9 Furnace Tune-up Tips for Chicago's Chilly Weather

Steven Jack
Written by Steven Jack
Updated September 9, 2014
Late fall-like temperatures are headed for Chicago later this week. Time to inspect your home's heating system. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Manoj J. of Mundelein)

It's time to inspect your home's heating system as temperatures in the lower 60s hit the Chicago area. Here's how to make sure your furnace is safe before winter.

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It seems like just last week the weather in Chicago was hot enough for air conditioning.

In fact, it was hot just last week.

Well, Chicago residents may have to think about flipping the thermostat switch to from A/C to heat later this week as fall-like temperatures roll into town. The National Weather Service is predicting highs only in the low 60s later this week with lows hovering near 50 degrees.

Check your furnace

Now is the time to call your local heating and cooling company for that yearly fall furnace tune-up. But if you can't schedule a professional tune-up before cold temperatures arrive, these steps can help you prep your furnace in the meantime:

Inspect the furnace — Before turning your furnace on, check for and clean off any residue, soot or dust. Check your ducts — Check for loose connections and holes in any duct work. Tighten connections and seal gaps with metal duct tape. Clear the utility room — Many homeowners use the area near their furnace for storage. Make sure to clear all items from around the unit, especially flammable items like paper, mops or rags.Replace the air filter — If your heating system takes a disposable furnace filter, replace the filter with a new one before turning on your furnace for the first time this fall. If you have a reusable furnace filter, then remove, vacuum and clean it with soap and water. Allow the filter to dry before returning it to the furnace. Check the belts — If your furnace has a blower belt (this varies by make and model), make sure to check it for cracks. The belt should have a slight give when pushed down with your fingers. If it needs to be replaced, you may need to remove a couple of bolts to complete the job.Test airflow — If rooms farthest away from the furnace seem cooler than others, remove the registers in those rooms and clean the duct work with a vacuum and clean cloths. Reach down as far as you can into the duct. Replace the registers and open them as wide as you can. You may want to consider hiring an air duct cleaner to remove dust throughout the system.Clean the drain line — You can clear any residue in the furnace drain lines with a mixture of 25 percent bleach and 75 percent water. Inspect exhaust and venting — All furnaces vent to the outside at some point, whether its through a wall or a chimney vent. Check the vents for debris like small animals nests and leaves. You may have to remove the vent work completely to clean it. If so, make sure to right down the proper way to reassemble the venting.Test safety devices — Check the proper operation of all household carbon monoxide and smoke detectors before operating your furnace. These can be the only line of defense against a system that’s leaking dangerous gases.

RELATED: What's that funny smell when the heat turns on?

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