Everything you Need to Know About your Furnace

Safety First

Always ensure that each floor of your home (including the basement level) is equipped with both Smoke and Carbon Monoxide detectors.

Have you ever wondered what that large metal noisy box in your basement is? You’ve probably walked by it thousands of times, but you may not really know what it actually is or does. Well, it’s your furnace! Without it, you’d be very cold in the winter  months. Furnaces heat most homes both old and new. That’s why it’s a good idea for the homeowner to know the basics of their furnace systems.

How does a furnace heat my home?

A furnace creates heat and then circulates this energy to the other parts of the house. How it creates this heat depends on the make of the furnace. Different furnaces burn different materials. (gas, oil, coal) Newer furnaces create heat with an electrical resistance element.


How do I maintain it?

-Furnaces with gas or oil burners require occasional cleaning. Ideally, this should be taken care of in the fall before the heating season kicks in. You can easily do it yourself with a good flashlight and a vacuum.

-You should perform a visual inspection of the furnace’s exterior before opening it. You’re looking for loose connections wherever two pipes join, at elbows, and where the pipe joins the chimney. Push back together any you might find. Also check for corrosion around the bottom of the pipes. This often occurs there because of condensation buildup, which suggests a maladjusted burner.

-Any loose or crumbling cement in the area where the pipe enters the chimney should be repaired immediately

-Check the condition of the air filter and replace it if necessary.

-You will most likely find the air filter in the return air duct system, usually at the bottom of the furnace where the large duct enters the furnace. You should know if your furnace uses a permanent foam type filter or a replaceable one. The most recent kind usually needs to be replaced annually (more often if you have central air conditioning) but check the particular specification for instructions. Changing a filter is very easy. Simply slide the old filter out and replace it with a clean filter. Note the marking on the filter, which shows you which side should face the incoming air.

-Less common furnaces have a U-shaped filter called a hammock filter. It is located at the bottom of the furnace below the blower assembly. In order to change this type of filter, you need to remove the inspection panel from the side of the furnace – lift the wire from off of its rack and push it together, then pull the filter directly out of the furnace. Remove the old filter, cut a new piece of filter material from the roll, and then wrap it around the wire frame

Clean the filter element

Regardless of whether your furnace uses a flat or hammock filter, they both have a permanent foam filter element, which should be cleaned and reused. Check with the manufacture instructions first, but most elements require you to vacuum it followed by a wash in warm water with a mild detergent.

How about electric furnaces?

There is much less maintenance to worry about in the case of electric furnaces. Not only are they extremely efficient, but the actual heating elements have no moving parts to service. Keep in mind that while electric furnaces are efficient, they can also be rather expensive to maintain, especially when your system is backed up with excessive dirt and dust. The registers and air vents throughout your home should be cleared and vacuumed on a regular basis.

Gas Furnaces

-Gas furnaces are renown for their cleanliness. As a result, their burners require minimal upkeep. They are very cost effective long term.

-Major tune-ups of a gas burner assembly should be done every 2 years. Do not do this yourself!

-A little vacuuming inside the unit will keep it running well however be sure to shut the power off to your gas furnace at the main circuit panel before doing ANYTHING with the furnace

-In order to expose the burner, you will have to remove the front panel. Read the manufacturer’s instruction if you cannot figure it out. This will expose a row of horizontal tubes, which are part of the burner assembly

-Along the top of these tubes are the burner heads with small holes for the gas air mixture to come out and be burned. Here is where you may want to vacuum up any loose and flaking rust particles, which often block the holes and hurt the efficiency of the unit.

Oil Furnaces

-Oil furnaces require plenty of attention

-Like their gas cousins, any serious maintenance should be left to a professional on a yearly basis. This goes for adding oil, changing the filter, or adjusting any sensors

-You can safely perform some cleaning tasks to maximize performance and even better if you do so regularly

-Similar to gas furnaces, the burner on oil units should be kept as clean and free of dirt as possible. This is an ongoing job with oil furnaces, as oil burners suck in a lot of air for combustion

-It is very important to keep these air holes clear and keep the burner housing clean for optimal performance of an oil furnace

Some of the brands of furnaces that we have services and installed are: