Life at home can come to a standstill when a furnace stops working in the middle of winter. You need to rush about then to call in a technician right away. As with anything else, when it comes to caring for a furnace, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. At the very least, working furnace inspections into your routine can ensure that you aren’t blindsided when problems turn up.
Preventive inspections and maintenance can be essential to safety, too. A malfunctioning furnace can put out poisonous carbon monoxide gas and also cause fires. According to numbers by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, poorly maintained furnaces cause more than 5,000 fires each year and nearly $50 million worth of property damage.
Ahead of the winter heating season, then, before you first turn your furnace on, a quick maintenance and inspection routine can help. To begin, every baseboard radiator and heat register/vent around your home should receive a thorough cleaning. The furnace filter is likely to be dirty, too. You can either clean it or replace it altogether. If you have an older furnace, check the blower motor to make sure that it spins smoothly, and lubricate the water pump.
Here are other areas to pay attention to when you begin your inspection.
Check the combustion and exhaust system for leaks
The vent connection pipes and the chimney of a furnace tend to be at risk for all kinds of problems — loose joints, clogs, cracks and so on. These are dangerous because they are able to leak carbon monoxide into your home. If your furnace burns fuel oil, it’s a good idea at the start of each season to call in professionals to have the heat exchanger thoroughly cleaned. They will often also change out the oil filter and the burner nozzle.
If you have a forced air system
Before you start your forced air system for the winter heating season, it’s important to check the heat exchanger on the furnace for cracks or other signs of structural damage. Holes and cracks can leak carbon monoxide. All ducts need to be checked for leakage, too. If you find that your ducts have damaged insulation, you can patch them up with insulation yourself or have professionals do it for you. Properly done duct insulation can save you at least 40% on your heating bills.
If you have a steam system
Steam traps and vents help the steam that’s produced in a heating system to quickly get to the radiators. These components require regular checking for proper function. Cleaning the boiler of floating debris is important, too. Debris can lower the efficiency of a steam system. If you live in an area with hard water, having a technician empty the float chambers and clear out any sediment can ensure energy savings and the free flow of water.
If you use a hot water system
Before the heating season starts, hot water systems should have their high limit controls and pressure relief valves checked out. Malfunctions in these systems can allow pressure in the system to build to dangerous levels. The fill valve, the expansion tank and the air vents should be checked out, too.
These checks tend to take no more than a half hour at the start of the season. They help you make sure that your system doesn’t have a vulnerability that will act up exactly when it’s inconvenient.