The colors have changed and the leaves are falling. And now the chilly fall weather is really setting in. Get ready for Minnesota’s ice-cold winter by prepping your fall furnace. These 8 fall furnace maintenance tips are best to get out of the way now so you don’t have issues down the road.
Replace your furnace air filter every month. Buy a package of air filters in bulk to make it easier by always having one on hand. It’s a quick housekeeping item. Just pull out the filter and slide the new one into the slot following the arrows pointing in the right direction. If you’re using a flat filter, consider upgrading: pleated, HEPA and electrostatic filters improve your furnace’s energy efficiency and allow warm air to flow into your home more easily.
If you have an oil-powered furnace, replace the oil filter before heading into winter. (We like this YouTube video that shows us how.) The oil filter helps prevent any impurities from clogging the oil burner, which can result in a misfire that shuts down your furnace.
Inspect your furnace’s blower belt. Turn off the power at your circuit breaker before you get started. Then use a screwdriver to remove the steel cover of the air handler. The blower belt is the largest rubber belt you see. Replace the belt if there are any visible cracks. Make sure that the belt doesn’t have more than ¾” wiggle room. A loose belt can slow the blower and compromise efficiency so you’ll want to tighten it if it’s become loose.
While you’re at it, clean your furnace’s combustion chamber. The combustion chamber is where fuel mixes with air and is ignited to generate heat. But in the process, water vapor, carbon monoxide and carbon soot also build up and can corrode the combustion chamber. Use a small wire brush to scrape out any buildup before replacing the cover.
Before you leave the basement, check the exhaust flue for any cracks, holes or blockages. Vent connectors are typically single-wall metal pipes made of galvanized steel or aluminum, and are sometimes referred to as vent connectors, C-vents or stack pipes. Patch any small holes with foil tape and replace corroded flues altogether. Also check the exhaust flue to the outside to be sure it’s clear from branches and other debris. You can do so by removing the flue cap near the furnace and water heater and look through the flue to the outside. These steps will prevent carbon monoxide from leaking into your house which can be deadly. (Now is also a good time to replace batteries and test your fire and carbon monoxide detectors!)
Make sure there is nothing flammable near your furnace or hot water heater. Basements can be a great place to store wrapping paper, extra rolls of toilet paper, and so forth—but these should be kept away from your heating system to prevent a fire.
Clean air vents and ducts. Grab a screwdriver and remove the vent covers throughout your house, then use the hose on your shop vac or vacuum to clean those suckers out. It’s amazing how much dust, pet hair, crumbs, etc. can collect in vents throughout the year.
Make sure there’s nothing blocking your vents and impeding airflow into your home. I’m guilty as charged—just recently I realized that when I rearranged my guest bedroom this summer, I inadvertently moved the dresser over the vent. No wonder the room was always so chilly!
Feel overwhelmed by the fall furnace maintenance steps above, or unsure you’ll be able to maintain the furnace properly? Call an HVAC technician to come out and service your system. A full check-up usually costs less than $100 and for a seasoned professional, should take less than an hour. Just like you get an annual physical and bring your car in for routine maintenance, you should do the same for your heating system. The small upfront costs now will save you hundreds – even thousands! – of dollars in the long run if something were to go wrong. Do this and you’ll have the peace of mind you need to snuggle up and get cozy all winter long.