6 Furnace Safety Tips Every Homeowner Should Know

Angela Brown
Written by Angela Brown
Updated September 20, 2021
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Take some time to refresh your furnace safety skills to keep your family and home safe this winter

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Nothing beats entering your warm home after spending hours building snowmen, sledding, or cleaning up the sidewalks. To ensure your furnace will keep you toasty warm through fall and winter, you’ll want to perform maintenance or hire a local furnace tune-up pro to conduct a yearly inspection. 

Follow these furnace safety tips to keep your unit working without issue for years to come.

1. Create a Safe Zone Around the Furnace

When the furnace isn’t running during the summer, it might blend into the background. But as winter approaches, you’ll want to take time to clear the area around your furnace. 

Since you’ll have the heater on more often in the winter, the outside surface will get hot. The hot surface is dangerous for little hands, pet paws, and nearby flammable material.

Keep flammable items like drapes, pet bedding, and clothing at least 3 feet away from your furnace. Double-check that the area around your furnace is clear and well-lit so you can access it for emergency purposes.

2. Clean Your Furnace Before Turning It On

If your furnace has been sitting dormant for several months, take a little time to give it some love. It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to spruce up your furnace for the winter. Getting rid of the dust will help prevent fires and keep allergies at bay. 

Here are a few furnace safety tips for tidying your heater:

  • Use a damp cloth to remove all dust and buildup from around the furnace.

  • Use a vacuum to clean inside the furnace as well.

  • Check the flame on your furnace. If it’s blue, you’re good to go. If it’s burning yellow, you should contact a professional for help.

  • During the winter, do a quick clean of your heater once a month to keep dust bunnies away.

3. Change Your Furnace Filter

While you’re cleaning, you might want to change your filter too. The filter in your furnace helps keep the air you breathe clean. To avoid buildup (which can cause dust in the air and potential fire hazards), change your furnace filter at least every three months

4. Don’t Block Air Vents

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One of the biggest concerns with a gas furnace is carbon monoxide poisoning. Gas furnaces use circulating air to keep your whole house warm. If your furnace can’t get fresh air to blow the heat through the house, you could develop a build-up of natural gasses in the heater.  

You can keep your family safe by making sure that at least 80% of your vents are open when the heater’s working.

5. Watch Out for These Furnace Warning Signs

Following the safety tips above, like regular cleaning and changing out your air filter, should keep your furnace in great working condition. But you’ll want to keep an eye out for a few warning signs that your furnace isn’t working properly

You might need to hire a professional if you notice any of the following:

  • Hot or burning smell

  • The home doesn’t heat when the furnace is running

  • The heater turns on and off too often

  • The fan sounds like it’s running all the time

  • Your thermostat isn’t functioning properly

  • The pilot light is burning yellow, or it won’t stay lit

  • You smell gas

Note: If you smell gas, shut the furnace off, open the windows to vent your home, and call a professional as quickly as possible. You may also want to take your family out of the house for a few hours until you have your furnace checked.

6. Check the Batteries on Your Carbon Monoxide Detector

If your home uses natural gas, a carbon monoxide detector is essential. Conduct routine tests on your carbon monoxide detector to ensure the batteries are working correctly. 

Change batteries in your detector at least every six months. Additionally, aim to replace your detector every five to seven years. Check with the manufacturer for more information.

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