The How And Why Of Furnace Maintenance

Whatever type of furnace you have, chances are you haven't had to worry much about maintaining it (unless it's very old). Modern furnaces are designed to be very efficient and easy to maintain, but this means you probably won't interact with your furnace much. This lack of experience can leave you feeling confused when it actually comes time to perform maintenance or repairs. Discover more about your furnace, and how to clean and maintain it, before an emergency occurs.

The Most Important Part of Maintenance

Oiling the motor and replacing worn parts of the furnace are both necessary steps in furnace maintenance, but the most important step of all is cleaning. The more frequently you carefully clean your furnace, the less time and money you'll spend on other areas of maintenance and repair. Before you start any type of cleaning, though, remember these important safety procedures:

  • Turn off all power to the furnace to avoid the possibility of electric shock.
  • If you smell any gas, don't try to fix the furnace yourself. Leave your home immediately and call the gas company.
  • If your furnace is over ten years old, call a professional to inspect it before attempting any maintenance or repairs.

When you start cleaning your furnace, the biggest thing to watch out for is dirt. Cleaning up dirt may seem straightforward, but it can sometimes collect in areas of your furnace you wouldn't expect and begin to cause havoc. Be sure to thoroughly inspect and clean the three following parts of your furnace:

  • The furnace filter. Take the filter out of the furnace and use a rag to wipe dust and dirt off its surface. Hold it up to a bright light to see if it looks clogged. If it still looks dirty after being wiped down, it may be time to replace it. You may need to replace the filter at least at the beginning of winter each year, if you use it often.
  • The blower. Remove the front panel from the furnace and slide out the fan unit so you can reach the blower. Brush dust off of the blower and the pulleys and belts attached to it, then vacuum up the debris. Clean off the fan's blades as well.
  • The blower motor. Wipe off the motor's housing so heat doesn't build up inside it. If the motor has oil ports, lubricate it with motor oil once a year.

How Frequently Should You Clean Your Furnace?

According to one HVAC expert's blog, you need to ask questions like whether or not you have pets, how many people live in your home, and if you have any allergies. Depending on your answers to these questions you may need to schedule a furnace cleaning more frequently. If you have three cats and asthma, for example, you'll want to clean your furnace out at least twice a year. This will help you get rid of pet hair and allergens that can build up in your duct system.   

Should You Hire an Expert or Do It Yourself?

The answer to this question depends on how comfortable you feel dealing with your furnace on your own. It's certainly recommended that you have a professional inspect your furnace at least once every two years or so, but you can easily perform regular cleaning yourself. Performing what maintenance you can on your own may save you money in the long run.

If an emergency with your furnace does occur, contact a heating expert instead of trying to handle it yourself. Furnaces can be dangerous if they malfunction, and your first priority should be the safety of you and your family.