Getting your Furnace Ready for WInter

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Home Improvement


We rely on our furnace to keep us warm during those bitter cold Chicago days but getting your furnace ready for winter doesn't have to be scary. Here are some tips to help


1. Check to see if it works.  Start by going to the thermostat. Switch it to "heat" and adjust the temperature a few degrees higher than the room temp. You should hear the furnace kick on within a few minutes. If you don't here are a few things to check. First make sure you have new batteries in the thermostat if it uses them. Second, make sure the circuit breaker to the furnace is not tripped. If those things don't work, consider hiring a professional to come check it out.

2. Change the filters.  You should change your furnace filters every few months to keep your furnace clean and in top shape. Now is the perfect time to put a new one in, just before heating season. If you use electrostatic filters, wash them and replace. Here's another great tip. Put a note in your phone or take a picture of the filter, so when you go to the store to buy new filters you won't have to guess what size you have and be assured you are leaving with the correct size.

3. Change the humidifier filter.  If your home is equipped with a humidifier, now is the time to change that filter as well. While you are at it, check for any leaks and set the humidistat to the correct level.

4. Test the igniter switch.  Newer heating systems have an electronic igniter, if it isn't working, try pressing the reset button. If that doesn't work, check the circuit breaker for the furnace. Older systems use a pilot light and you may have to re-light the pilot if it isn't working. If you have tried all of the above and still not working, call a professional for help.

5. Test your carbon monoxide detector.  Carbon monoxide is an deadly odorless gas that comes from the combustion furnaces put out. Now is the time to test the detector by pushing the test button. Also replace the batteries in the detector. Don't have a carbon monoxide detector? Then it's time to get one to protect you and your loved ones from this silent killer.

6. Clean the heat exchanger and blower motor.  The heat exchanger should be brushed and vacuumed and the blower motor should be cleaned and oiled. Have this done by a professional and have them check the heat exchanger for cracks.

7. Check the chimney.  Now is the time to make sure nothing is blocking the chimney or the flue. Birds and other animals sometimes like to build nests there. 

8. Remove clutter.  Check around and on top of the furnace and remove any clutter from around it that could be a fire hazard.

9. Clean the vents.  Remove the diffusers and vacuum out the vents. You may also consider hiring a professional duct cleaning company to clean out all your duct work.

10. Set the thermostat.  Set your thermostat to a comfortable level. Consider getting a programmable thermostat and have the temperature lower while you are away or asleep, you could save up to 75% on your heating bills. Also check with your local utilities, some offer rebates on buying new thermostats.

Keeping your furnace well maintained is not only important to your furnace operation and health, but also will keep your family warm and healthy this season. 


Servicing Your Furnace

Regardless of your type of furnace, some maintenance procedures are universal:

1. Check the draft hood for discoloration, soot, dust.

2. Check the flue for deterioration, white marks, rust.

3. Check the chimney for blockage, broken mortar, crumbling bricks.

4. Keep the furnace motor oiled. Check the belt — it's easy to replace.


Safety concerns: Never store things near a heater. A pilot with a yellow flame may require adjustment by a contractor. Call for help if you experience carbon monoxide poisoning (headache, chest tightness, burning eyes, weakness, vomiting, dizziness, loss of muscular control).