It’s getting cold! The crisp morning air is a welcome change from the dragging humidity of summer, and soon it will be time to break out the sweaters and dream of an evening with a mug of hot cider. But as you get ready for all the joys of fall, is your heating system ready to go? Do you need furnace repair? Here’s what you need to know.
Why Do I Need to Check My Heating System?
It might not seem all that important (after all, it worked fine last year, right?) but it’s actually crucial that you have experienced professionals regularly check your heating and air conditioning system in order to keep it functioning efficiently and safely. It’s also crucial that you keep an eye on things, too, and know the signs that there’s a problem.
You need to do this to save money. Inefficient heating systems are huge money wasters. You also need to do this for safety. The U.S. Fire Administration reports that problems in the systems that heat a home or apartment are responsible for about 10% of the nation’s yearly fires.
Before you start thinking about doing anything yourself to get ready for winter, it’s crucial that you always get your HVAC system looked at by dedicated professionals at least once a year, and preferably twice. If you do this, you’re unlikely to find your heating system conking out in the middle of a brutal winter storm. Assuming that you’re getting the regularly scheduled maintenance, here’s what you need to do to prepare your system for winter:
- Check it by sight. There’s plenty you can check out just by using your eyes and a flashlight. Use this check to clear debris from the top and side of the furnace. Make sure that there’s nothing in the way of airflow. Look for residue buildup in and around the furnace. Check the ductwork and look for any gaps or connections that are coming unsealed. You can use metal duct tape to seal these, or, if they’re extensive, it might be time to consider looking at ductless systems.
You’ll also want to make sure there’s nothing stacked against your heater that could catch fire. Watch for papers, brooms, etc. Make sure that the belt gives slightly under your fingers when you press on it, and check the vents or chimney for anything that might be obstructing them. You especially want to make sure no birds or animals are nesting in your chimney.
- Clean the system. For a thorough cleaning, be sure to bring in a professional. However, things will work better if you keep it clean and lubricated regularly, too. Gently wipe down any fan blades and see if the blower shafts need a bit of oil. Make sure you don’t get oil near the pilot light or burner. Use a vacuum with a brush attachment to clean all the areas of the furnace you can reach.
- Clean drain lines. Because a furnace is constantly pulling up water, the hose used to pull in all that water tends to accumulate residue. Make sure you clean all this out by removing the hose and washing it with a diluted bleach solution. Rinse that out with clean water and replace the hose.
- Check your filters. Air filters need to be changed every two or three months, so make sure you’re doing this. If you have pets, you might have to change them even more often. Clogged air filters mean the heating doesn’t work efficiently and may even overheat. If you have a reusable filter, vacuum it thoroughly once a month and wash it carefully every two months or so. Make sure it’s fully dry before putting it back on.
- Run a test of the thermostat. This is fairly simple and only requires you to know the current temp of your room. Set the thermostat up 10 degrees higher and listen for the heating to start up. Check the temperature of the room 15 minutes later. It should match the thermostat. If it doesn’t, or if you heard nothing, call a technician.
Your heating is crucial to keeping you cozy and safe this winter. make sure you check everything out carefully while there’s still plenty of time!