Furnace Maintenance – Have You Been Doing It?

Furnace PM Checklist

Sample Furnace PM.

I’m going to take a shot in the dark and say like most of us, you haven’t been doing preventative maintenance on your furnace. And by most of us, I mean you guys as I do mine. On everything. On schedule. Cause I’m anal like that. Really though, performing routine maintenance on your furnace is just as important as changing the oil regularly on your car.

The bottom line is that as a homeowner, you want your heating system to run as efficiently as possible and for as long as possible. By trying to accomplish both of these, you will save money.

One way you can accomplish this is by scheduling and conducting regular and routine maintenance on your furnace. Faulty settings, dirty filters, and clogged, blocked, or dirty burners are just a couple of the potential issues you might come up against. By doing regular checks, you will most likely find something before it becomes a major problem or issue. Any of those problems listed can quickly lower the efficiency or your furnace or cut off its operation completely.

Regardless of whether you have a forced air heating system or some other type of furnace, you should inspect the filters on a monthly basis and replace them quarterly. You should also have a certified, licensed, and bonded inspector come out once a year to test your furnace and its operation, the safeties too. They know what to look for and can spot a serious or critical issue quickly. Failure to maintain your heating system could result in huge repair costs down the road and even create a dangerous or unsafe condition for your family.

What maintenance should you be doing on your furnace?

Of course it varies depending on the type of furnace or system you have. The items listed below are kind of generic so you should cut and copy only the ones you need for your specific system. If someone had to make a list of the most important preventative maintenance items for you to check, it would include:

  • Lubricating required parts.
  • Inspecting, cleaning, or replacing the air filters.
  • Cleaning motors, fans, and burners.
  • Testing for carbon monoxide leaks.
  • Inspecting and cleaning the blower, fan belt, safety controls, gas pilot light, piping, and thermostat.
furnace drawing

Exploded view of furnace.

Using the proper oil or lubricant at the recommended points in the furnace will increase its life span. Lubrication reduces the strain on things like motors because its internal parts don’t have to work as hard to turn or move. Proper lubrication will reduce your eventual costs of repair. Plus, it is essential to quiet operation to have everything lubed up.

Another maintenance task that you want to be sure to add into the rotation for your furnace is to check, clean, and replace the filters as needed. It is best, maybe even overkill, to check them once a month. I would at least check and clean them quarterly or every 3 months. Some filters are reusable and require that you wash out the dust accumulation and then dry it before re-using it. With disposable filters, simply toss the dirty one and replace it with a new one. This way you can be certain that the dust and allergens released into the air are kept to a minimum.

If you happen to hire an inspector, make sure to have him check and inspect the burners. Ultimately they are responsible for making the warm air that blows around your house. If the burners don’t work, the furnace will not operate properly or efficiently.

If you believe you can check the operation of the burners yourself, do so by inspecting the color of the flame at the pilot light. Clean burning fuel produces a nice, solid, crisp blue flame while a hot, unclean fuel will burn a reddish-yellow color. When this non-blue color exists, it usually means the burners are corroded or becoming clogged from rust.

Carbon monoxide testing is essential as the heat exchangers of a furnace have the possibility of releasing carbon monoxide gas. This gas is poisonous and undetectable so if you were sleeping and this gas was released, you might never wake up.

The heat exchanger surfaces can collect dust and other debris which could reduce its efficiency so it is important to vacuum and dust the surface a few times a year. If possible, have a qualified HVAC inspector check the exchanger and the rest of the system in the late summer before using the heater for the first time that season. At this time, the inspector could even oil necessary parts and check the fan belt for you.

The belt for the blower (if so equipped) in the furnace should also be inspected at least annually. This is simple and can easily be accomplished by a novice homeowner. A frayed fan belt is not cause for immediate concern as it is not a danger to you or the furnace’s operation but it does reduce the dreaded efficiency. It’s important to replace a frayed belt as soon as possible to increase furnace efficiency and remove the risk of the belt splitting apart and completely shutting down the operation of the unit.

Like it or not, being a homeowner requires a few things of you. One is that you check everything out regularly and make sure things are in working order. This might be your car or your water heater. For this post we went over maintenance items for your furnace or heating system. By having a furnace that you know runs and works properly, you are basically protecting your family and keeping your investment (your home) as valuable as possible. And what I mean by protecting your family is that you can heat them in the winter, cool them in the summer, and protect them with new filters or by testing for carbon monoxide.

If you want your heating system to last for years with hopefully far and few repairs, maintain your furnace, hvac, or heating system properly or hire a qualified technician to do it for you.

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