Once winter arrives, the holidays soon loom. People start making shopping lists for family parties along with gift lists for friends and family. There’s another list everyone should think about compiling: a pre-winter furnace list. Specifically, you may wish to consider putting together a list to prepare your furnace for the cold months ahead.
Unfortunately, homeowners tend to neglect their furnaces during the summer and fall season. Doing so is understanding. Few people think about “firing up” the heating system during July. July only lasts 31 days, though. And July soon turns into August and, before you know it, the winter cold.
Most homeowners may not turn on the furnace until the day the cold chills the home’s interior. Unfortunately, some unexpected troubles may arise if no one appropriately prepped the furnace.
1. Turn on the Furnace
You won’t know if the furnace works unless someone turns it on. Would it not be better to check to see if the heater runs several weeks before winter arrives. When you turn up the thermostat and nothing happens, there’s obviously a serious problem. “Total failure” might not happen, but that doesn’t mean the system operates perfectly. What if it makes clicking sounds or the burners shut on and off? The furnace might have a wiring problem or another issue.
Be aware that there may be a safety issue present when the burners don’t stay lit, and clicking sounds occur. The problem could be with the flame sensor, the ignition, or the gas line. Those problems might represent a dangerous defect. Having an HVAC technician checks things out should be a top priority.
2. Replace the Filter if Necessary
When you run the furnace, expect the filter to collect a significant amount of dirt, dust, hair, and more. If the filter is the old one from a previous season, then it’s likely already starting out with a significant amount of debris. That’s not an optimal way to start the winter season. Although changing a filter isn’t a tough job, there’s no reason to delay doing so. In fact, the ease of changing the filter should lead to changing the filter before winter.
Homeowners who do not feel comfortable changing the filter could ask a technician to do so. The process could occur during routine cleaning and inspection.
And this leads to another suggestion for the list.
3. Schedule a Cleaning and Inspection
There are ways to perform a cursory cleaning of a furnace. However, a thorough cleaning might be a job best left to an HVAC professional. A technician knows how to perform a thorough cleaning. A pro might not miss a thing. The burners, in particular, may require extra care and attention. Dirty burners caked with dirt and debris could present a fire hazard.
Cleaning the burners thoroughly becomes necessary to potentially reduce the hazard. The technician could also check to see if there aren’t any problems with the gas lines, ignition system, and more. If so, the technician might take steps, with the homeowner’s approval, to fix things. Sometimes, safety problems reveal themselves under close scrutiny. Even when the issue doesn’t present a safety problem, it may cause performance issues. Inefficient furnaces may not heat a home well and could cost more money to run.
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4. Pay Attention to the Ducts
Ducts provide the all-important pathway for heated air to travel through the home. Homeowners will probably benefit if all the air gets to where it needs to go and doesn’t carry impurities. Having the ducts checked for any leaks or troubles may decrease the chances of air escaping. Sealing holes in the ducts could be minor work or extensive. No one knows the necessary fix until a skilled technician checks out the area.
Ducts may also accumulate significant amounts of dirt, dust, and other debris. Even dead insects may pile up in a duct. You won’t know until the duct receives a thorough inspection. When the ducts present lots of debris, a long-overdue cleaning could be more than helpful.
5. Check out the Vents
The ducts don’t empty air through wide-open holes. A vent covering the ducts allows the air to come through, but air may suffer some trouble when the vents are blocked or clogged. Is there furniture in front of the vents? Perhaps moving it would allow for the free flow of warm air. Debris collecting on the vents, needless to say, doesn’t help the cause. Cleaning the vents would, hopefully, address any dirt-related vent blockages.
6. Check for the Presence of Carbon Monoxide
The presence of carbon monoxide (CO) in a home is extremely dangerous, as the invisible gas that could prove fatal to someone who inhales it. A carbon monoxide leak might take place if there are defects in the system. Homes would benefit from installing a carbon monoxide detector inside, as they are just as valuable as smoke detectors and other safety-oriented devices.
Homes with chimneys and fireplaces might be even more vulnerable to carbon monoxide since a dirty chimney could block carbon monoxide fumes. Even if you don’t have a fireplace and chimney, it doesn’t hurt to have a home professionally tested for carbon monoxide. A CO detector might not be enough, and a professional indoor air quality test might be necessary. At the very least, it could provide peace of mind. You’d also receive specific information about other potential issues with the air quality.
7. Don’t Ignore the Ceiling Fan
Running a ceiling fan in the winter may seem odd until you realize that the fan runs in two directions. During the winter, running the fan in reverse yields the opposite effect than running a fan in the “normal” direction. The reverse direction pulls air up, which will be cool air during the cold season. Remember, heat rises. So, drawing up of the cold air allows the warm air to travel down.
Running the ceiling fan in reverse lends some help to the furnace. Maybe driving the hot air down to the floor level could lead to turning the thermostat temperature down. This might save a homeowner money.
8. Deal with the Outside AC Unit
The furnace isn’t the only thing to think about when winter arrives. The AC unit also requires attention. Covering the AC unit goes a long way in protecting it from the winter issues.
9. Upgrade to a New Furnace
Before winter comes, check the age of the furnace. Ascertain the maximum lifespan of the system. The make, model, and serial number could help track down information if the instructions are long gone. When the unit nears its final years, then think about buying a new one. If you have an inspection and cleaning performed, a technician may provide professional insights into how many more winters the unit has left.
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