As freezing temperatures grip the nation, it’s more important than ever to make sure your heating system is fully maintained and in proper shape. We welcome The Family Handyman to share their best tips.
With the coldest winter weather conditions in years, ensure your home stays nice and toasty while your furnace properly runs at peak condition. By following The Family Handyman’s simple, cost efficient steps to keep your furnace in tip-top condition, you’ll stay warm and even save money on a repair bill down the line.
- Change the furnace filter: A $1 fiberglass filter will adequately protect the blower and blower motor. If you want to install a more expensive, high-efficiency filter, check the owner’s manual for the manufacturer recommendations. High-efficiency filters can restrict the airflow, strain the blower motor and make your furnace less efficient. If you want cleaner air, the best option is a separate air-cleaning system. Change the furnace filter every one to three months.
- Vacuum and brush the blower blades: Clean the blower blades carefully and thoroughly using a vacuum and small brush. Take care not to stress the wiring or disturb the counterweights that will be on the fan blades. If you can’t clean the blower thoroughly, don’t clean it at all; you could throw it off balance.
- Blow dust off the pilot: Use a drinking straw to dust the pilot. Direct air to the exact spot by blowing through a drinking straw. A dirty pilot can cause the flame sensor (or thermocouple) to get a false reading that the pilot isn’t lit. Some newer furnaces have hot surface igniters instead of pilots and electronic igniters.
- Clean the flame sensor: The flame sensor occasionally becomes coated with residue and will prevent your furnace from lighting. Remove it by pulling it down out of its bracket. Lightly clean the surface with fine emery cloth and slip the sensor back into its bracket.
- Inspect the drive belt: The belts on belt-driven blowers need occasional adjustment or replacement. Inspect the drive belt for cracks or frayed areas. A new belt costs about $5. When you install the new belt, tension it so it deflects 1/2 to 3/4 in.
- Lubricate bearings if necessary: Some older furnaces have two motor bearings and two blower shaft bearings that require annual oiling. Clean around the oil caps and remove the caps. Apply two to three drops of lightweight machine oil and replace the caps. Don’t over-lubricate!
- Adjust dampers if necessary: If your furnace heating ducts also serve as air conditioning ducts, they may have dampers that require adjusting for seasonal changes. The seasonal settings should be marked. Two-story homes often have separate supply trunks to serve the upstairs and downstairs. To send more warm air downstairs (winter setting) or more cold air upstairs (summer setting), adjust the damper handle on each supply trunk.
Be sure to visit The Family Handyman website for complete pictorials for this article and check out their videos as well.