Furnace Maintenance Tips for DIYers

Keep your furnace maintained and you’ll see dramatically improved, efficient heating of your home or building. If you are a DIY’er you’ll want to pay attention to the following tips.

The furnace is a mechanical unit located inside of a home or building that is responsible for heating the structure to a comfortable temperature. When the furnace operates at less than peak efficiency, problems occur. Spotty heating, higher heating bills, and even dangerous fuel leaks are three potential concerns that a homeowner will face if furnace maintenance is put on the back burner. The following are several basic furnace maintenance tips that can help you to improve the safety and efficiency of the unit, while saving you money in the long run:

Visually inspect the actual furnace – you are looking for evidence of incomplete combustion like black soot around the base of the furnace or combustion residue in the immediate area. You can check the flame by turning the thermostat to the heat setting and looking at the actual flame in the furnace. The flame should be blue and it should appear to burn in a steady, consistent manner. If it is orange or yellow, or appears to flicker, you may need to call a professional to completely clean the system.

Clean the unit – Much of a furnace is accessible for the average individual, so it pays to clean the unit at least once per year to ensure optimal performance. You will need to turn off the thermostat and flip the circuit breaker that powers the furnace to the OFF position before you do anything. Once this is complete, simply remove the sides of the furnace and vacuum up any dust that you find in the unit. You can clean off the fan blades with a damp rag, and you can even oil the blower fan shafts if there is an oil cup or fitting on the actual shaft – many of these units are sealed, though.

Inspect the belts – While some furnaces use direct drive blower motors and fans – where there is no belt, many still use a belt that connects the output shaft of the blower motor with the actual fan assembly. You’ll want to look for two things. First, is the belt cracked or frayed? If so, replace this part immediately as a broken belt can disable the entire system. Next, is the belt tension properly adjusted? No more than ½” of play should be evident. Any more and the system will need adjusting.

Replace the furnace filter – One truly basic maintenance tip that all homeowners should remember is to frequently replace the furnace filter. This is cheap and easy insurance that can keep a furnace operating at peak efficiency for years to come. Think of it like changing the oil on a car – you’d never go a year without doing an oil change on your car, so don’t neglect the filters on the furnace, either.

Staying on top of basic furnace maintenance routines can go a long way toward protecting this finely-balanced, expensive system. By doing some of the work yourself you can eliminate some of the costs associated with furnace maintenance, while enjoying better performance throughout the year.