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DIY Furnace Maintenance

When it comes to costs associated with owning a home, a little preventative do-it-yourself maintenance can go a long way in saving you money and invest in the upkeep of your home. Use our step-by-step guide to service your furnace and keep it humming throughout the cold winter months.

Man and sons next to furnace

Yearly Furnace Maintenance Checklist

Remove Door

First, after cutting electricity to the unit, take off the door to the combustion chamber.

Check the Flame

Next, turn the electricity back on and engage the burner by turning up the temperature on the thermostat. Be careful not to inhale any fumes. When the burner kicks on, you should see a healthy blue flame. If not, call a professional to check on your system.

Clean Internal Cavities

Once you’ve ensured your system is working properly, it is time to clean the burner and blower cavities. Turn the power back off, and use a vacuum attachment to clear dust and any debris from the cavity. If there is a lower compartment, remove the door and continue to vacuum that space. Use a flashlight to search for soot — an indicator of poor combustion. Contact a professional in the event of soot accumulation.

Clean the Blower

The Control Panel should be attached to the inside of the blower by bolts. Using a socket wrench, remove the bolts fastening the cage to the cavity and let it hang by its wiring. Next, use the socket wrench to remove the blower as well. Clean the blower blades using a stiff brush and your vacuum hose.

Replace the Filter

If your filter hasn’t been replaced in the past 1-2 months or is no longer its original color, replace it with a new one or if it is a reusable filter wash it according to manufacturer instructions.

Dust-Off the Pilot

Make sure the flame is off. Using a straw or a canister of compressed air, blow any dust that may have accumulated on or near the pilot light, electronic ignitor or flame sensor components.

To help keep your furnace in top shape and improve your home energy efficiency, practice these other maintenance tips throughout the year:

  1. Calibrate Your Thermostat: General use can cause your thermostat to give inaccurate temperature readings. Check the owner’s manual for your specific hardware to recalibrate your thermostat each winter.
  2. Change Air Filters: This is one of the most important things you can do for your home heating system — and one of the easiest. Whether your system uses replaceable or reusable filters, making sure the filter is clean is key to ensuring your system is at top performance. Filters should be cleaned or replaced every 30 to 90 days.
  3. Keep Grills Clean: Make sure all intake and outtake grills and registers throughout your home are clean of dust and clear of any blockages, which can lead to the system overheating. This includes ensuring furniture, drapes, and carpets are well clear of HVAC indoor vents and exterior vents and chimneys of ice and snow during winter storms.
  4. Check for Air: Check around windows and ductwork for escaping air and use a sealant to fill any leaks.

When to Call the Professionals

Safety should always be the number one priority when conducting any maintenance or improvements to your system. If you get in over your head or are unsure of your abilities, always call a professional to make sure the job is completed safely. As a general safety tip, always be sure to turn off the electricity and fuel supply to any unit you are servicing. Make sure to check the warranty on your HVAC unit to prevent any maintenance work that might void the warranty.

When performing any services, pay attention to your senses. If you smell any fumes or strange odors or hear unexpected noises such as metal-on-metal scraping within the system, have your furnace checked out by a professional. Give the system a visual check, keeping an eye out for any frayed or fried wiring. The presence of soot or burnt casings is warning signs that there may be serious problems with your system. If you detect any of these issues or something else that may seem out of place, schedule an appointment with an HVAC specialist to have your system checked.

As you are conducting these winter maintenance procedures, it is also a good time to check your smoke and gas detectors to ensure they are functioning perfectly and contain fresh batteries, and that your fire extinguishers are in working order in the event of emergencies.