Preparing Your Furnace for Winter

Preparing your furnace for winter

Now that the autumn is in full swing, and your air conditioning unit is being used less and less, it’s time to focus on preparing your furnace for winter.

Annual maintenance of your system will help it run more efficiently and will extend its life.  It’s also important to remember that an annual maintenance schedule is required by many manufacturers in order to keep your warranty in force. 

It’s wise to do an inspection of the areas around the system but leave repairs to the experts. All repairs should be done by a qualified technician but there are some things you can do to prepare for the cold weather.

Clean the Area 

Fully clean the area around the furnace to prevent fire hazards. If you use the area around the furnace for storage, make sure nothing is placed against or near the furnace. Be especially aware of flammable materials such as aerosol, cardboard or paper and place these outside of the furnace room. Vacuum the outside surface of your furnace.  You should be able to see all the pilot lights. 

Insulation

If you can do so, this is a great time of year to assess the insulation in your home. Check attics and walls. Updating your insulation increases energy conservation and leads to lower electric bills.

The Thermostat

Before the temperature becomes truly frigid on a daily basis, temperatures may fluctuate quite a bit. You may want to turn off your programmable thermostat if you have one. It could end up cooling your house and wasting energy. When temperatures are cold on a regular basis, then use the programable thermostat to save energy. Setting it to lower the temperature as you sleep or when you are away can save you significant sums on the operating costs. 

If you have a manual thermostat, check that it is working properly. Turn it off, wait a minute and then turn it back on. If it is slow to respond, check for low batteries. If it does not use batteries, the wires could be loose, so be careful not to touch them.

Consider retrofitting your older home with a programmable thermostat as this will pay for itself pretty quickly.

Change the Filters and Check Your Flame Color

Depending on your furnace you either need to fully clean your filter or, if it is a paper filter, replace it every 30-90 days. You may need to change your air filter every month depending on the make and model of your furnace and whether there are family pets or smokers in the house. If you currently have a flat filter, you may find that upgrading to a pleated or HEPA filter will improve the flow of the warm air throughout your home. It will also increase the energy efficiency of your furnace. However, do check the owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendations. 

Periodically check the furnace flame color and characteristics (about every month or so when you check the filter). The furnace flame should be blue with perhaps a small yellow tip. Any other color (red, orange, green, etc.) indicates a fuel/burner problem. Contact a professional to fix the flame color. Do not try to fix it yourself.

Clean Air Vents and Exhaust Flue

Once a year, remove the vent covers with a screwdriver. Use the extension hose of your vacuum to remove the dust. You should also remove furniture, boxes and clutter from the vents. This will ensure that air flows freely.

Don’t forget about the exhaust flue outdoors. Ensure that it is free from obstructions such as branches or animal nests.

Listen to Your Furnace

Listen to the blower fan as it is running. If it vibrates, it could be out of alignment or not secured in place. If your furnace squeaks as it starts up that is a sign that the fan motor needs oiling. Always call in a professional for any adjustments that need to be made or oiling of the fan motor.  They can also determine if the blower belt is cracking as well, and replace it. 

The heat exchanger should be brushed and vacuumed out annually by a trained professional while the unit is disabled. While it’s being cleaned, a technician will look for cracks which, if left unresolved, could lead to a dangerous carbon monoxide leak into your home. In this case, the technician must replace the heat exchanger or the whole furnace depending on how old it is. 

Have Carbon Monoxide Detectors Installed and Up-to-Date

Protect yourself from carbon monoxide by having alarms installed on every floor and near every bedroom in your home. You should also have one by your furnace (at a distance of 10 or more feet away).

These lifesaving devices are inexpensive and easy to install.  Be sure to change the batteries every spring and fall.   

Check your Chimney

Check for any obstructions in your furnace’s chimney such as bird nests and debris. Be sure to also check if there is a significant buildup of soot in the furnace’s chimney. Soot buildup along the chimney can be a very dangerous fire hazard. In case your furnace’s chimney has not been inspected in a long time, consider calling a professional to check and clean it for you.

If you smell gas (sometimes described as a rotten-egg smell), do not operate any electrical components. Evacuate the home and then call your utility company or fire department. Do not reenter the home until a professional has deemed it safe to do so.

Heat Pump

Heat pumps can be cost effective during the milder winter weather, before freezing sets in. As you transition away from air conditioning and start using a heat pump, you will want to make sure that yard tools, branches, leaves, snow and debris are at least 3 feet away so as not to impede maximum air flow. 

Changing the filter on a regular basis is also important so that your system isn’t overworked using more energy. 

The Heat Pump Thermostat

When it’s time to use your heat for the first time during the fall, make sure that you switch to heat mode and not emergency heat mode on your thermostat. Emergency heat mode uses your furnace as your heat source, and it should only be used when your heat pump is either not working or is iced up. It costs much more to run your system on emergency heat versus regular heat mode.

It’s important to have your heat pump checked annually, before the cold weather sets in. 

A properly maintained furnace will assure you and your family a warm and cozy winter season.  Call Forney Air at (214) 924-9745 now to schedule your furnace maintenance check. 

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