Servicing your heater before Winter

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Servicing your heater before Winter

When that first cold day hits, you don’t want to turn on the furnace only to discover that it isn’t working. Previous to wintry weather arrival, it’s paramount that you ensure that your heater is fully operational and as safe and energy-efficient as you can make it. This can help you keep your heating bills under control and ensure that your home stays warm all winter long. A lot can happen during the warmer months to affect your furnace.

Properly preparing your furnace for winter requires just a few hours of your time and a little effort in order to keep you and your family comfortable. The exact maintenance routine a heating system needs depends on the manufacturer. Still there are several simple tips you can follow to get your furnace ready for cold temperatures.

Annual Checkup

With proper maintenance, your furnace will work more efficiently, and save you money on expensive energy costs. Without the necessary yearly cleaning and inspection, a system can wear itself out quickly, pump deadly carbon monoxide into your home, or simply stop working. Calling a professional to inspect your heating system is the best way to ensure that it’s working efficiently and to find out if anything needs to be repaired or replaced, as a result, you may be able to maintain the appliances safe use as designed. Professionals can also determine whether there are any dangerous conditions and therefore reduce any potential fire risk or operational hazard.

During a regular maintenance inspection, the repairman will clean the furnace, change the filter, check for leaks and unhealthy gases, and ensure that everything is operational. It is highly recommended to have them clean the furnace ducts. As an added advantage, the annual checkup helps to prevent reduced efficiency which can run up the gas and electric bills.

Having carbon monoxide and radon detectors are important for everyone’s safety. You can purchase these detectors at most hardware and big box, do-it-yourself stores.

Scheduling the appointment

You need to make an appointment for your furnace’s annual checkup early in the season. Professional companies get very busy at the onset of winter, so it’s a good idea to schedule your appointment ahead of time.

Air filters
Furnace filters should be replaced every two to three months depending on the season and the type of system you have in place. To do so, locate the filter and pull it out. Slide the new filter into the slot, following the arrows on the frame of the filter. Consider upgrading the filter if your current filter is a flat filter. Upgrading to a pleated filter, HEPA filter or electrostatic filter increases the energy efficiency of your furnace and allows the warm air to flow unimpeded through your home. If your filter is located within the furnace, shut off power before attempting to replace or inspect it for safety reasons.

Change the furnace filters regularly, at least take a look at the filter after 30 days of operation. You’ll be able to tell if it needs to be changed. If your filter still looks pretty good, you can put off changing it. Also, your filter should always be free of dust and debris. A good money saving tip is to stock up on filters during the warmer months. You often can find a bargain on furnace filters and other winter items during those hot summer months. If you have a central cooling and heating system, then filters should also be checked and replaced frequently during the summer.

Chimney
Check for any obstructions such as bird nests or debris. You should also make sure there is no significant soot buildup, as it can be a dangerous fire hazard. If your chimney hasn’t been inspected in a long time, call a professional to check it and clean the ducts.

Components

A big part of deciding how to get your furnace ready for winter is making sure all the gears of your heating system are clean and in working order.

The furnace blower motor plays a big role in how your heating system functions. It should be oiled once a year and it shouldn’t make any unusual noises when started.

Dust can accumulate during the summer, so it’s very important to check and clean the furnace burners before the beginning of the colder season. While cleaning the burners, check for signs of misalignment and rust.

Inspect the blower belt for cracks. Turn off the power to the furnace at the main circuit breaker. Use a screwdriver to remove the steel cover of the air handler. The blower belt is the largest rubber belt that you see. Replace the belt if it is cracked.

Thermostat 

Engage your set-back, or programmable, thermostat so it automatically lowers the temperature while you are asleep or away from your home. If you have an old thermostat that must be controlled manually, consider updating it. Set-back thermostats are the best choice because they allow you to completely control the temperature in your home.

According to the Consumer Energy Center, you could save from 20 to 75 percent on your furnace’s operating costs by using this type of thermostat.

Heating vents
Throughout the year, furniture is often moved around and new items are brought into the home. Walk around your house to make sure that nothing is blocking your heating vents, and that they are completely open and clean. Keep the area around your furnace unit free of debris and clutter.

Remove any items you have stored near the furnace, particularly anything that is likely to catch fire. Also remove any household items that are suddenly sitting on top of or in front of your air ducts and return vents.

Clean your air vents and ducts. Remove the vent covers with a screwdriver. Use the extension hose of your vacuum to remove the dust. Inspect the exhaust flue outdoors to ensure it is free of obstructions such as branches or animal nests. Blocked vents are not only useless since the heat can’t get out; they are also a serious fire hazard.

A professionally cleaned heating system will work better and more efficiently, saving you money in the long run. Avoid finding your furnace is dysfunctional in the middle of the freezing winter – by preparing before the cold weather arrives.