Your family’s safety this winter could depend on the condition of your heating equipment. Someone must be responsible to ensure the furnace, and for that matter the entire heating system, is working safely, effectively and efficiently.
If in doubt, always use the service of a licensed gas contractor before the heating season begins. They may also be able to share some specific information about the do’s and don’ts for your home heating system.
An annual inspection and check-up is critical to ensure the safe and efficient operation of the furnace for the heating season. Regular maintenance is also a requirement to ensure optimum effectiveness.
Here are a few maintenance ideas for propane and natural gas type furnaces:
- Switch off power to the furnace before any maintenance activity
- Ensure vicinity around furnace is free of debris and flammable liquids
- Replace/clean air filters monthly to improve the heating efficiency
- Vacuum lint/dust from the burner area
- Inspect fan belts for wear, cracks, brittle etc.
- Oil the motor fan with the appropriate grade of oil and correct amount
- If applicable, change the humidifier evaporator pad regularly
- Ensure the fan doors are fastened securely after servicing
- Never tamper with or by-pass the furnace safety switch. The device is meant to protect you by shutting down the furnace when a malfunction happens
The annual heating inspection must include the chimney. To ensure safety the chimney should be checked monthly during the heating season and more often with cold weather and snowfalls. An exterior check is a good first step. The real danger can be hidden. A check of the flue which will emit the furnace combustion gases is the most important. The flue must be inspected from the furnace to ensure the entire chimney is clear. Checking plastic venting systems for direct vent furnaces should also be done. Check to ensure pipes are not blocked, cracked or have loose fittings.
Different types of furnaces require varying inspection types. If there is a small door at the base of your chimney, otherwise known as a “cleanout”, and a pipe from the furnace enters the chimney above the cleanout, the furnace is tile, aluminum or steel lined.
To check for a blockage, do this during daylight hours, hold a small hand-held mirror in the clean-out door. If little or no daylight is visible in the chimney, there may be a blockage. You may need to call a licensed gas contractor to investigate and remove the blockage.
Masonry chimneys may present a danger over time as the inner flue collapses, thus blocking or severely restricting the exhaust gas flow. This type should be inspected regularly.
If there is a blockage:
- Turn off all gas appliance vented to the chimney
- Remove the blockage or call a licensed gas contractor
- After you check the chimney flue close and secure the cleanout door
While the furnace is running, the vent and chimney should feel warm. A cold vent may be drawing in cold air and not venting dangerous gases properly
Equipment that is not sufficiently maintained or is blocked can lead to the build-up of carbon monoxide (CO). Installing CO detectors in the home is a must. They can alert you to the danger before the symptoms are noticed. These detectors are your second line of defense and prevention. Your heating equipment operating safely, efficiently and effectively is your ultimate protection.