During the three to six months that furnaces go unused, a lot of dirt and debris can collect around pipes inside and outside the home.
To take care of this and ensure a furnace is set for the winter months, a professional servicing is recommended every fall. Jay King with King’s Heating & Plumbing said the inspections can prevent or pinpoint problems with the system.
“We’re making sure everything is clean, that the venting system is hooked up without any issues, no blockages, and that everything is running properly,” he said. “It’s sat for a while, so we want to eliminate any issues that will come over the winter months and leave you without heat.”
Inspections aim to prevent problems such as no heat, carbon monoxide leaks, or noisy systems.
A professional inspection typically will include making sure the flute doesn’t have any obstructions and making sure the flame sensor is cleaned and ready to go. If the filter is plugged, King said the system has to operate at a higher temperature, which is hard on the newer style of furnaces.
“Furnaces need to move enough air so they operate at a low enough temperature to not create a problem,” he said.
If a professional service isn’t in the budget for someone, King said there are things that, at the bare minimum, homeowners can do themselves.
He said people should visually inspect the venting system, including the venting system outside and the piping inside. He said to ensure there are no blockages, and if the furnace has a drain, to make sure water can be heard draining out of it when the furnace runs.
Most importantly, he said to make sure the furnace filters are clean. If not, they will need to be replaced. The replacement frequency depends on a number of factors, such as the quality and thickness of the filter.
“Some filters only need replaced once or twice a year, and some of the thinner filters need replaced monthly,” King said.
There are warning signs if a furnace is malfunctioning. King said some of those signs are if an odor can be detected when the furnace is running, if there’s a lot of rust or erosion around the furnace that’s not associated with the air conditioners – which signals a leak – or if there’s discoloration around the registers.
Overall, King said to ensure that some type of servicing is done on the system prior to using it for the winter. Keeping it clean, he said, can go a long way in keeping problems at bay.