Your House is Your Haven: Don't Neglect the Interior

Six Things You Can Do Yourself To Keep Your Furnace Running Smoothly

by Cherly King

Nearly everyone knows they should get their furnace serviced in the fall before heating season begins. What you may not realize is that you can perform some of the tasks yourself. You'll still need a service call to make sure everything is in good working order, but you may be able to shave a few dollars off the bill. Here are six simple task nearly anyone can perform at home.

#1 Change the Air Filters

The filters to your furnace are designed to grab dirt, dust and pet hair from the air before it enters your furnace. When the filter is clogged with pet dander, hair and other debris from the air, your furnace does not get the air it needs to operate efficiently. Changing the filter only takes a minute and should be done any time it gets dirty. How long a filter lasts in your furnace depends on your household and amount of particles in the air. If you have dogs and cats that shed frequently you may need to change your filter several times a year.

#2 Clean the Squirrel Cage

The squirrel cage may also be referred to as the furnace blower. It is a special fan designed to haul air into the furnace and then push the warm air into your home. Dust and dirt can coat the blades of the fan making it work less efficiently. To clean the squirrel cage, turn the power source to your furnace off and remove the screws holding the panel in front of the squirrel cage. The panel will typically swing down to allow access to the blower. Remove the two bolts holding the squirrel cage in place and lift the blower our. Clean the blades with a vacuum cleaner or use a soft cloth to wipe down soiled areas. Reassemble the squirrel cage.

#3 Clean the Ignition Sensor

The ignition sensor sends the message to your furnace that a flame is needed to kick up the heat. Sometimes the sensor can get covered with dirt and debris and fail to work properly. Clean the sensor with a cloth to remove dirt and grime.

#4 Check the Flame

Checking the flame doesn't require much effort, but lets you know how efficiently your furnace is burning fuel. Open the door in front of the flame and observe the flame while the furnace is running. The flame should be blue with no flickering and minimal noise. If the flame is yellow and flickers or makes noises when it burns, your furnace needs adjusting. Make a note to discuss this with your HVAC contractor when he arrives.

#5 Seal Leaks in the Duct Work

Leaks in the duct work are a common cause of reduced heat flow throughout your home. The most common location for leaks is at junctions, but they can occur in other locations. Check all joints and visually inspect the duct work leading to all parts of the home. Look for signs of rusting, as once rusting begins it can quickly lead to holes in the duct work. Repair any leaks or holes. You may need to replace duct work that is damaged or rusted.

#6 Adjust the Dampers

Most furnaces have dampers at the beginning of each branch of duct work that comes out of the furnace. These are designed to regulate the amount of warm are that is directed to each section of the home. Check that the dampers are working properly and have not been accidentally closed off during the summer. You will need to wait until heating season to make final adjustments to the dampers. If you haven't done so already, monitor and adjust the dampers for several days until you find the ideal setting, then mark them so you can quickly reset them if they get changed.

Doing your part to keep your furnace running smoothly isn't difficult. It will save your HVAC contractor time and will save you money too.

If you find any issues that aren't mentioned here, it's a good idea to look into heating repair contractors to handle unfamiliar issues.