During winter, your heater is one of the most important systems in your home. A properly maintained heater will deliver maximum heat output without wasted energy, or produce any harmful emissions.
If you ignore maintenance for too long, your heating system could become inefficient, decrease indoor air quality, or even break down when you need it most. To ensure your home heater operates optimally when it’s cold outside, we have the following easy do-it-yourself maintenance tips.
Start Your Heater Maintenance Before Winter Begins
The coldest nights always seem to present the perfect opportunity for a heater failure. By using a proactive approach and starting your maintenance at the end of summer, you can get a jump on extra repairs before it gets too cold, and ensure that your heater is ready for winter.
Administer the Eye Test
Before you start work on your heater, give it a quick visual inspection. In gas furnaces, the venting pipe should be securely fastened and angled. This is also a good time to smell around the system’s gas line, which is usually a flexible tube. If an aroma of rotten eggs is detected, it means the furnace has a gas leak.
For electric furnaces, checking on its power is a good first step. Look at the main entrance panel for any tripped circuit breakers or blown fuses. Depending on your furnace, there may be a separate power entrance usually located on a different panel near the main entrance one, or there are fuses mounted in or on the heating unit.
Furnace Filter Maintenance
Changing your filter is the most important thing to do to ensure your furnace longevity and performance. Dirty filters can:
- Restrict airflow, which puts additional strain on the fan motor that after time can make your motor burn out, cause your system to overheat, or cause failure
- Force your fan motor to overwork which uses more energy, can cause damage to your system and significantly raise your utility bill
- Drastically reduce your indoor air quality
- Clog ductwork with debris that can lead to costly repair or replacement expenses
The furnace’s filter was likely replaced when it was last inspected, but it should be replaced every one to three months unless otherwise instructed by the manufacturer of the furnace. Homes with smokers or pets will likely need to change their filters more regularly than other households.
Clear the Drainage Tube
Natural gas and propane furnaces produce small amounts of water as they heat. Some of this is blown out as exhaust steam, but the rest drains from the power exhaust manifold to a drip pan. Keep the drainage tube clear by detaching it from the manifold and blowing compressed air through the tube and drain pipe. You can also pour a cup of white vinegar through the drainage tube and pipe to help prevent a filmy build-up.
Inspect the Thermostat
A few reasons why a thermostat might not be working include improper installation, dirt build-up that interferes with calibration, or corrosion on loosened switches and wires near the bimetallic element. Wiping the thermostat thoroughly and giving the wires a light tug can ensure they are tight and properly fitted.
Dust and Vacuum
Dust, dirt and debris can cause a heater to work sub-optimally or in some cases, not at all. To avoid this problem, use a soft-tipped brush applied gently against the inner components of the furnace to loosen dust and debris without damaging the furnace’s interior. Once the brushing is complete, remove the material with a portable vacuum.
Depending on where in the house your furnace is located, there should be no clutter or flammable objects stored anywhere near or placed up against the furnace. Remove and dispose of any materials that are touching or are near your furnace.
Consider a Professional for any Mechanical Maintenance
Proper maintenance tasks relating to your home’s furnace may be difficult if you don’t have a mechanical background. If you feel uncomfortable handling any of these tasks, bring in a professional furnace maintenance technician.
Common problems that a technician can address include:
- Ductwork loosened due to normal thermal expansion and contraction
- Blower motor bearings in need of lubrication
- Replacing air filter and cleaning of dust from blower fan blades and AC condensing coil
- Improperly firing burners
- Blocked condensate drain
- Loose wiring harnesses and improperly installed thermostats
Even in cases where you feel you can accomplish most maintenance steps alone, it is still a good idea to hire a professional to thoroughly inspect the system and ensure it is running properly. A yearly preventative maintenance inspection by a qualified service technician can keep your HVAC functioning at peak efficiency, and help you save money on your monthly bills.
Briggs HVAC: The Heating and Cooling Company
For professional residential HVAC sales and repair, contact us today. We service, maintain and install heating and cooling systems to keep your home comfortable all year long.