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Three tips for maintaining your furnace

Furnace, Heating Solutions Updated: November 3, 2021

As cold weather approaches, it’s a good idea to make sure your furnace is operating safely and efficiently. Having your furnace inspected by an HVAC contractor for a tune-up once a year can not only save you money over time but can also keep your home safe and comfortable during the winter months. Below are some DIY tips on furnace maintenance as well as signs that you should contact a professional.

Tip 1: Change the filter regularly

The easiest way to optimize the efficiency of your heating system is to replace the filter in your furnace. The furnace filter is responsible for trapping dust, hair and particles, so they don’t damage the system, but it also improves the air quality in your home. Check out our article on how to change your furnace filter.

Tip 2: Pay attention to changes in temperature and smell

Hot air interrupted by cool air coming through the vents means your furnace is not performing the way it should and needs to be fixed. If you smell harmful fumes, similar to formaldehyde, you should contact a professional HVAC contractor right away. Additionally, if your nose picks up the smell of rotten eggs, there may be a leak in your gas line. If you suspect something might be off, you can always contact your utility company to do a free review of your gas lines to check for leaks.

Tip 3: Inspect and monitor the heat exchanger

A heat exchanger is a core component to a gas furnace that allows the heat generated from the combustion process to safely transfer to the air moving through the duct system without allowing the combustion gasses to enter the air. The heat exchanger is protected behind not only the front panel, but also another permanent metal panel, so most of the heat exchanger can’t be seen. If you’re comfortable taking the panel off your furnace, this can allow you to inspect the heat exchanger. Look for any:

  • Soot. When your furnace fails to burn the gas entirely, it creates soot buildup and could be an indication that the heat exchanger is cracked. Most cracks in heat exchangers can only be detected with bore scopes and mirrors, and not all cracked heat exchangers leak carbon monoxide (depending on the location of the leak), but a cracked heat exchanger can release dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.
  • Water. If water is present, it’s usually due to a clogged drain or a clogged secondary heat exchanger. The pressure switches will shut the gas off to the furnace causing the system to not produce heat until the blockage is repaired, or water leaks out and the problem starts again. Note that water could be remaining from the AC coil leaking inside the furnace left over from the summer but could also be an indication that it’s the heat exchanger.

Safety Tips

Always make sure to keep combustible and flammable items away from your furnace. Install a carbon monoxide alarm near the furnace and if the alarm detects carbon monoxide, contact a professional to inspect the gas furnace and other combustion appliances in the general area to confirm they are in good working order.

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Time for a new furnace? You may qualify for an Energy Trust of Oregon incentive

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