Staying warm: How to care for your furnace
Last updated: January 1
With winter approaching, there's an important home maintenance task to complete that can help your home stay warm and cozy — making sure your furnace is in good shape.
Your furnace is one of the most important pieces of equipment in your home. It produces the warm air that keeps your house heated during the cold months and it works with the air conditioner to cool your house in the summer. The good news is that furnace maintenance is often relatively easy.
Here's what you need to know about caring for your furnace:
Furnace maintenance you can do
There is some routine maintenance you can do to help keep your furnace running safely and efficiently.
Inspect and change the air filters
ENERGY STAR suggests checking your furnace's air filter every month and replacing it when it looks dirty. A dirty filter can slow air flow and reduce efficiency, and the furnace may stop working if too much dust and dirt builds up inside. At a minimum, change the filter at least every three months, says ENERGY STAR.
Tip: Filters work best when they fit snugly — so make sure you're buying filters that are the right size for your furnace.
Keep vents clean and clear
Before you turn on your heating system for the season, remove vent covers from the floors, walls and ceilings around your home. Vacuum the covers and the opening of the ducts, says This Old House. Dust, pet hair, small objects (including toys) and even food can collect there. This can block air flow and cause your furnace to work harder.
Tip: Sealing leaky air ducts with metal tape or duct sealant can help improve the efficiency of your heating system, says ENERGY STAR.
Install a carbon monoxide detector
As furnaces burn gas or oil to heat your home, they produce carbon monoxide, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Install battery-operated or battery-backup carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home to help alert you if your furnace is leaking this dangerous, odorless gas into your home. Also, check the detectors regularly to help ensure they are in working order.
Tip: Change the detectors' batteries at least once a year. You can use the end of daylight saving time as a reminder to do this task.
Furnace maintenance for a professional
An annual tune-up by a professional is an important part of maintaining your furnace, according to ENERGY STAR, and it may help prevent costly furnace repairs down the road. A heating contractor will make sure that your thermostat is working correctly, the system is cycling on and off properly and will typically go through a series of checks and tasks, including:
- Tightening loose electrical connections
- Oiling all the moving parts
- Inspecting all gas connections
- Cleaning the burner
- Checking for cracks in the heat exchanger
Tip: Call the contractor before temperatures take a dive, ENERGY STAR says, or you may find it difficult to get on their busy schedule.
After you've done all that, listen for any signs of trouble when your heating system is running. If your furnace is squeaking, rattling or otherwise making noise, it may be a signal that a part has come loose, another cleaning is in order, or a sign that your unit needs replacing. If you notice any strange noises, call a professional for help.
Your furnace is key to keeping your home comfortable during the cold months. Taking care of these routine maintenance tasks can help keep your furnace in good condition so it can keep you cozy all winter long.