Central Furnace Maintenance
We hail from a part of the country where we enjoy four very moderate seasons. Summer temperatures climb to about 105 degrees or so (for about a week or two) and then drop back into the eighties and 90’s until the cool breezes of Fall arrive. Winter temperatures rarely ever drop below 34 degrees and there are many days during Winter when one can actually go outside without a jacket. Are you jealous yet? But, no matter how moderate the climate, there are still those chilly winter evenings when we get cold no matter how many sweaters we put on. And that means furnace time.
A central heating system can become a seriously expense proposition if not properly maintained – and worse – an unmaintained system can become dangerous as well. If you spend $250 (or more) per month on your heating bill you could easily be wasting as much as $600 per year — if you have not properly maintained your central heating system. And it doesn’t make any difference what type of central furnace you have.
Even a simple window mount heat pump can be damaged beyond repair if not regularly cleaned. The coils can become clogged with dust and debris and in no time the system can fail.
Central systems that have heat exchangers can become whole house gas chambers filling every room with undetectable, poisonous carbon monoxide gas. Please don’t begin using your central furnace this winter until you have had your heat exchanger checked by a bonafide heating contractor. While he’s there ask him to replace the filters, check the fan belt and oil as needed.
Although we don’t recommend that you attempt to check your heat exchanger we do feel it is safe for you to check the condition and adjustment of your blower-fan drive-belt. A worn or frayed fan belt isn’t dangerous, but it can increase your electric bill unnecessarily. If the belt isn’t tight enough it will allow the drive motor to turn extra revolutions for each rotation of the fan. Each time the drive motor turns without rotating the fan wasted money comes out of your pocket! Be careful though, if the belt adjustment is too tight it can damage motor and fan bearings – both are expensive items to repair. A frayed fan belt should be replaced even if the tension adjustment is correct. When the fan belt becomes frayed it will soon split. When will it split? Well, if you have our luck it will go out after dark on the coldest evening – and when all the stores are closed. By the way, it probably isn’t a bad idea to have and extra one on hand. Drive a nail in the wall next to the furnace. Wrap the extra fan belt in an old towel or rag (to keep it clean) and then hang it all on the nail.
System lubrication is a task that just about anyone can perform. Proper lubrication will cause quieter operation and it will increase bearing life. Best of all, the free, smooth running bearing operation that results will reduce stress on the drive motor, and will insure cheaper motor operation. Although there is no such thing as too much lubrication excess lubricant can be thrown off the bearings and onto the interior of the furnace – and oil is definitely a dust collection surface if there ever was one. So please, be careful!
The burners also are very important. They heat the exchanger which warms the air that is blown through the ducts that is blown out the registers that heat the home. Therefore, the burners have a great deal to do with the operating efficiency of the system. Make an investigation of the burners to insure that the flames burn blue. An orange flame indicates that the fuel is not burning clean and hot. Often the burners corrode or rust and the flame ports become clogged and reduced efficiency results.
The filters in your furnace are probably made from hemp, fiberglass or nylon and are bound in a cardboard frame. If this is the case, chances are your filters are the disposable type. We purchase ours by the case and replace our filters monthly. There are in fact electronic filter units that can be built-in to your central furnace system. Although they are expensive they can be cleaned and will outlast two or three furnace replacements. With these systems maximum filtration is achieved. To properly maintain an electronic system simply remove the filter drawer, hose it down in the garden, let it dry and slip it back into place. This type of filter should be cleaned two to four times a year depending on frequency of use and conditions where you live.
In many instances your local public utility will offer free inspection services and make maintenance recommendations. Boy, talk about well trained unbiased input — wow!
Have a happy and safe holiday – and a cost effective one too!
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