If you heat your home with a gas forced-air furnace, now is an excellent time to complete your fall furnace maintenance. The temperatures have dropped a bit, but preventative maintenance always beats repairs, right?
An HVAC service company can evaluate, clean and maintain your furnace to ensure trouble-free operation throughout the heating season. If you have a high efficiency furnace, this annual check-up is especially important. Regular use can wear (and damage) your furnace’s heat exchanger. A broken heat exchanger can allow poisonous carbon monoxide gas into your home. Carbon monoxide gas is a colorless, odorless gas that can sicken and kill you and your family.
An annual heating tune-up by a trained HVAC service company can spot potential problems before they harm you or your family. The heat exchanger isn’t the only cause for concern in your furnace. Other important components include the blower motor, the thermostat, the ducts and vents, and your fan. Any of these components can reduce the efficiency of your system, or cause a breakdown.
In addition to inspections, routine maintenance includes cleaning your heating system, which enables your furnace to work more efficiently. Regular removal of dust, ash and debris that accumulates through normal operation can actually save you money all winter long!
Regular furnace maintenance also includes evaluating the electrical connections, the controls, belts and other moving parts of your furnace. These parts can deteriorate quietly, leaving you with a surprise mid-winter repair.
One kind of regular maintenance you can perform is changing the furnace filter. Regular filter replacement can improve the efficiency of your system and save operational dollars. You can purchase disposable filters at any home improvement store. Look at your existing filter or consult the owner’s manual to find the right size for your furnace.
Routine furnace maintenance: furnace filters
A couple of notes about furnace filters: too much of a good thing can be … well, too much. Furnace filters have a MERV rating – Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. The higher a filter’s MERV rating, the smaller the particle it will trap. On the surface, having the filter trap as many minute particles as possible sounds good, right? Except that it might not be. Having such a restrictive filter in your air handling system can reduce air flow excessively. Essentially, you’re putting a pre-clogged filter into your furnace.
An overly restrictive filter can actually damage your furnace by making it work harder to pull air through the system. You can find MERV 16 filters, but do you want them? A MERV 16 filter will trap 95% of smoke, sneeze and bacteria particles. The LEED standard (for building efficiency) recommends a minimum of 8 MERV. The US Department of Energy recommends a MERV rating of no more than 13. Unless your furnace manufacturer recommends a higher MERV-rated filter, do not exceed the DOE recommendations.
Second, you can find “vent” filters for your cold air returns. Vent filters can prevent larger particles (including dust, pollen, carpet fibers and pet hair) from getting into the duct work. Vent filters don’t seriously restrict air flow, but they can prevent larger debris from getting into your furnace. Like furnace filters, you would need to replace vent filters every 30-90 days.
Finally, most filter manufacturers recommend changing your furnace filter every 90 days or less. Inspect your furnace filter monthly and change it when necessary. Don’t allow a filter to sit in your furnace for more than 90 days.
Schedule your fall furnace maintenance now!
Photo Credit: Mike Gifford, via Flickr