Furnace repairs are complex, but maintenance is a different story altogether. Though it can never hurt to know a lot about furnace parts, you won’t typically need to know more than the few simple concepts explained below. Air filters, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and leaks in your ductwork are all important and need to be properly taken care of. Check out what else you can do, in order to make sure your furnace is in good working order for as long a time as possible.
1. Prepare for heating season
Don’t put this off until winter has taken over and you have no choice but to a) freeze; or, b) power on the heating system. First off, check out the weather forecast. A couple of days before it’s time to turn on the furnace, perform a check-up and address all the issues that crop up. First, make sure your thermostat is in good working order. Then, insulate small problem areas on the exterior of your house by sealing holes with foam. Check the ductwork for holes that may cause air to escape and seal them, too, but either with duct tape or with aluminum foil. Make sure the weather strips and caulking around your windows is in good order.
2. Give the furnace a good yearly clean-up
While more serious furnace troubleshooting work should always be left to the pros, there’s no reason why you can’t perform a good yearly furnace cleanup yourself. All you need is a vacuum – ideally one that’s fitted with a long attachment. Take off all access panels on your heating unit and vacuum out all the debris, dirt, muck, and dust that has piled up on the furnace parts within the last year. Don’t allow that grime to pile back up on the floor: immediately clean up the areas that surround the furnace.
3. Clean out the ductwork
4. The efficiency of your furnace depends on how well you treat it
Needless to say, if there’s a major fault with your heating unit, it’s always best to leave it up to the professionals to handle. However, you, too, can contribute to having a more efficient furnace. Here are a few simple maintenance chores you can perform on the regular, to this end:
- Trying to save energy? Turn the thermostat down by a slight difference, no more than a couple of degrees. You may be worried that you’ll be cold but, in all likelihood, you’ll barely even notice the change. Meanwhile, you’ll be saving a ton on your heating bills.
- Make sure your ducts are not leaking. Call a technician whenever you discover the source of air leakage and seal the problem area with tin foil until they arrive.
- Make sure your registers and vents are not jammed by furniture, rugs, and other items. If air cannot flow freely, your furnace will not work properly. Similarly, place no rugs or furniture within at least a 3 foot radius of your furnace.
5. Keep your air filter clean
Make sure the air filter in your system is clean at absolutely all times. Though you were probably told this when your first purchased your heating system and had it installed, we’ll grant you this one reminder, because it’s absolutely essential to how well (or not) your furnace works. At the very least, you should replace the air filter in your furnace twice every year. You should actually do it more often, if you live in a particularly dusty area. As far as furnace parts go, this one is the most important, because an air filter that’s clogged with dust and debris will cause the fan inside your furnace to go into overdrive, trying to supplant the lack of air. This way, not only will it consume more energy, but it will also risk breaking down earlier than necessary. And furnace parts and repairs are not cheap, as you may already know.
6. Stay safe no matter what
Never attempt to do maintenance work on your furnace before you turn off the system. The same goes for whenever you call in a technician for repairs. For total safety, power off the furnace via the main electrical panel in your home: either flip the switch on it, or remove the fuse that provides the furnace with power. Remember that some furnace models are powered via a completely separate power panel, which may or may not be located close to your main one. Make a point out of marking the date when the batteries needs to be replaced on your CO and smoke detectors and test them every once in a while, to make sure they’re working properly.
7. Remember: Not all furnaces were created equal in terms of life span
One of the most frequently asked questions that homeowners pose to furnace repair technicians is about the life span of their heating unit. This is an entirely legitimate question, since heating systems in general and furnaces in particular are major home improvement investments. However, as you may have already guessed after reading all of the above tips, there is no single answer to this question. The life span of a furnace depends on how well it is maintained and how intensely it is used. At the same time, it’s worth mentioning that condensing furnaces (just like condensing boilers, for that matter) will use condensation for heating and are hence more fuel efficient and likelier to have a longer life span. For the most part, furnaces will last 12 to 15 years on average, while condensing units may last for about 15 years longer.