If spring is just around the corner, then you might be thinking that you can forget about taking care of your home’s furnace for another year. Really, as soon as the weather warms up is when you should start checking with the local furnace repair businesses to see if they are offering off-season discounts on maintenance. Here are some of the things you should check and how to change your furnace filter.
How Dirty Are Your Air Ducts?
One thing that a lot of people could do on their own is keep the air ducts, both the inlet and outlet, clean and vacuumed. Depending on where they are, of course, but many of the ducts that come out of the floor could be easily vacuumed from above for about the first 3 feet or so. A lot of dirt, dust, cat hair, and other debris falls into that part of your ducts and then blows out when the furnace comes on.
If you have seasonal allergies, or you get stuffed up for a week when the weather gets cold and you start using your furnace, that could be the cause. Keeping the final 3 feet clean is a good start, and cleaning the inlet duct is also a great idea. If you live on a dirt or gravel road, or have pets, you should really consider having your entire duct work vacuumed clean yearly or every other year.
The Next Most Important Thing-Changing Your Furnace Filter
Where is your furnace located? Is it in the basement, the garage, utility room? Chances are it’s covered with dirt and dust. From all of the static electricity they generate, dust seems to stick to them. Then, a lot of that dust gets sucked up inside to clog up your air filters and coat the inside of your ducts. Keeping the outside of your furnace clean every month or so just helps cut down on the overall amount of dust circulating in your home. It settles on your furniture, clothing, carpets, and everywhere else.
When you clean around your furnace, there should be an obvious place where the furnace filters are. You should pull them out and take a hard look at them. If they aren’t too dirty, you should vacuum them on both sides and stick them back in. Otherwise, they aren’t very expensive to buy at the local hardware or home store and they should be replaced. Clogged filters will slow the speed of the air passing through, making your furnace work harder to heat your home. That can raise your heating bills, slowly but surely, each month.
While You’re At It, Check The Fan Belt
Most furnaces will have a fan motor with a pulley on it, then a fan belt that is wrapped around another pulley that runs the blower or fan. With the breaker switched off on your furnace, check the tension of your fan belt. It shouldn’t slip or be loose, that would make the motor inefficient and waste electricity. If it’s frayed, it should be replaced immediately.
If it’s squeaking, you should first check to make sure it’s correctly tightened or tensioned. If that’s not the problem, make sure the bearing on the blower motor isn’t seizing up and is easy to turn. Many blower motors have a place to add drops of oil to lubricate the bearings. Don’t get any oil on the fan belt or pulleys. If everything checks out and there is still a squeaky belt, then go to the automotive store and get some “Belt Dressing.” This is a special lubricant just for belts that won’t cause more problems than you already have.
If taking care of your furnace isn’t something that sounds like you can handle, find out when the off-season is for your local furnace company. They will put you on a yearly schedule, most likely for a discount, and call you each year to maintain your furnace and give it a thorough inspection at the same time. It’s worth it for the longevity of your furnace and the peace of mind during the winter months.