Things are getting chilly lately in much of the country, and chances are you’re thinking about hot chocolate and firewood more than iced tea and barbecues. While the fireplace is a cozy place to snuggle in front of, your furnace does the bulk of the work to keep your family warm and toasty. It’s easy to take your furnace for granted, but, when something goes wrong, your family can be suddenly left in the cold or even put in harm’s way. These 5 tips will help you take care of your furnace, so it can take care of you this winter.
1. Change the Filter
A clogged or dirty furnace filter can seriously impact your home’s air quality, leaving your family sneezing and wheezing. A clogged air filter will also put strain on your furnace, making it harder to do its job, raising your heating bill, and shortening your furnace’s lifespan.
This is the perfect time of year to change your furnace filter and start the heating season off the right way. This is an easy job that shouldn’t take longer than a few minutes. Before you get started, one time-saving step is to either write down the size and type of filter your furnace uses and post the information near your furnace for future reference, or take a photo of the filter with your smartphone and keep it stored on your phone to look at while you’re at the hardware store. Here’s what to do once you have your replacement filter:
How to Change a Furnace Filter
- Turn off all power to the furnace. This is very important for your safety, and you should do this before you do any sort of repairs or maintenance on your furnace.
- Locate and remove the old filter. You may need a screwdriver to open the filter compartment.
- If the filter is dirty, discard it.
- Slide the new filter into place.
- Inspect the filter monthly during the heating season, and replace when dirty.
2. Clean the Furnace
Dust and grime can also invade other parts of your furnace, besides the filter. Keeping your furnace clean can help it function better. The process for cleaning your furnace varies depending on which type of furnace you have; HowStuffWorks offers this guide for cleaning your furnace. Again, be sure to turn off all power to your furnace before you open it.
3. Check the Fan Belt
If your furnace’s fan belt is cracked, frayed, or is too tight or too loose, your furnace can’t function properly. A broken fan belt will put your furnace out of commission, and leave your family in the cold. Home improvement guru Bob Formisano offers these instructions for checking your furnace’s fan belt.
4. Make Sure All Vents are Unobstructed
Most home heating systems come with both hot and cold air vents. These vents are often on the floor, and it can be all too easy to put something on top of a vent. If any of the vents are obstructed, it can affect the whole heating system’s ability to function. Check all vents in your home to make sure they are completely unobstructed.
5. Change the Batteries in Your Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced when fuel is burned, such as the gas or oil in your furnace. For this reason, the risk of CO poisoning goes up this time of year, when many of us are turning on our furnaces for the first time. Any fuel-burning furnace can develop a carbon monoxide leak, which is a life-threatening danger to anyone on the home.
Carbon monoxide is often called “the silent killer,” because it is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. The symptoms of CO poisoning (headache, nausea, dizziness) can mimic the flu, so you probably would not know the cause of your symptoms if you were ever exposed to carbon monoxide.
This is where carbon monoxide detectors come in. These detectors sound when CO levels in the air reach unsafe levels, which makes them every bit as essential to your home as smoke detectors. This is the time of year when public service announcements remind us to change the batteries in our smoke detectors so, while you’re at it, go ahead and change the batteries in your CO detectors, as well. If you don’t have any CO detectors in your home, buying and installing them should be at the top of your to-do list. The National Fire Protection Association offers this list of guidelines for choosing and installing carbon monoxide detectors.
*If any of your home’s CO detectors go off, get all people and pets out of the house immediately, and call 911.
Photo By Camzmac.