Furnace Maintenance For Your Home
It is extremely important to have a furnace that not only runs properly but one that you maintain throughout the year. Last weekend I learned that the hard way. I would qualify myself as a handy person, but sometimes when you’re met with an issue that you’ve never experienced (under extremely cold conditions) you tend to forget what you know.
I came home to a broken furnace. I was alone, with my dog in a frost filled house. My first thought was oh my gosh, how did this happen? My second was, are my pipes frozen? My third, this is going to cost me…cue panic.
A furnace is undoubtedly an important piece of a home, and a big part of home ownership is knowing how to maintain those important appliances, and when to leave it to the professionals. This is also a good time to point out that you should always make sure that you keep important updates, and appliance documents together with your home insurance policy.
Continuous maintenance, and familiarizing yourself with the simple tasks of your most commonly used appliances can really help you diagnose if there is an issue, especially when it’s not so obvious. When it comes to your furnace it should be readily equipped to heat your home, while being efficient enough so as to not emit harmful emissions or wasted energy.
Once I jumped back into reality, I went to my furnace and read the fine print on the outside. It told me how to reignite my pilot light while listing various safety precautions, like how to turn off the gas, turning off your breaker, and not to force any components. I followed these VERY carefully as I was dealing with fire and gas.
Unfortunately, after several attempts, it did not light. I had to admit defeat and ask for help.
Helpful Tips I Learned:
- You can call ATCO Gas 24-hour Emergency Services: Calgary and Area 1-403-245-7222 | Edmonton and Area 1-780-420-5585 | All Other Areas 1-800-511-3447. They will come to your home and diagnose your issue. They are available 24 hours and did not charge overtime like a furnace repair company might have done. They will repair your furnace at the cost of parts if they have them available. You may, however, be waiting some time depending on the number of calls placed before you.If they are unable to fix your issue, then you can call a repair company. The silver lining is that you are already educated about your issue, and you can speak about it more confidently.
- Purchase one, or a few small heaters for your home. They will come in handy in the event of a furnace breakdown and are nice to have. They will help keep you warm while you wait and can be placed near pipes to avoid the potential of freezing and further issues. If you don’t have one, ask your family and friends. They will likely come to the rescue like mine did!
- Maintenance is key. It wouldn’t really have helped in my specific situation as it was an old part, but keeping your furnace clean, and the filters replaced every month can keep your machine in working order.
To ensure your furnace performs at it’s best, you should implement these maintenance tips throughout the year, so you’re not left in the cold!
1. Power Down: Turn off the breaker to your furnace before doing any spot maintenance, cover removal or cleaning of the inside components. If you notice that your furnace or thermostat is acting up, check the breaker first. It is also a good idea to make sure your thermostat produces the correct commands when prompted, it will be a clear sign as to which component the thermostat or the furnace is having the issue.
2. Check Your Surroundings: Allow for enough space between your furnace and neighbouring items. Typically a basement or furnace room can be used to store extra seasonal item, ensure that there is enough breathing room. Complete a visual inspection of the unit for any leaks, get low to the ground and check for the smell of gas regularly. Turn off the gas to the unit if you smell anything and call a professional.
3. Vacuuming And Dusting: Help to combat dust and fallout in your furnace by cleaning from the outside in. Use a soft cloth and skip chemical cleaning supplies. Wipe down the outside, and lightly brush off the inner components with your soft cloth, or better yet a soft bristled brush to protect the wires. Once dusted, use your vacuum to remove all of the fallout remaining on the bottom of the furnace floor.
4. Air Filter Replacement: Typically you should be replacing your furnace filter once a month. Clogged filters can lead to issues with your furnace down the road. The thinner the filter the more airflow you will disperse throughout your home, the thicker the filter is based on what you’re trying to catch. Homes with shedding pets should consider using something a little thicker in the long run. Circle a date on your calendar, or add a reminder on your phone to replace the filter on a specific day each month, the routine will help you keep up with this important step!
5. Professional Maintenance: It’s never a bad idea to call a professional for a tune-up. A furnace is a big expense, and maintaining the one you have, can prolong its life. Never attempt to fix something you’re unsure about as guessing can increase further issues in combination with clogged parts, or faulty electrical components.
In my case it was one of the coldest nights for my furnace to fail, so be proactive and conduct your furnace maintenance at least once a year, I know I will. Also, try and choose a convenient time prior to the first cold snap, then you’re ahead of the curve. When the cold weather finally arrives you’ll already have that peace of mind going into the season.
Check out some of our other great winter maintenance posts below, and stay cozy!