Once Old Man Winter blows in the frosty weather, it’s too late to discover that your furnace isn’t working. Much like a swamp cooler must be prepared for the summer heat, your gas or electric heater must be prepped for when the Fahrenheit drops, and this goes beyond checking the air filters.
If you cut the pilot light last spring, it’s time to light it again to make certain it stays on. If your pilot light refuses to remain lit, you may have a problem with your thermocouple or pilot tube. The thermocouple uses sensors to detect your pilot light. If the sensors are faulty, it may cut your light because it thinks you want it off. It can also warp, which will prevent it from “seeing” the flame. Finally, if it’s dirty, the sensors cannot do their job. The pilot tube must be clean as well.
If your pilot light is working properly, turn on your furnace and watch the burners as they ignite. Throughout the spring and summer, dirt and grime cakes your burners, which will cause them to malfunction. When the burners ignite, you should see blue flame. If you see yellow or orange flame, turn off the furnace. You can fix or clean the thermocouple and pilot tube yourself, but it’s best to let a professional handle a burner problem.
Another part of your winter tune-up routine should include inspecting your air ducts. If your heating ducts are dirty, the furnace blower will expel this dust into your home. Clogged ducts also impede your heater’s functionality. The furnace works in tandem with your thermostat to keep your home at your set temperature. If the warm air flowing into the house is compromised, the furnace must work harder to get the rooms up to temperature and keep them there.
You need to check your house and furnace vents as well. Make certain all vents are clean, especially the vent dispelling the gas fumes and accompanying carbon monoxide outside. If you have a clogged outflow vent, you run the risk of the heater pushing carbon monoxide into your home, which is poisonous when inhaled. The CDC reports that over 400 people die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning. You want to ensure that all gas has an uninhibited escape route to the outside.
When your furnace clicks on, the blower’s primary function is to pull the heat from the burners and blow it through your ducting and out your vents. To extend the life of this crucial part, oil it annually. To do so, cut the power to the furnace and remove the heater’s access panel. Find the blower assembly and remove its bolts. Find the setscrew on the blower housing and loosen it. Pull out the motor. Add fresh oil to the oil ports and reassemble your heating unit.
Prepping your heater for the winter not only ensures that it will be ready to warm your home without a problem once the temperature drops, it also extends the life of your furnace. By following the steps above, you can detect and address potential issues and keep your house and family safe and warm.