Furnace maintenance is usually the province of the professional. But, not always. Here are some ways that you can see to basic furnace care before you call a pro.
The joy of homeownership stops for many at their first mechanical repair, but it doesn’t have to. Don’t be intimidated by simple fixes. Understanding how your furnace works can save you hundreds of dollars in costly repairs and many of them require little, if any, experience.
1. Understand the system
Get to know your furnace and you’ll overcome whatever hesitancy you have of fixing it. There are only three main components to a furnace—the burner, the heat exchanger (or boiler), and the pump. The burner creates the heat in your furnace. You have either a gas, oil, or electric furnace. Each creates heat differently. In the gas and oil furnaces, fuel combines with air and burns. In an electric furnace, electricity flows into elements that become hot as they react to the electricity.
The heat exchanger is simply a coiled set of pipes that carry water through the heat of the flames. In an electric furnace, the heating element is encased in a water tank. The pump keeps the water circulating and prevents a buildup of pressure.
2. Change the filter
Depending on the type of filter you use, you will have to do this between once a month and every three. Some filters are disposable and some are reusable. The reusable will be a larger initial investment and must be cleaned, but it also means less waste and will eliminate the need to buy filters.
While it depends on the model of your furnace, changing most filters is as easy as accessing the old one and replacing it with a new one. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on this as a clean filter will ensure your system is running efficiently and will help your furnace last longer.
3. Clean the furnace
When you change the filter it’s a good idea to clean the furnace as well. While the filter will trap most of the debris, some may manage to get through. For best performance, clean the blower, pulleys, and belts, all of which you can access through the front panel. Some models may require you to remove the fan unit. This is generally held in by a few small screws. Remove them, slide out the unit, and wipe off the parts with a cloth.
If your furnace isn’t running, there are a few things to check before calling a pro. Make sure your thermostat reads heat and not cool. All furnaces have a standard wall switch somewhere on or near them. Make sure it’s on. Also check the circuit breaker or fuse to make sure something hasn’t tripped it. Next, check the cover for the blower to make sure it is securely fastened. Finally, there’s a switch that must be fully depressed for the furnace to run.
5. Know When to Call a Pro
It’s advisable to have a heating professional check your system yearly to ensure it’s running efficiently and safely. Still there are many things you can do for a fraction of the cost of calling out a pro. If you do need to call someone, this guide will also help you better understand what he or she is talking about.
Not every repair requires a pro. With a little know-how, you can handle much of the maintenance on your own.