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Servicing Your Furnace in the Fall

Everything You Need to Know to About Maintaining Your Heating System

If you live in a climate with cold winters, the last thing you want to deal with when it's freezing is a broken furnace. Just like getting regular oil changes or tuning up your car, regular furnace service is crucial to keep things in working order and prolong the life of your furnace, which saves money in the long run.

Most heating technicians recommend having your furnace serviced annually to clean it, check for problems and replace any worn parts. If not, you could face worse problems than some chilly nights. Faulty furnaces are a major cause of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. More than comfort, maintenance is a health and safety issue.

Generally, the best time to have your furnace serviced is early fall. Technicians won't be overwhelmed with service calls yet, so you're likely to pay less. Ideally, it's best to have the furnace serviced before the first time you use it each season.

What Does Furnace Service Involve?

That's a tricky question because not all companies have the same checklist. There are also various types of service, including simple safety checks, basic tune-ups and comprehensive tune-ups. Sorting it all out can be confusing.

As a general rule, a comprehensive tune-up should include:

  • Inspecting and cleaning air filters, changing them if needed
  • Checking and cleaning blower components, removing excess dirt
  • Inspecting the heat exchangers, checking for corrosion
  • An inspection of all system controls, including high limit and safety controls
  • Lubricating all moving parts for ideal motor performance
  • Checking and adjusting the fan and air flow
  • Inspecting and tightening electrical connects
  • Inspecting electrical wiring, checking for corrosion
  • Checking all gas and oil connections for health or safety risks
  • Calibrating the thermostat
  • Checking belts and replacing them if needed
  • Making sure the flue is not obstructed
  • Cleaning and adjusting the pilot if needed
  • Making sure the blower access door has a tight seal
  • Inspecting the vent system for leaks or blockage

When you're shopping around for technicians, you should always ask for a complete checklist of services before committing. If you don't understand something or anything seems odd, ask for an explanation. Any reputable technician should also give you a complete report of conditions and what was done after the service.

Do I Really Need Annual Furnace Service?

This has been debated, and some people would say no. The catch-22 is that some manufacturers will void your warranty if you don't have the furnace inspected annually. Read the manual when your furnace is new to find out.

Some people say furnaces, particularly when they're new, can go two years between inspections. That a personal decision for each homeowner to make, and you might want to seek out several opinions. But it's true that regular service is far more important with older furnaces. Spending $75 to $200 for the service is a lot better than having to unexpectedly replace the furnace - or worse, facing a safety issue.

Some homeowners service their own furnaces, and that's absolutely acceptable if you understand all the working parts of a furnace and how to identify issues. It's not a job for someone who isn't knowledgeable. If you're looking to save on expenses, consider asking a knowledgeable friend to show you the ropes.

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