5 Small Winter Furnace Maintenance Tips to Save You a Huge Repair Bill

Winter Furnace

Spring is close—but not close enough, it seems—and even though you had your fall HVAC checkup and your furnace tune-up, that hard-working furnace in your attic or basement has finally called it quits. Unfortunately, this is one time of year we get a lot of emergency calls.

In this post, learn about 5 small winter furnace maintenance tips that can help save you from a huge repair bill during the winter season.

Tip #1: Change your furnace filter

Your furnace filter is the one thing that stops debris, dust, allergens, insects, and other unwelcome entrants from making it into your home, carried along by the warm air pumped through your duct system.

But when your furnace filter gets clogged up, it can cause a pricey ripple effect. Airflow is reduced, which puts more strain on the heat exchanger. This can cause cracks or even a meltdown (and a big-ticket replacement). As well, your heating costs will go up because your furnace is having to work harder to do its job and pull more energy to do it. Plus, you are facing a fire hazard if the debris ignites.

Here at Shiptons, we are happy to provide a list of our favorite furnace filters, which we recommend for durability, quality, and cost efficiency. We are also happy to consult with you to find just the right filter for your furnace system.

Tip #2: Do a visual furnace inspection

Here, you may want to wait for a warmer, sunny day so you can turn down the thermostat and flip off the circuit breaker. This will allow your furnace to cool so you can approach it safely.

Once your furnace has cooled, you can do a visual inspection. Make special note if you see any black soot or residue (this is from combustion) on or near your furnace. If you see this, a professional tune-up may be in order. Next, use a broom or small hand-held portable vacuum to remove any debris on or near the furnace system itself. This can also be a good time to change the furnace filter (see tip #1).

Before concluding your inspection, flip the circuit breaker back on and turn the thermostat back up to check the color of your pilot light flame. You want to see a clear, bluish flame. If you see a yellow, sooty-looking flame, you may have a combustion issue that needs a professional’s attention.

Tip #3: Install a carbon monoxide detector or check to see yours is working properly

If you don’t have a carbon monoxide detector already installed, now is an excellent time to do this!

Installing a carbon monoxide detector is critical for your family’s safety. This is because your detector can discern the one thing you cannot—the presence of lethal carbon monoxide build-up in your indoor air. When fuel burns incorrectly, this can raise the level of carbon monoxide in the air. While many appliances may carry this risk, the furnace is the number one cause of carbon monoxide poisonings and deaths in households annually.

By the time your body physically detects the presence of this colorless, odorless gas, you will be feeling faint with an aching head, shortness of breath, and nausea. You may think you are coming down with something, but if you lie down to sleep, it is all over.

Now, while you are using your furnace the most, is the time to install a carbon monoxide detector. If you have already installed a detector, now is a great time to replace the batteries. If you use an electric-powered detector, now is a good time to be sure you have a backup source of power just in case the electric power goes out.

Tip #4: Check the outside area to be sure it is free from debris

One of the most important winter-time maintenance actions you can take to protect your family’s safety is to simply do an outside perimeter check around your home.

This is especially important if your furnace is situated in the attic or another area that may be vulnerable to activities that happen outside, such as a particularly heavy snow or ice storm that snaps a tree branch that hangs right over your roof!

Clearing away accumulated snow and ice from the roof and eaves outside can reduce the risk greatly. The more regularly you are able to get outside and do this, the less risk there will be to your furnace when big storms do blow through.

Tip #5: Ensure the area surrounding your furnace is completely clear

The final tip is obvious—so obvious that it is one of the easiest maintenance actions to forget to do!

You definitely want to clear away any possibly flammable materials, liquids, or products from around the furnace area. Ideally, store these separately from the area where the furnace is placed.

You should also keep the floor, walls, and ceiling clear of debris, dust, leaves, and any other accumulated matter that may sneak in during the cold winter. By keeping the area around your furnace spic and span, you not only keep the pathway clear to get to your furnace quickly if there is an emergency, but you can also rest easy knowing there is nothing nearby that might ignite if the unthinkable occurs.

Your hard-working furnace definitely deserves regular maintenance, especially during these long, hard, cold winters. If you have any questions about your furnace, changing the filters, inspecting the pilot light, or other maintenance, Shiptons is here to help! Contact us at 905-549-4616 or at www.shiptons.ca.

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