Much of the maintenance work required for your furnace needs to be performed by a trained professional; however, there are a few things you can do yourself to insure long lasting operation of your home’s comfort system.
Changing the filter regularly is the best thing you can do for your furnace and air conditioning coil. The actual term will depend on your own home, things like pets and sensitivities or allergies will require you to change it more often. If you do have air conditioning, your furnace will be running year-round and your filters will need to be changed more often. As a minimum, you should be changing the filter every spring and fall. If you have pets, double that, if you have allergies or sensitivities, double it again. These are minimum values and it never hurts to change the filter more often, up to once a month. When selecting a filter, choose a pleated filter with a MERV rating between 8 and 11.
Going too high can increase air restriction beyond your furnace’s design specifications; if you are interested in running a higher level filter, check with a professional before hand to make sure your furnace will work properly with one.
Air balancing is a complete process performed by trained sheet metal mechanics to optimize airflow in your home so that each room receives the required volume of air. Most of this adjustment is done through proper duct sizing during installation of the system, leaving only fine adjustments to be done at the registers*.
Over time the registers in your homes can end up getting closed either accidentally or intentionally and this can negatively affect the ability of your furnace to heat and cool your home evenly. Go through your home and make sure all the registers are in their most open positions. This will roughly provide the ideal airflow to each room; from this point if you find one room is too hot (winter) or too cold (summer – with A/C) you can shutter down the registers in that room slightly, but never to less than about half way.
Your furnace is full of safeties designed to protect you and your home in the case of a failure within the furnace. One of these safeties is a small rod that tells the furnace not to release gas if the flame fails to light. Depending on the year of furnace this will be either a thermocouple (furnaces with a standing pilot light) or a flame sensing rod (everything newer). This rod can become dirty over time, and cause a false reading preventing the furnace from lighting properly. You can prevent this from causing a problem on the coldest night of the year by cleaning the rod each fall.
This is a bit more mechanical than the previous steps and if you feel at all unsure of what you are doing, stop. Before opening the furnace cabinet, locate and turn off the furnace disconnect switch. Each furnace is a little different, but the flame rod is usually at the far end of the gas pipe running in front of the burner tubes. After allowing it to cool, give it a wipe with a dry cotton rag, do not use steel wool. That’s it, your done.
If it requires removing in order to clean it is recommended to call a professional and have it replaced rather than cleaned. If your furnace has a standing pilot light, replacing the thermocouple should only be done by a trained professional.
* While the registers should only be for fine adjustments, some large volume built homes run a single size main duct line, requiring more adjustment be done at the registers. If you suspect your home to fall into this category, consult a professional before making any adjustments
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