technician inspecting a gas furnace

Getting Ready for Winter

Here in Texas, winter is knocking at our door ya’ll… are you ready? It isn’t quite time to wrap the exterior pipes, but making sure the pipes under the house, under the sink, and in the walls are insulated should be done. Don’t forget your furnace maintenance, either!

What is furnace maintenance?

Furnace maintenance includes furnace inspection and tune-up. This is a preventive measure that will keep you from having to make that emergency furnace repair phone call the first night the temperature drops to below 32 degrees. So what do furnace maintenance, inspection, and tune-up include? 

The essential components of your furnace are inspected, cleaned, and adjusted as necessary. This may include lubricating and testing specific components, along with taking care of the items on this checklist: 

  • Inspect the air intake grills and vent system, clearing any blockage
  • Check for any corrosion or damage to the heat exchanger 
  • Examine and clean the blower 
  • Check and test the blower motor
  • Inspect, repair, replace, and tighten all electrical connections
  • Check and clean the burner and flame sensor
  • Examine the belts for breaks, cracks, or damage
  • Repair or replace belts as needed
  • Inspect the thermostat and calibrate as needed
  • Lubricate all moving parts within the heating system
  • Check, change, or clean the air filter 
  • Check and test the system’s safety controls
  • Check and test the startup cycle

A gas or oil furnace will need the following additional steps performed with the furnace maintenance and inspection: 

  • Examine fuel lines
  • Repair or replace any fuel lines with leaks
  • Check and test the burner, gas pressure, and the pilot
  • Inspect the thermocouple
  • Repair or replace the thermocouple if needed

Should I get a furnace tune-up?

Definitely! A furnace or heater tune-up is essential in getting the best efficiency possible and making sure it is safe to use. The older your furnace is, or if you have had multiple service calls over the past few years, the more important furnace maintenance, inspection, and tune-up become. 

How often should you have your furnace serviced?

Annual furnace maintenance is recommended, but if you have a brand new system, you can go between inspections and tune-ups every two to three years for the first eight years. After that, annual furnace maintenance is recommended to assure it is working properly and safely.

How long does furnace maintenance take?

The average varies, depending on factors such as whether you have an electric, gas, or oil-fueled system, the age of the furnace, and the complexity of the work needed. However, furnace maintenance will usually take between 45 minutes to 2 hours, with an hour being a common timeframe. 

What can go wrong with a furnace?

Here are the most common furnace issues that homeowners experience: 

Not Enough Heat

The furnace has one job: keeping your home warm by distributing warm air. When that isn’t happening, it can be cause for alarm, but that doesn’t mean it is a huge problem. Check the thermostat is on heat and not fan. The appropriate furnace setting should be the first thing you check with your furnace maintenance steps. 

Next, check the pilot light if you have a gas furnace. If the pilot light is out, the furnace is only going to have cool air to blow. If these things haven’t got warm air blowing, call a technician. 

Turning on and Off

Your furnace should cycle on and off, maintaining a comfortable temperature according to the thermostat setting. Depending on the temperature you have it programmed to and the outdoor temperature, your furnace might cycle off and on several times within an hour.

If a furnace doesn’t reach the temperature setting you have and begins short cycling, check the safety switch. The safety switch is a built-in feature that shuts a system down when it has gotten too hot. Next check the air filter and change or clean it to make sure it isn’t causing a blockage. When the air filter is blocked, it can cause the furnace to overheat, and the safety feature will do its job. This is why an important step in your furnace maintenance is changing the air filter. 

Automatic ON Isn’t Working 

If your furnace isn’t switching on automatically to produce heat as the thermostat signals it to, some things to check are: 

  • The circuit breaker is on
  • The thermostat is at the right setting
  • The air filter isn’t clogged
  • The ignition and pilot light are on
  • There is ample fuel for oil-powered furnaces

Each of these things should be checked during regular furnace maintenance checks by you or a technician.

Stopped Working

Has your furnace started a cycle then suddenly shut down before the desired temperature setting was reached? Check the items we listed above and if all of those are okay, call a technician. 

Excessive Noise

Every furnace is going to make some noise like clicking when the thermostat reaches the right temperature and signals the furnace to turn on. You may even hear a whooshing sound as the warm air travels through the ductwork. As your furnace ages, the blower will get louder. However, some noises like loud knocking or rattling are unusual and indicate something is wrong. These noises should be inspected by a professional.

Leaking Water

Like your air conditioning, your heater can develop a condensation leak and water will pool up around the base. With routine furnace maintenance, this won’t happen. When it does happen, check the condensation pan and drainpipe. Empty the pan and make sure the drainpipe is clear. If water still pools up, call a technician. 

man removing a dirty air filter

In Closing

Furnace maintenance isn’t something to forget or ignore. If you aren’t comfortable with your own ability to perform the maintenance, then schedule a furnace maintenance appointment with a professional at least once a year, just before winter. They can light your pilot light and make sure you’re good for that first cold snap.

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