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Why you should make time for a fall furnace tune-up

2 contractors in overalls perform maintenance on a furnace/HVAC system

Autumn is on its way! Along with stocking up on pumpkin décor and seasonal treats, taking care of your furnace is a major part of getting your home ready for fall. Follow these steps to know what concerns to look for, and the easy maintenance that can help you avoid a costly furnace repair.

Pro Tip: Let your owner’s manual be your sidekick to get the best results out of your fall furnace maintenance.

Three reasons for a fall furnace tune-up

My furnace worked just  fine last winter; do I really need to check on it now? Yes – and here are three reasons why:

Reason #1: Comfort

Aside from the obvious discomfort of being cold indoors, if a storm causes a power outage and your furnace was already out of sorts, it could take longer to identify and resolve the problem to get it functioning again.

Getting a head start on your cold weather appliance care can also make it easier to book a professional visit for maintenance before their busy season, allowing for a faster turnaround time if yours goes out.

Pro Tip: Most furnaces are designed to shut down if you lose power. It is not advisable to rig your furnace to work during an outage, but we do recommend investing in a generator for times like these.

Reason #2: Safety

Whether you have an oil furnace or a gas one, completing routine furnace maintenance can help you spot trouble and call for help early, helping prevent potential electrical damage or fires. Check for the following:

  • A pool of water under your furnace
  • Animal droppings (sign of potential infestation; rodents could chew through wiring)
  • Yellow pilot light (for gas furnaces; could mean the burner is dirty/carbon monoxide may not be venting correctly)

Reason #3: Holiday prep

The holidays will be here before you know it. Check one thing off your party planning to-do list by making sure your turkey won’t be the only hot thing in your house on Thanksgiving.

Your furnace maintenance checklist

A typical annual professional gas or oil furnace cleaning will take about 2 hours. Between visits, use the checklist below to help keep your furnace running better for longer, in as little as 20 minutes!

HVAC maintenance

Your furnace is a part of your HVAC system (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). Before you tackle the furnace itself, use this DIY maintenance video to make sure everything is healthy with the rest of the system first.

When you’ve finished that, remove all the air vent covers in your home, wipe down the covers with a mild soap and a damp cloth, and let them dry while you vacuum debris from the vents. Once your vent covers are dry, restore them to their original places.

With that portion complete, here’s how to show your furnace some TLC! Check for a blue pilot light as a sign of good carbon monoxide ventilation (if yellow, do not proceed). If all looks and smells good, turn your furnace off before getting started.

  • Step 1 – Blower unit: Follow your manual’s instructions to access your furnace’s blower unit. Once you can see it, gently remove it and use a vacuum attachment to gently clear the unit of any debris before putting it back in place.
  • Step 2 – Burner: Repeat step one, this time with the burner. Once you’ve completed this step, return the access panel to its original position.
  • Step 3 – Flue pipe: Check the flue pipe, which carries unwanted furnace fumes out of your home, and remove any large pieces of debris by gloved hand before vacuuming out the rest.
  • Step 4 – Condensate line: While you’re outside, use your manual to identify the end of your furnace’s condensate line and use a rag to remove buildup. Once finished, locate the access point for the condensate line (which may be a T-joint) and remove the PVC cap to add a cup of distilled white vinegar; after letting it sit for 30 minutes, flush it out with water and put the cap back on.
  • Step 5 – Access panel and floor: Vacuum the grate in the access panel before clearing debris from the floor around the furnace. As a last step, wipe down the access panel with a lightly damp microfiber cloth.
  • Step 6: Turn the furnace back on, and enjoy your heated home!

Pro Tip: If something looks, smells, or sounds concerning at any point during your regular maintenance, please contact a furnace or HVAC professional before turning it back on.

Signs of furnace issues

How will you know if your furnace is due for emergency maintenance, or if it needs tending to sooner than expected? Look out for these signs coming from your furnace or its related parts and systems.

  • Short cycling (furnace switches off after only a few minutes)
  • Frequently needing to reset the thermostat
  • Smells (burning, propane)
  • Hissing sound (potential gas leak)
  • Hot circuit breaker
  • Circuit breaker switches frequently changing between their “on” and “off” positions

Pro Tip: If these maintenance steps do not seem to resolve any funny noises or behavior coming from your furnace, it’s best to call in the pros.

By applying the steps above, you’ll be ready to have one amazing autumn!

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