Are you ready for fall? Furnaces in homes across the country will soon be cranking up for the winter season, and although you’ve started packing up your summer clothes and begun planning your fall decorations, there’s still much to do to prepare for the colder temperatures that accompany this time of year.
Even with cold temperatures right around the corner, many homeowners ignore fall furnace maintenance. It is especially important to have furnaces inspected and maintained to ensure that they run efficiently and safely now that the colder months are upon us.
There are many benefits of fall furnace maintenance, including:
- Guarantee of Proper Furnace Airflow – A furnace tune-up ensures you can enjoy proper airflow throughout your home. Without proper airflow, your furnace could face added strain, resulting in increased repair costs down the line.
- Improved Safety – Safety is an important factor in furnace operation. Gas furnaces can be a source of carbon monoxide if there are leaks or cracks that go unnoticed or unrepaired. The furnace flame should be steady and burn blue; if not, this should be addressed immediately. A qualified contractor or inspector can detect these types of problems and recommend needed action.
- Increased Energy Efficiency – Not maintaining your furnace—whether it’s gas or electric—can cause it to run less efficiently, making it work even harder, and therefore increasing your monthly energy bills, experts say. By some accounts, home heating, especially gas furnaces, can represent half of a typical home’s winter utility bills. Efficient operation means lower energy bills and a more comfortable home. There have been a lot of studies that have proven having it serviced and maintained can save up to 30 percent on your energy bills.
- Reduced Repair Costs – A furnace problem that goes unaddressed may wind up costing hundreds or thousands of dollars. If you devote a few minutes to maintain your furnace now, you could lower your furnace repair costs or eliminate some of the expenses altogether.
- Ensured Compliance With Manufacturer’s Warranty – Furnace manufacturers all recommend annual inspections and maintenance by a qualified technician. The manufacturer’s warranty on your furnace may become void if you fail to perform regular furnace maintenance. There is often language in their warranties saying that damage to the units caused by improper maintenance is not covered under warranty.
A typical maintenance check-up should include the following:
- Check thermostat settings to ensure the cooling and heating system keeps you comfortable when you are home and saves energy while you are away.
- Tighten all electrical connections and measure voltage and current on motors. Faulty electrical connections can cause unsafe operation of your system and reduce the life of major components.
- Lubricate all moving parts. Parts that lack lubrication cause friction in motors and increases the amount of electricity you use.
- Check controls of the system to ensure proper and safe operation. Check the starting cycle of the equipment to assure the system starts, operates, and shuts off properly.
- Check all gas connections, gas pressure, burner combustion, and heat exchanger. Improperly operating gas connections are a fire hazard and can contribute to health problems. A dirty burner or cracked heat exchanger causes improper burner operation. Either can cause the equipment to operate less safely and efficiently.
After a licensed HVAC professional services the furnace, there are a few steps homeowners can take to keep it running smoothly. Most importantly, perhaps, is changing the air filter regularly, at least once a month. A dirty filter can restrict air flow, increase energy costs and damage your equipment, leading to early failure.
Additionally, homeowners should make sure they are using a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat can save up to 10 percent on energy bills if you dial it down seven or eight degrees from the normal temperature setting (the U.S. Department of Energy recommends a setting of 68 degrees) for eight hours a day, whether it’s during the work day or at night.
In closing, HVAC experts say a well-maintained furnace will not only last longer, but can save energy and money, and help a home’s overall air quality and comfort. Does this mean that an annual furnace check-up is required? Probably not, but it’s certainly recommended. The best analogy I can think of is going to the dentist every six months for a check-up and cleaning; probably not necessary, but recommended.