The average gas furnace is built to last a long time, but exactly how long depends largely on how well maintained it is. You can significantly extend the lifespan of your heating system and reduce the likelihood of expensive future repairs with a little preventative maintenance. The best time to tackle maintenance of your gas furnace is early fall, before the heating season kicks in.
1. Put Safety First
It goes without saying that any time you do any kind of home maintenance, safety is priority number one. Start by clearing the area around your furnace of all potentially flammable materials, and have the furnace manual handy. If you intend to do anything more involved than changing the air filter, first turn off all power to the system. If at any point you smell gas, stop what you’re doing, leave the house and contact your local fire department or gas utility company right away.
2. Change the Filters
Replacing the air filter in your furnace is one of the easiest maintenance jobs and one of the most effective in terms of boosting efficiency. The filter should be located in the blower door or between the blower and the return air duct. When you change the filter, notice the direction of air flow and be sure to insert the new filter facing the right direction.
You should always start the fall heating season with a fresh filter, but how often you need to change it after that is open to debate. It partially depends on what kind of filter you use (inexpensive fiberglass filters need to be changed more often than the more efficient pleated filters) and some experts recommend changing them as often as once a month. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to check the filter monthly, and replace it if it looks dirty.
3. Clean Up Your Furnace
Air filters catch most of the dirt, dust and other debris that bets blown through your furnace, but they never get it all. The average furnace can get pretty grimy by the end of a heating season, and even more so if it’s been sitting unused for months. You can use a damp cloth to clean all visible parts of your furnace. When you replace the filter, you can also clean up the blower assembly, belts and pulleys.
4. Schedule an Inspection
Once a year, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with a trusted HVAC professional for a furnace inspection and service. Some prefer to have it done at the end of the heating season, but you can also have schedule an inspection at the beginning of the season. Annual service keeps your furnace running efficiently and helps ward off future problems before they occur.