Don't wait for the chilly winter nights to set in. Set a date for your furnace’s annual cleaning and upkeep.
A yearly checkup and inspection is highly recommended to prevent it from wearing out quickly when used for long periods of time, from pumping deadly carbon monoxide into your living spaces without you knowing it, or from completely shutting down in the dead of the winter.
Before Cleaning & Upkeep
Before you start working on your furnace, remember the following:
- Make sure the unit is receiving power. If your furnace is not tapped to the main entrance panel, it might be located at a different panel near it.
- Make sure the switch is turned on. Look for tripped circuit breakers or blown fuses.
- Make sure the thermostat is properly set. If necessary, raise or lower the setting by 5 degrees.
- If your furnace has a reset button, let the motor cool for half an hour before pressing it. If it won’t start, wait another half an hour before pressing the reset button again.
- If your furnace is gas propelled, make sure the gas supply is turned on and the pilot light is lit.
- If your furnace is oil-based, make sure there is adequate oil supply.
Safety Factors to Consider
- Before working on your furnace, make sure all power leading to it is turned off.
- Remove the fuse or trip the circuit breaker at the main electrical entrance panel.
- If you’re not sure which circuit your furnace is connected to, trip the main circuit breaker to cut off all power to the house.
- If the fuse blows when the furnace turns on, there is a problem in the electrical system. Call a professional service person. Do not attempt to fix it yourself.
- If your furnace is gas-propelled and there is a gassy odor inside the house, report the leak immediately to the fire department or call the gas company for help. Get out of the house right away and do not reenter until help comes.
How to Clean
- Remove the combustion chamber door by unscrewing it, lifting it up and pulling it out.
- Inspect the burner flames by turning up your thermostat. Yellow flames mean dirty burners. Clean flames are fairly even and bluish in color. If you have dirty burners, make sure you don’t inhale them. Call in a pro to adjust the burners.
- Vacuum the burners and the furnace base. Use a flashlight to clearly see dust and soot.
- Clean the blower (or squirrel cage) and its blades using a vacuum and a small brush. If you have a control panel in front of it, unscrew it and let it hand while you do the cleanup. Make sure you don’t disturb the wirings and counterweights.
- Change the furnace filter on a quarterly basis to provide adequate protection to the blower and blower motor. A cheap fiberglass filter is better than a high-efficiency one which can strain the blower motor and make your furnace less efficient.
- Clean the pilot by blowing through a drinking straw to the exact spot. A dirty pilot can trigger the flame sensor that the pilot isn’t lit.
- Remove any residue from the flame sensor by using a fine emery cloth. This will help ensure your furnace will always light up properly.
- Clean the hot surface igniters by blowing air through a straw. Do not touch it because it breaks very easily.
When it comes to your furnace, regular cleaning and upkeep goes a long way. The entire procedure takes just a few hours and costs a few dollars – a worthy expenditure to avert the hassle of your furnace from simply not putting out enough heat or from stopping without any warning at all.
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