With winter hitting its stride in Calgary, your furnace has become the most critical system in your home. A malfunctioning furnace is not only inefficient, it can become the point source of deadly carbon monoxide if it burns fuel oil, natural gas, or propane. Even if you have an electrical furnace, if it is allowed to become too dirty it can readily become a fire hazard.
One of the critical ways you can save on your homeowner’s insurance policy premiums is to limit your claims for damages. A fire damage claim from a poorly maintained furnace of any type is among the largest claims that could be made against a policy.
The good news is that every common furnace in use these days shares roughly the same basic theory of function, differing mainly in how they generate heat. The common principles of forced air heating make it so that a few furnace maintenance tips are universal.
Clean Your Furnace
Whether it is dust or soot, dirt is the arch enemy of your forced air heating system. Fortunately, some of the routine cleaning of modern furnace systems is well within most people’s D-Y-I skill set.
The first thing you must do is study the manual that came with the furnace. This is how you will learn to properly remove service access panels, where to locate the air filters, and how to find the switches that power the system. Always consult your manual before opening your furnace and never undertake any maintenance task you are not fully comfortable performing.
Presuming you can access your system, and power it off for maintenance, the simplest cleaning procedure is a thorough vacuuming of all accessible areas to clear them of dust and soot. Pay careful attention to any combustion tubes on gas furnaces. Soot in these tubes or in the general area of the ignition system can eventually build into carbon deposits that reduce the combustion efficiency of the system. Dust buildup is also a fire hazard when in the proximity of the exposed wire heating elements of electrical furnaces.
Change Your Filters
All modern forced air central heating systems use air filters within them somewhere. Fuel oil systems also have an oil filter to strain impurities out of the fuel before it is sprayed into a fine mist within the combustion chamber.
Every furnace inducts air into it. Many furnace systems, particularly electrical ones, will have a directional air filter in the vicinity of the intake plenum. All such systems use blower motors to move the warmed air throughout the duct work of your house. For the sake of space efficiency, nearly all such motors turn a “squirrel cage” fan that will have fibre filter material in a cardboard frame between the blower and the outflow of air into your home.
The rule of thumb is to replace an oil filter at the beginning of the heating season. Air filters in every system should be replaced at the beginning of continuous use and then about once a month or so, depending on how much “dirty” air they tend to draw into themselves, which can be visually gauged by how fouled the filter is upon inspection.
If The Heat is Off or You Smell Something, Call A Pro
All furnace systems are dangerous if you try to repair something you don’t totally understand. Electrical systems have sufficient amperage to seriously injure or kill you if you don’t properly shut down its electrical supply.
Gas and oil systems all directly burn carbon based fuels, hence they are all carbon monoxide poisoning hazards if their exhaust finds its way into your ductwork. If you smell something chemical, it is a serious indicator that your furnace has become dangerous. If you run any kind of gas or oil furnace it is highly advisable that you mount one or two carbon monoxide detectors in the living areas of your home as this lethal gas is otherwise undetectable.