You can extend the life of your gas furnace with regular service and preventive maintenance.
Your gas furnace was built to last for several years, and you can significantly extend that time by performing regular, preventive maintenance. The following tips will help you keep your furnace running efficiently for as long as possible, and limit expensive repairs down the line.
1. Play it safe
Before you start any maintenance work, make sure your conditions are safe. If you will be doing more than simply replacing a filter, turn off all power to the system. You can do this by tripping the circuit that runs to the furnace. Also, if you smell gas, do not attempt to fix the furnace on your own. Leave the home immediately and call your local fire department or gas utility company. Do not enter the home again until these professionals have checked for gas leaks.
2. Replace the air filter
Replacing the furnace air filter is one of the easiest maintenance tasks. Furnace filters trap dust, lint and other debris and prevent them from entering the furnace, where they can cause malfunction, or get distributed throughout the home. Because they trap all kinds of debris, air filters should be replaced twice per year in order for your system to function properly.
The filter is located in the blower door or between the blower and the return air duct. It should be simple to remove, but you may need to pry open the door slightly with a screwdriver to access it. If it looks dirty and clogged, replace it with a new one. Always note the direction of airflow, and insert the new filter in the right direction.
3. Clean the furnace
While the furnace filter will capture much of the dirt and debris from the air, some will get through. Clean the blower assembly, pulleys and belts when you replace the filter. You can access this area by removing the panel that covers the filter or sliding out the fan unit. These may be held in place by screws, so do not use too much force. Find the screws, remove them and then clean with a damp cloth.
4. Get an inspection
To make sure your heater is running as efficiently as possible, and to ward off expensive problems before they occur, have your heater professionally inspected and serviced on a yearly basis. It should be done at the end of the heating season, and if you have an air conditioner as part of your HVAC system, you can have them both inspected at the same time.
As with any major appliance or part in your home, proper maintenance is vital for ensuring that your gas furnace will last as long as it should. With these simple steps and routine inspections from a qualified service provider, you can get the most out of your home's furnace. Angie's List is the place for trusted consumer reviews about HVAC professionals.
Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted on Aug. 22, 2012.