally, be sure to check that the fresh air intake isn’t blocked by anything. This can be easy to miss, but it’s important to do. You should also make sure that the screen isn’t clogged with debris or insects, and that the outside of the vent is clean.
It’s also a good idea to check the flame sensor. If it’s dirty, it can’t tell if the burners are lit and will shut off your system to protect you from dangerous unburned gas. Clean it with a scouring pad, but be careful not to damage it.
Adding these simple maintenance tasks to your list of things to do before turning on your furnace this fall can save you the cost and hassle of having to call a professional. They’re all pretty straightforward, and they shouldn’t take more than a few hours to complete. That’s a small price to pay for an entire winter of worry-free, cost-effective warmth. This is especially true if you remember to change the filter regularly, since that’s one of the most critical steps in keeping your furnace running like new.
3. Clean the Burner
In order to keep your furnace working optimally, you need to do more than just change the filter, check the vents and clean the air ducts. Cleaning the burner is a vital part of furnace maintenance that you should do at least once a year. This can be done by shutting off the gas and turning off the power to the unit, and then removing the front panel and removing the burner to clean it. It is important to make sure that you do not break it, so be careful and use a screwdriver with a low amount of pressure.
When you are done, simply put it back in place and turn on the gas. You may need to clean the ignitor or ignition sensor as well, which can also be done by removing the front panel and carefully cleaning it with a screwdriver while being careful not to break it. Once it is cleaned, replace the panel and turn on the gas and you are good to go!
It is also a good idea to keep the area around the furnace clean, so you should sweep and vacuum often. Make sure to remove any chemicals such as paints and household cleaners from the area, as these can be dangerous if they get into the air.
Another thing to keep an eye out for is the flame sensor, which can get clogged with soot. This will prevent it from sensing the pilot flame and can cause the unit to not start. You can check the flame sensor by using a multimeter hooked up to it and turning the flame adjustment screw until you get a reading of 1.5 to 4 UA.
If you cannot get your furnace to start, there could be a number of reasons. First, you should make sure that the electrical power switch and the fuse for the furnace are on. If they are on, then there could be a problem with the power supply to the unit, so you would need to check the circuit breaker or fuse in the main electrical panel.
4. Check the Thermostat
Your furnace is a mechanical system with many moving parts that can cause breakdowns. This is why you should take some time each year to look over the entire system for signs of wear and tear. You should also make sure that all the components are clean and in working order.
This is a good time to also test your carbon monoxide detectors and change the batteries in them, too. You should also keep a supply of foil tape for patching small holes in the combustion chamber, flue or ductwork and good quality machine oil for lubrication on hand.
First, turn off the power to your furnace by switching the breaker switch in the electrical panel to the off position. Then cut the fuel shutoff valve, depending on whether you use an oil or gas source. This will prevent any accidental fires caused by overheating or leaking fuel.
The next step is to have a friend or family member stand by the thermostat and another person by your furnace. Communicate with each other via cell phones or walkie-talkies if necessary. Now slowly turn the thermostat from off to heat. When the temperature reaches the set point, the furnace should make a clicking sound. If it does not, the thermostat is not communicating with the furnace properly and will need to be replaced.
If the thermostat does communicate with the furnace, it is likely that the problem is a dirty or damaged flame sensor. The flame sensor can be removed and cleaned by loosening the screws on either side of it and using a clean rag to wipe off any dirt or dust that may be stuck there. This is a good time to also clean the blower wheel of the furnace by unscrewing it and using a wire brush or vacuum cleaner to remove any dirt and debris that has collected on the interior of the blower assembly.
Lastly, it is important to check that all the vents in your house are open and adjusting properly. They should be free of furniture, boxes and other items that could block the flow of air and restrict the efficiency of your furnace. It is also a good idea to have all the vents cleaned twice per year to help ensure that combustion gases are drafting safely up and out of the chimney.