It’s autumn time! You know what that means: the kids go back to school, the leaves change color and pumpkin spice flavored everything can be found at any store anywhere regardless of what they sell.
“Pumpkin spice supreme gasoline?! This has officially gone too far.”
So as you’re enjoying your grande soy pumpkin spice latte with a shot of vanilla and extra foam, the last thing on your mind is what would happen if your furnace stopped working mid-winter. But Landmark Home Warranty worries about your furnace every day in winter. As a home warranty company, we have to! A home warranty company will repair or replace your furnace (as long as it's failed from normal wear and tear) for $60. Of course, that means you have to take care of your furnace.
As the temperatures begin to drop, doing some basic maintenance on your furnace can keep the machine running smoothly and save you from an extremely cold winter day without a source of heat. Here are six ways to make sure your heater is maintained and your home warranty will cover any breakdowns:
1. Clean your furnace
The first thing to do to prep your furnace is to make sure it is clean. Before you do anything, make sure your furnace is shut off. There should be a switch on the side of the furnace that shuts off the electricity flowing to the machine. If your furnace is gas powered, make sure the gas valve is shut off.
Next, take off the casing of your furnace and vacuum out any dust, dirt or debris that may have built up over the past few months. A home warranty company won't cover failures of a furnace if the breakdown was caused by neglect to clean the unit.
Clean off the blades of the blower fan with a wet cloth, and clean off the sides of the furnace. If you have a oil-burning furnace you can bleed air out of your lines by following your owner’s manual. If you have a steam furnace, make sure to bleed the air out of your system by opening the bleeding valve on your radiator using the knob or using a screwdriver, depending on the model. You will know when the air is out of the system when the water comes out without sputtering. Careful! The water will be extremely hot.
Make sure to frequently check to make sure there are no obstacles blocking the vents, otherwise there is a chance of carbon monoxide poisoning, which we will get to next. This maintenance will make sure you get the most out of your home warranty plan.
2. Be safe! Check for leaks and cracks
Many furnaces produce carbon monoxide in order to heat your home. Carbon monoxide is odorless, invisible and breathing it in can result in death. On most models of gas furnaces, the air that is pumped throughout your home to warm it passes through a heating element that contains hot gasses. However, if there is a crack in this heat exchanger, instead of venting the poisonous gasses outside, the gasses could get into the air that you and your family are breathing. Visually checking for cracks or loose joints in your furnace is always a good idea, but many times these cracks cannot be seen without taking the entire furnace apart (something we do not recommend doing!)
An easy way to see if your furnace is leaking carbon monoxide is turning on the furnace and holding up a carbon monoxide detector to the furnace. If the alarm goes off, turn off the furnace and call a professional. Or, if you have a contract with a home warranty company, call them and they'll send out a technician to repair or replace your unit.
3. Replace filters
Before turning on your furnace, check the air filter. If the air filter looks dirty, change it out with a brand new filter. During the heating season make sure to check and change your furnace’s filter every 1-3 months.
Even with a good filter, dust can accumulate around the furnace and on the blower fan, so it is a good idea to turn off your furnace and check and clean the inside of the furnace every few months.
4. Look for cracks and tears on fan belts
For some furnaces, there is an electric fan with a fan belt that that operates the blower. While you are looking at the inside of the furnace, check your belt to see if there are any cracks or frays on the rubber:
(Courtesy of BHG.com)
Press in on the belt to see how much it gives – normally a fan belt will give about a half inch to an inch. Any more than that means it is stretched out, which can hurt a furnace’s efficiency, and also make a lot of noise. Make sure to replace a cracked or stretched out belt. The proper size will be in an owner’s manual or a professional can assist you. If you have a plan with a home warranty company, call them and they can help you replace or repair this belt for a small service call fee.
5. Check your pilot light's coloring
Finally, once you turn your furnace back on, take a look at your pilot light. A flame should be blue and not have any spurts of yellow or orange, and definitely shouldn’t be flickering.
If you do see any kind of yellow flame or soot build-up, you should call a professional, it could be caused by problems with combustion. If you have a home warranty, call your company to send out a technician.
6. Get an annual furnace tune-up
Every year you should have a trusted repairman take a look at your furnace and provide a tune-up. Although these last five steps will help maintain your furnace, a professional has more know-how and information on how your particular furnace model works, and how to prepare it for winter. It is also a good idea to ask the technician what to look for with general wear and tear for your particular furnace.
With a Landmark Home Warranty, you can get a furnace tune-up from a trusted Landmark contractor every heating season. (In fact, our home warranty company offers an air conditioning tune up before the summer as well!) Our contractor will calibrate your thermostat, check the heating operations, clean or replace filters, clean and tighten electrical connections, test safety switches, test limit switches and clean burners. Getting a tune-up before each heating season can provide a more in-depth maintenance than what you can do yourself.
Of course, even if you follow all of these tips and your furnace still goes out, if you have purchased a home warranty with Landmark you can call us and open a service request. Check out our comprehensive home warranty plans here, or learn more about your home warranty company at our About Page.
Have a safe and warm fall season! Let us know what you do to maintain your heater in the comments.