Furnace Maintenance Basic Tips

Heating system and maintenance

In general, heating systems are easy to maintain and are usually trouble free. Efficient operation is a function of good regular maintenance. There are several things you can do to keep your heating system in top condition no matter the type of furnace you have. When a heating or cooling system fails, it is typically one of three things creating the issue ( the heat/cold source , the distribution system and/or the thermostat) . If the furnace or A/C doesn’t work , chances are the issue is at the source. The unit may have lost power , fuel may not be reaching the unit or the fuel may not be igniting. If the unit turns on but the cold or warm air isn’t reaching the rooms , the blower or distribution system may be faulty. A faulty thermostat or control , could keep the unit from turning on or cause it to turn on and off repeatedly. Whatever the problem, start with the simplest procedures. In most cases, all it takes is patience and common sense.

Before working on the system , take these preliminary steps:

Make sure the unit is receiving power . Make sure the unit doesn’t have a blown fuse or tripped breaker. Some furnaces have a separate power entrance on a separate panel and some have fuses mounted on or in the unit.
If the unit has a reset button , let the motor cool down and press the button. If it doesn’t work right away , wait a little while and try it again.
Make sure the units power switch is turned on. Remember , the unit may have a separate power switch.
If it is a gas burning unit, make sure the gas is on and the pilot light is lit. If it’s an oil burning unit check and make sure there is an adequate supply of oil.

If working on the system is necessary remember these important safety factors :

Before doing any work on the unit , make sure all power to the unit is turned off. Remember the unit could be on a separate panel. Make sure the breakers are tripped or the fuses are removed for the particular unit. If your not sure which breaker or fuse it is , trip the main breaker or remove the main fuse to shut off the power to the entire house.
If the unit is constantly tripping breakers or blowing fuses then there is an issue with the electrical. If this is the case , call a professional service person.
If your home smells of gas , leave your home immediately, leave the door open and call the gas company to report a leak. Do not turn any lights on or off and do not re-enter your home.

Keep your furnace clean

Dirt is your furnaces greatest enemy. It can waste fuel drastically lowering the units efficiency. Dirt affect three basic components on your furnace ( the filter , the blower and the motor ) so keeping them clean is the most important part of furnace maintenance. A disposable furnace filter should be replaced monthly during periods of continuous use. To check the filter , simply remove it and check to see if it looks clogged. If it looks clogged replace it regardless of how long it has been used. Install the filter with the arrow on the outer edge pointing towards the blower on the inside of the furnace. The filter size should be marked on the outer edges of the filter.

A permanent filter can usually be cleaned with a filter coating chemical which should be available at your local hardware store. Clean this filter according to the manufacturer’s instructions which may be located in the furnace housing.

Cleaning the blower assembly is also important for maintaining your furnace because the openings can often become clogged with dirt. To clean blower, remove panel that covers filter to gain access to blower or panel on front of furnace. This panel may be slip-fit on hooks or held by series of retaining screws. Access to inside of blower is usually gained by sliding out fan unit, which is held on track by screws. With toothbrush, clean each fan blade and spaces between blades. Then, with vacuum cleaner hose, remove all dirt and debris loosened by brushing. Also vacuum belts and pulleys. Wipe motor housing clean to prevent heat build-up in the motor.

Keep your furnace motor lubricated

To keep your furnace motor running cool, make sure it’s clean. Most furnace motors are permanently lubricated and sealed by the manufacturer however some have covered oil ports above the bearings near the motor shaft. If your furnace motor has oil ports , it should be lubricated annually .Apply two or three drops of 10-weight non-detergent motor oil (not all-purpose oil) to each port. Do not over lubricate. If the blower shaft also has oil ports then it should be lubricated as well. If the blower shaft has grease cups instead of oil ports then remove the caps from the grease cups and fill the cups with bearing lubricant which should be available at your local hardware store.

Inspect on your furnace belt

While lubricating your furnace motor, it is a good time to check the belts. If the belts are worn or frayed , replace them with new one’s that are the same type and size. If the belt squeaks while the motor is running , spray it with fan belt dressing which should be available at your local hardware store. These steps should hopefully help keep your furnace healthy and your family warm for years to come.

To keep the unit in good shape , have it professionally serviced annually. The end of the heating season is usually the best time to do this because of off-season discounts and the company won’t likely be as busy. It a good idea to have your air conditioning unit serviced at the same time.

Nathan Pile
Barrie Home Inspections

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