I’m not proud of it, but I don’t know much about my house. During the home inspection a couple years ago, I could barely understand what the inspector was saying. He talked for quite a while about the furnace, how old it was and how important it is to maintain. I politely listened, but my only real takeaway was, “You have a furnace and it’s old.”
I think it’s time I get my act together, especially since we’re approaching the colder months and I’d rather not be without heat.
Don’t be ashamed if you don’t know where to start. Not everyone is an HVAC expert. All it takes is a little understanding and the diligence to realize that your furnace is a critical part of your home heating and cooling system, and not some magical box that gives you warmth without taking care of it.
Figure Out What Kind of Furnace You Have
If your home isn’t that old and you live in the U.S., chances are you have a natural gas furnace, so we’ll concentrate on that type. If you live in an older home, your furnace could run on oil or electricity. Check the sticker and refer to your manufacturer’s website for more information.
Replace Your Furnace Air Filter
Refer to your manufacturer’s website to determine what kind of furnace you have and what kind of filter it needs. The filter is very important to the operation of your furnace and the air quality of your home. It prevents pollutants from making it into the furnace itself while cleaning the air that’s blown out through the vents. Depending on the type of furnace you have, filters should be replaced every couple of months or every couple of years. Take the filter out and hold it up to the light. A good rule of thumb says that if you can’t see through it, you need to replace it. They’re pretty cheap and can be picked up at most home improvement stores, or on the internet.
Check the Temperatures
Don’t worry, this isn’t as scary as it sounds. Turn the heat on and let it run for about 10 or 15 minutes. Then check the temperature of the air flowing into your furnace (return air). Don’t know where that is? Check out this diagram. Then take the temperature of the air coming out of one of the registers. Subtract the heated air temperature from the return air temperature and note the difference. Check your furnace label, but the difference should probably be somewhere between 35° and 65°F. This is the “heat rise” and if it seems off, you might want to call your HVAC expert. This means that the furnace is working too hard or maybe not hard enough, and there could be something mechanically wrong with it.
Don’t Forget About Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of combustion and it’s very dangerous in large quantities. Regardless of whether your furnace is brand new or on its last legs, you should have a CO detector to make sure this odorless gas isn’t leaking into the air you breathe.
When in Doubt, Call the Pros
If you don’t really know what you’re doing, you probably shouldn’t mess around with anything as complex and dangerous as a furnace. There’s no shame in giving your local HVAC company a call to see if they’ll perform an inspection and routine maintenance for you. It might be expensive, but the peace of mind could be worth it.
The bottom line is that your furnace is really, really important. It doesn’t matter if you understand how it works, you need it. Proper maintenance can prevent premature mechanical breakdowns and could save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in costs.
Do you have any furnace maintenance tips or suggestions? Tell us about them in the comments!