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Tips for Home Furnace Maintenance

Ben Kissam
Written by Ben Kissam
Updated June 10, 2021
a white home furnace with heating pipes

© Gudellaphoto - stock.adobe.com

Save money and stay warm with these furnace maintenance tips

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Being proactive about furnace maintenance is a good way to save money and keep your family warm. Keeping your furnace running smoothly will ensure that your home stays cozy even through the harsh winter months. And installing a new furnace costs a minimum of about $2,600

Furnaces are designed to last 15 to 20 years but often don’t because they aren’t maintained well. It’s not an overstatement to say that you could literally save yourself thousands of dollars by investing some time (and occasionally some money) into your device.

These 10 furnace maintenance tips can help keep your unit running efficiently through the winter.

1. Read Your Maintenance Guide

Reading through online furnace maintenance tips is definitely a good idea. But you should also read through your specific furnace models’ maintenance guide (or find it online).

Each furnace has specific maintenance requirements. Some newer models need very minimal maintenance, while others suggest you inspect certain areas (such as your exhaust pipe) more frequently than once a year.

As a safety precaution, be sure to turn the power supply to your furnace off before inspecting filters or examining the inside components of your furnace.

2. Regularly Check and Change Air Filters

Dirty filters restrict airflow, causing your furnace to work harder (which makes it more expensive to heat your home and increases wear and tear). At least twice a year, check your air filters and change them if they appear dirty or damaged. Replacing them will cost anywhere from $40 to $200 per year (for two replacements).

You could also schedule a routine checkup of your furnace with a furnace repair expert and have them do it for you.

3. Inspect the Exhaust Pipe

Those with a gas furnace should regularly inspect the exhaust pipe, looking for debris or blockages. This is for both function and safety reasons.

A blocked exhaust flue can channel dangerous carbon monoxide gas back into your home. (As a matter of fact, make a habit out of checking your carbon monoxide detectors at least twice a year, too.) An HVAC expert can unclog your exhaust pipe to make your home both safer and more energy-efficient.

4. Keep Your Furnace Cool

Your furnace should always be kept in a well-ventilated, relatively cool area of your home, such as in the basement and not touching any walls.

Avoid:

  • Closing your furnace off with boxes or storage materials

  • Putting flammable objects, such as paint cans, near your furnace

  • Enclosing your furnace in a closet (if you do, make sure it has adequate ventilation; the bottom of the door should also have a 6-to 12-inch gap to the floor)

A good rule of thumb is to keep at least 30 inches of space between your furnace and other objects on all sides.

5. Reduce Your Home’s Heating Costs

By taking simple actions to reduce your home’s heating costs, you can preserve your furnace longer. These aren’t necessarily furnace maintenance tips, but can prolong the life of your device and help your home heat itself more efficiently.

Low-cost tips include:

  • Checking windows for air leaks (and sealing them with a caulking gun)

  • Keeping the chimney closed when fireplace isn’t in use

  • Keeping furniture away from heating and cooling vents

  • Installing door sweeps on doors that open to the outside

  • Investing in thicker drapes

hand adjusting floor vent

© tab62 - stock.adobe.com

6. Open All Your Vents

Contrary to popular belief, shutting your furnace vents does not improve energy efficiency. In fact, it makes your home’s furnace work harder.

It might seem logical that shutting off vents to rooms you hardly use would save you money. But your system was built to heat a specific-sized home, so closing off those vents actually forces it to work harder.

7. Check for Smells

Foul smells are a sign that your furnace needs maintenance. Depending on what you smell, repairs might be needed immediately. For example, a smell resembling rotten eggs can be classified as an emergency, as this could mean you have a gas leak.

Other smells, such as burning rubber or plastic, could mean a foreign object is in your heating unit. This too is a problem that needs to be solved ASAP, as breathing in burnt plastic fumes could be harmful.

8. Keep an Ear Out

Keep an ear out for noises such as:

  • Grinding

  • Scraping

  • Squealing

  • Loud bang or pop sounds

  • Clicking

These could indicate furnace issues that range from mild (a part needs lubrication or a belt is loose) to serious (a part is so loose that it’s bouncing around or the burners are dirty and could eventually cause a gas leak).

Extremely loud noises are signs of real issues, which may require the assistance of a furnace professional.

9. Clean Vents and Ductwork

Cleaning your home’s vents and ductwork is another way to keep your furnace running efficiently. To do this, take off the vent covers and put your vacuum’s extension hose into the vent. This can remove dust, dirt, pieces of old air filters, and other foreign objects.

If you’re doing this yourself, wear a facemask and some goggles to prevent being exposed to dust or other particles.

10. Troubleshoot Before Winter

It’s better to know what needs fixing early than to find out the hard way when cold weather comes knocking. 

Make it a goal to inspect (and run) your home’s furnace a month or two before cold weather rolls into your area. Being proactive can save you money on repairs by getting them done outside of the busy season.

While hiring a professional does cost more than going the DIY route, keeping your furnace well maintained can still help you save money over the lifetime of your unit.

A local HVAC contractor can help you get your furnace running perfectly before winter comes.

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