The Importance of Furnace Maintenance
So, it’s that time of year again and as much as I hate to say it the cold weather will soon be here. With the cold weather comes a multitude of things to get done…….dig out the winter clothing, winterize the lawn mower and trailer, get the winter tires put on the vehicle etc. So you may be asking yourself about the importance of furnace maintenance?! It worked fine all summer, why wouldn’t it be fine for the winter? A common question with a simple answer, it should work fine. But therein lies a problem, it “should” work fine. Just like your vehicle should work fine without winter tires fitted, we all know the benefits of winter tires and the necessity for them, but even with those winter tires fitted something could still fail (I sincerely hope it doesn’t).
Yet with that in mind the majority of us will still get those tires put on for numerous reasons……safety, peace of mind, efficiency etc. For the same reasons I’d urge you to put the same thought process into your home furnace maintenance and think about the importance of furnace maintenance. A fall tune up will check everything on your furnace is good to go for the winter months and highlight any areas of potential failure.
What Should Be Checked
Keep the air filters clean. A new home may require more frequent filter attention until dust from construction is removed. If using an electronic air filter, remove the filter furnished with the furnace and follow the maintenance instructions furnished with the electronic air filter.
Important: Do not operate the furnace without filters.
Dust within the air can lodge in the blower wheel, in the cooling coil fins, in furnace controls, in air ducts, and at the supply registers. Any recirculated dust particles are heated and charred by contact with the heat exchanger. This residue soils ceilings, walls, drapes, carpets, and other household articles.
If replacing the factory filter with an aftermarket filter, always check the furnace temperature rise to be sure the airflow is adequate.
Blower Motor Lubrication
The indoor blower motor sleeve bearings and induced draft motor are pre-lubricated and should not require attention for an indefinite period of time. However, these are some recommendations for service technicians:
Motors without oiling ports – pre-lubricated and sealed. No further lubrication is required. In case of bearing problems, the service technician should replace the motor.
Motors with oiling ports add 10 to 20 drops of electric motor oil to each bearing every two years for somewhat continuous duty, or at least every five years for light duty. Do not over-oil.
Excessive lubrication can damage the motor.
The service technician should clean the motor periodically to prevent the possibility of overheating due to an accumulation of dust or dirt on the windings and the motor exterior. If the motor needs cleaning, clean the blower wheel also. A blower wheel loaded with dirt or dust limits airflow, eventually causing furnace damage.
Newer furnaces use variable speed motors, their operation should be checked annually.
Burner And Heating Components
The furnace should operate for many years with no malfunctions. However, the service technician should inspect the heat exchanger passages, the venting system, and the burners for correct operation, and for any signs of corrosion. The heat exchanger passages and vent system should be inspected (and cleaned if required) by the technician annually.
It is recommended that the heat exchanger be removed for inspection. However, with some products, this may not be feasible.
Warning: Holes in the vent piping or heat exchanger can allow toxic fumes to enter the home.
Replace the vent pipe or heat exchanger if leaks are found. Failure to follow this warning may cause products of combustion to circulate into the living space creating potentially hazardous conditions, including carbon monoxide poisoning.
It is recommended that at the beginning of the heating season and about midway through the heating season the service technician visually inspect the main burners and pilot burner for proper flame characteristics. Any furnace using existing high-temperature plastic vent piping must have the vent inspected annually for any cracks, pipe separation, or other deterioration of the vent material. At the beginning of the heating season, the flame sensor on electronic ignition units should be cleaned with steel wool by the technician and checked for correct operation. All safeties should be tested to ensure the furnace will shut down in an emergency.
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