Sweaters, hot drinks, and pumpkin pie can only mean one thing: It’s time to switch your HVAC system over to heating mode. But chances are, you haven’t used your furnace since early spring. Check out these furnace maintenance tips to make sure your heating system is ready for the winter.
What to do Before Winter
Perhaps the most important part of yearly maintenance is the furnace check-up before winter. Your furnace likely hasn’t been used in months, which has left plenty of time for debris and dust to accumulate around vents and in the air ducts. There are plenty of reasons why your furnace might not work properly, but these tips can potentially solve them.
1. Perform a Thermostat Check
Switch your HVAC from cooling to heating and observe how it performs. Slowly raise the temperature by just a few degrees. Listen to check if the heat even turns on. If it does, then check if air is blowing out from your vents. If it doesn’t turn on, then there may be something wrong with the wire connections.
If you have a gas-powered furnace that isn’t turning on, your pilot light may have gone out over the summer. Most modern furnaces have an electronic ignitor switch that can be activated with the touch of a button. But if that isn’t igniting the pilot light, it’s probably time to call our experts for a furnace repair.
2. Replace Your Furnace Filter
If you didn’t replace your furnace filter at the end of last winter, you should absolutely replace it now. One inch thick filters should be replaced every 1-3 months and thicker 4-5” filters should be replaced every 6-12 months. A dirty filter will obstruct airflow throughout your house, which means your home will take a long time to warm up, and your HVAC will spend more energy trying to blow out hot air. This simple issue can lead to huge heating bills in the winter and premature furnace failure.
3. Clear Space Around Your Furnace
If the area around your furnace became a storage area during the spring and summer, it’s time to declutter. You won’t want anything flammable, like paper files or cardboard boxes, near your furnace when it’s in use. So make sure there’s a good amount of space between your belongings and the furnace, and sweep the area around it.
4. Suck Up Debris from Your Vents
Dust and debris in your vents can also cause air to blow inefficiently. Fortunately, this is a relatively easy fix. Remove the metal lid from your vents and insert an arm extension of your vacuum cleaner to suck up all the dust.
5. Inspect Outdoor Exhaust Flues
Exhaust flues are the small pipes or openings on the exterior of your home that vent out exhaust gases and fumes from your HVAC system. These are likely on your roof, so it’s important to check that no branches, leaves, or other obstructions are blocking gasses from venting out. Otherwise, those exhaust fumes may find their way back into your home.
6. Schedule a Professional Inspection
Your air ducts, outdoor AC compressor, gas valve, burners, and heat exchanger are all components of your heating and cooling systems that should be checked as part of your winter preparation. However, they can be hard to access or service if you’re not a trained professional. That’s why we suggest scheduling an inspection from a pro.
An inspector can reveal and solve any issues you may have missed otherwise. They’ll help you fix issues like an uncalibrated gas valve or those involving moving parts. Plus, they’ll know how to clean your furnace in the winter the right way.
What to do During Winter
Winter furnace maintenance keeps your system working properly throughout the season, so you don’t have to suffer any unnecessarily cold nights.
1. Check the Furnace Filter Every Month
Filters may not last as long as you think. Since filters are crucial for maintaining a strong airflow and an efficient heating system, check yours at least once a month.
You can check your furnace filter by holding it up to a light. If you have trouble seeing the light through the filter membrane, then get a new one.
2. Make Sure Your Thermostat Is Measuring Properly
As a thermostat ages, it can lose its calibration. Using an indoor thermometer, compare its readings with your thermostat. If there is a significant difference (plus or minus at least five degrees Fahrenheit), you may need to fix the thermometer component in your thermostat. An inaccurate reading can make it nearly impossible to effectively control the temperature.
3. Inspect Visible Sections of Your Ductwork
Look along visible air ducts and pipes to make sure there are no large leaks. If you find any, you can usually fix them with high-quality metal tape or sealant. Also, make sure that no furniture, curtains, or rugs are blocking heating vents and registers.
Eventually, temperatures will start to rise, and your home won’t need the constant aid of your furnace. However, your AC unit will use a lot of the same mechanisms as your furnace. To make sure everything is in working order as you switch to your AC, here are a few things you should take care of.
1. Check Your Thermostat’s Battery
A weak battery can lead to inconsistent temperature control in the house. Since you’ll still be using your thermostat to control your AC in the summer, you’ll want to make sure it has a new battery so it functions properly.
2. Inspect Your Ducts
Since your AC will still be blowing air through your air ducts, it’s a good idea to inspect them for any debris and clogs it picked up over the winter. This way, you’ll bookend your winter with clean air ducts and vents.
3. Change Your Furnace Filter
We mentioned changing your filter at the beginning of winter, but getting it done during the spring makes one more thing you don’t have to worry about later.
Why Do You Need Furnace Maintenance?
Your furnace is what keeps you and your family safe and comfortable throughout the winter. But that feeling won’t last if your furnace is not properly cleaned and maintained.
Maintain Functionality and Efficiency
While an HVAC system can last in your home for quite a few years, it still needs regular maintenance so it functions properly. There’s nothing worse than your heat shutting off in the middle of a winter storm.
Furnaces, for the most part, are very safe. However, it’s a system that runs on intense heat. When the area around the furnace isn’t properly cleaned, it can potentially start a fire. Additionally, for those with gas-powered furnaces, there is the risk of carbon monoxide leaks. A professional check-up will ensure none of this will be an issue.
In rare occurrences, your furnace may become too hot because of an electrical disturbance. While you can reset your furnace to keep it from tripping your circuit, a professional will be able to notice electrical irregularities so you won’t have to worry about them.
How Often Should You Perform Furnace Maintenance?
We recommend getting your furnace checked and cleaned by a professional at least once a year before the winter. And you don’t have to just take our word for it. Annual tuneups are recommended by Dominion Energy, Rocky Mountain Power, the US Dept of Energy, and every major manufacturer. (add links here?)
You can get your HVAC system inspected twice a year – once in the fall and once in the spring. Or if you prefer you can get both your furnace and air conditioner inspected in a single convenient visit in the spring or fall to ensure your system is ready for both heating and cooling seasons.
Schedule Your Winter Furnace Maintenance Today
If you’re in Utah and haven’t had your heating system serviced this year, contact Absolute Air today. Our friendly expert technicians will make sure your furnace is ready to go this winter. We’ll let you know if we find any issues and walk you through your options.
If you need to completely replace your furnace, we can help you with that as well. We are trained to repair or replace all types of HVAC systems, so we’ll know what will work best for your home.