As the outside temperature begins to fall, it is important to inspect your furnace to ensure that it is functioning and operating efficiently throughout the winter months. Many things can negatively affect your furnace during the warmer months when you are not using it, which is why it is so important to take the time now to check that everything is working as it should before something goes wrong. According to the National Fire Protection Association, heating equipment is a leading cause of home fire deaths, and half of these fires occur in the months of December, January, and February alone.
This does not have to happen to you. Here are seven simple things to check for after you turn on your heater to improve its efficiency and to keep your family safe.
Use Your Senses
When you first turn on your furnace, pay special attention to what you smell, feel, and hear.
Smell. Most furnaces give off a burning smell, but it could either be just dust burning off or it could be actual smoke from a fire. If there is a fire, turn the furnace off immediately, extinguish the flames with a home fire extinguisher, then call your local fire emergency services or 911. If it is dust, the smell should diminish after a short period of time. If the smell persists, however, and you are sure there is no fire, then it is a clear sign that your system needs cleaning.
Feel. Slide your hands along the walls of the furnace and the ducts. You should not feel any vibrations. If you do, call a certified HVAC repair technician to help identify the source.
Listen. Does the furnace sound like it should? Does it seem unusually noisy or seem as if it is having a hard time functioning? How is the airflow? As systems age, they need to be properly inspected and tuned-up. Call a certified service technician to schedule an annual inspection. Never attempt to make any repairs on your own if the issue is internal in your furnace as there is a high probability of inadvertent electrocution.
Check the Filter
Dirty filters create stress on your furnace, which can decrease its long-term productivity and increase your home heating costs. If you have a temporary filter, some manufacturers recommend that you change it every 90 days while others recommend changing it every 30 days. Follow the guidelines for your furnace. If your filter needs to be changed monthly, consider a pleated filter which can trap dust and allergens for up to three months. Electronic air-cleaner filters need to be cleaned every month as do permanent filters, which need to be washed and rinsed every month. Finally, always make sure that the filter has a cover over its slot opening so that the return-air system functions properly. Regular filter changes and cleanings are the easiest way to prolong the life of your furnace.
Remove Nearby Flammable Objects
A home’s furnace is often located in a garage or basement near where common household chemicals or other flammable objects such as boxes or gardening supplies are stored. Move these items as well as any other unnecessary debris to a safe distance (at least 3 feet) from the furnace in order to prevent a fire hazard.
Clean the Vents
Take the time to clean each vent in each room of your home so that they are better able to distribute heat and to improve indoor air quality by removing built-up dust and allergens.
Check Your Carbon Monoxide Level
The Center for Disease Control reports that each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning such as from stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, and furnaces. More than 20,000 visit the emergency room and more than 4,000 are hospitalized. This is why it is very important to monitor carbon monoxide levels inside your home, especially when you first turn on your heater.
After your furnace has been running for 10-15 minutes, check your carbon monoxide detector. If the reading is above 30, turn the furnace off and call a certified service technician right away as there could be a hazardous situation occurring. Open all windows to properly ventilate your home and do not use your furnace again until it has been professionally checked.
Test Your Thermostat
After you have turned on the heat, is your thermostat reading going up? Like many devices, thermostats slow down and can become increasingly inaccurate with age. Check that its readings are correct and that all of its functions are working properly. You might consider replacing it with a programmable thermostat it if it seems like your current one is getting old. Programmable thermostats not only reduce stress on your furnace system by turning off when it is not needed, it also saves you money…up to $180 every year in energy costs.
Call a Certified Professional
The number one thing you should do every year when you are ready to turn on your heater is to call an HVAC professional for a thorough inspection and cleaning. A certified technician from Right Now Air will conduct a thorough cleaning plus identify and fix any problems your system may be experiencing. We provide service around the clock and we are happy to give you an exact quote for any issues that need addressing so you know up-front how much it will cost. No matter what kind of system you have, our technicians are fully qualified to provide a wide variety of services to help you maintain your system and ensure that your family is comfortably warm this winter.
Preparing for the colder months does not have to be difficult. By following these seven steps, your furnace system will be safe and ready for whatever weather comes your way. Call us for a thorough and honest inspection as soon as you are ready to heat your home this year.