Furnace Maintenance

It happens every year in our house. We wake up to the first cold morning after summer and everybody refuses to get out of bed until I get up and start the furnace. Well, this year I’m going to get the furnace going early so I won’t have to do the job before my morning coffee or while dressed in slippers and a bathrobe.

Also, because I’m not waiting until the last minute, I can give the furnace a really good once-over looking for ways to make it work cleaner and more efficiently.

Make your mornings a whole lot easier this season. Take these simple steps to prepare your heating system.

Dangerous Leaks

First, remove all the access covers and look for cracks and excess corrosion, especially in the heat exchanger — the place where air circulates through the combustion chamber. Fuel is burned in the combustion chamber and if any carbon monoxide leaks out it could be drawn into your home. If you suspect that this might be happening, call a professional to test for the gas and/or install a carbon monoxide alarm in your house. The alarm, available at most home centers, looks and installs much like a smoke alarm.

A New Type of Filter

Next, clean out any dust and spider webs in the furnace with a vacuum and remove the filter. Instead of replacing the filter, you may want to install a new electronic air cleaner. This new filter uses static electricity to keep out many more particles and is very energy efficient.

Installation requires some custom-made ducting but it is otherwise simple to do. Proper air-filtering has been shown to prevent what is called “sick-building syndrome.” There are many causes for this, but symptoms include more frequent allergy attacks and even colds and flu.

How Chimney Fires Damage Chimneys

Masonry chimneys: When chimney fires occur in masonry chimneys – whether the flues are an older, unlined type or are tile lined to meet current safety codes – the high temperatures at which they burn (around 2000′ F) can “melt” mortar, crack tiles, cause liners to collapse and damage the outer masonry material. Most often, tiles crack and mortar is displaced, which provides a pathway for flames to reach the combustible wood frame of the house. One chimney fire may not harm a home. A second can burn it down. Enough heat can also conduct through a perfectly sound chimney to ignite nearby combustibles.

And a New Thermostat

In the interest of saving energy, think about installing one of the new programmable thermostats. They may look complicated, but they hook up to the same wires as old thermostats.

Once installed, you program the times you usually turn the furnace on and off. The energy-saving idea behind these thermostats is that people often forget to turn off the furnace or, in order to heat up the house quickly, they overcompensate and run the furnace full blast. By having the thermostat anticipate temperature needs you save energy.

Check for an Even Burn

With the thermostat off, light the pilot light and fire up the furnace. After letting it burn for a while, look at the flames to see if they are burning evenly and with a nice blue color.

If the flames are dancing around with more yellow than blue, you may need to adjust the air/fuel mixture. Different furnaces adjust this mixture in different ways. If you do not have the instructions for your individual furnace, have a professional do it. A furnace that is not working efficiently will waste fuel and take longer to heat up.