Remember Your Furnace for the Holidays!
Keeping warm in the winter is one of our critical concerns. Here are some ways you can ensure your furnace doesn’t fail you for the holidays, and what to do if it happens.
Who doesn’t love snuggling in front of the fireplace on a cold winter night? Those doing so because their furnace isn’t working, that’s who. There are some key things you can do to ensure you’re not in that club.
Lack of preventative maintenance leaves many families at risk of suffering this exact situation. Even more inconvenient, it could wait until you have a house full of friends celebrating and roasting marshmallows when it blows. Why wait for a problem to surface? Some simple precautions will reduce your exposure.
About a month before you expect the colder weather to set in, hire a professional preventative maintenance service to perform a check up and have them facilitate any required service repairs to ensure your furnace is ready to perform.
As the weather starts to cool, service calls ramp up, which can lead to serious backlog in response times. Holidays are often the most difficult and for some reason seems to be the most likely time the furnace will go down, compounding the problem. Preventative measures can substantially reduce the chances that you’ll be without heat when you need it most.
To Start With
The most critical measure you can take is to replace your filter monthly. It seems simple and obvious, but many neglect doing this regularly. Changing your filter frequently will extend the life of your furnace and keep your air quality in good shape. You’ll also reduce the percentage of potential allergens floating about.
A spun fiberglass filter is standard, and the least expensive option at about $5. It’ll catch dust, however isn’t as efficient in blocking finer-sized particles. A pleated disposable filter is a bit more expensive but will offer 4-8 times the filtering of spun fiberglass. Worth the extra expense, especially if you have someone in your home suffers acutely from allergies.
Should you require even more efficient filtering, there are other options. Consult with a professional to discover what alternatives are available to you. The challenge you may face is that for more efficient filtering there may be a new set up required, which could cost $500 or more.
There are filter options that don’t require re-tooling of your system, recently developed to offer much higher filtration rates. Electric, Mass Media, and Washable Electrostatic Filters are initially costly, running around $1,000, do require some duct-work modification, however if a family member’s health is at risk, you’ll find the price tag acceptable and a worth investment.
Additional Standard Maintenance
With a clean filter in place we can move on to the more technical actions you can take. Even though these are relatively simple forms of maintenance, it’s important that before you perform any maintenance or inspection on your system that you turn off any power and fuel supply to the furnace.
Clean the Burners
Many really like that smell you notice when you turn on your heater for the first time. For some, the smell is reminiscent of cozy winters spent keeping toasty warm while storms rage outside. In reality, that smell is actually your system burning off dust and other particles that have accumulated on the burners during the summer. It’s actually bad for your burners and adversely affects your air quality by depositing the remnants of the burned particles into your environment. Before you turn on your furnace the first time in the cold season, vacuum or wipe down the burners, ensuring there is no rust or misalignment while you’re at it.
Test the Thermostat
Turn on your thermostat and see how it responds. It should start right away, with no challenges. If it doesn’t, or if your thermostat is a significantly older model, then replace it with a newer version. The programmable thermostats are best, allowing you to regulate when your furnace turns on and off, and the temperature setting when you’re home and away, saving you big on heating costs. They can be a bit confusing, but take the time to learn how they work and you’ll be glad you did.
Clear the Vents
Check and ensure all the vents have clear air flow. If you’ve moved furniture around, look to make sure there is an inch or two in clearance for each vent. Blocked vents can keep heat from being efficiently delivered into your space and you may turn up the heat to compensate, ultimately costing you more money. It will eventually cause the furnace to overheat and potentially burn it out years before its time.
Oil the Furnace Blower
The blower motor should be oiled once a year, even if you need to hire a professional to get it done. It shouldn’t make any noises when it starts up, a clear indicator you need to have it looked at.
Service before a Crisis Hits
The most important tip to take away from this discussion is that maintenance and inspection should occur before the heater is needed. It’s the best way to avoid being stuck without heat and inconvenienced in a crisis. A true statement whether you’re talking about your heating system or any other major component of your home. Gather valuable contacts through friend’s referrals, Angie’s List or the Better Business Bureau and keep them handy.
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