Homeowners typically spend more time in addressing the appearance of their residence than they do with its maintenance. This is especially true of unseen elements, like basement appliances and utilities.
A furnace may seem like a quiet piece of equipment that does its job until it finally breaks down many years following installation. But the truth is that even furnaces require some routine maintenance if they are going to continue to safely provide heat for your home and family. Here are some of the maintenance tasks that homeowners should be aware of:
- Has your furnace inspected annually? Look in the yellow pages for a certified furnace installer or a company that specializes in cleaning and maintaining heating equipment. The person who comes to work on your furnace will check each piece of equipment to be sure it is working correctly and not in danger of breaking in the near future. The associate will check the filter and clean it if that is required. He or she will likely check the thermostat to be sure the furnace is holding the right amount of heat and processing fuel efficiently. The gas line will be checked for leaks that can allow deadly carbon monoxide into your home, which can kill unsuspecting family members with its colorless and odorless gas. The inspector can order and later install any needed replacement parts and will post a label on the furnace to remind you when the inspection was conducted.
- Visually check your furnace area every month or two. Store chemicals like paints, varnish, paint thinner, gasoline, or other such agents in another room, or preferably in the garage or a shed. Fumes can emerge even from closed containers, which, if they come in contact with the furnace, can cause a fire or an explosion. Remove seemingly harmless household cleans like ammonia, bleach, or oil soap as they, too, can lead to harmful effects if they leak or are stored improperly.
- Remove saved or stored items that are stacked up near the furnace. Stacks of newspapers or magazines, old quilts or rags, boxes of books, and other flammable materials should be kept packed away in another area so you or a repair person can have clear access to the furnace whenever it is needed. You also don’t want flammable items near the furnace in case of a fire.
- Clean or replace the furnace filter regularly. Your heating inspector can tell you which type of filter your furnace uses and how to care for it. A clogged, overused, or damaged filter will not do the job it is designed for, which may cause ventilation problems. A regular furnace filter should be hosed or wiped down outside or in the basement, near a drain, each month for optimum usage and efficiency. If you plan to replace the filter, find out if a HEPA brand is available, which helps to protect your household environment by removing minute particles of soot and debris from the air.
- Keep the area near the furnace neat and tidy. Storing furniture, boxes, or other items near the furnace may make it difficult to get to the filter or to provide routine maintenance. You also want to avoid fire hazards in this utility area as well as others.
Buying a new furnace is fairly expensive, probably $2,000 or more for many models. Make your current furnace last as long as possible with good care and routine maintenance.