With the price of a new gas furnace anywhere from $2,500 to $14,000, wise homeowners do everything they can to protect the one they already have. Two of the easiest and most effective steps you can take to help your furnace last longer is to change its filter, and get it checked regularly.
Changing a Furnace Filter
Easier than it sounds, most furnace filters can be changed in just two simple steps.
Step 1: Check the Old Filter
Nearly all furnace filters will be found between the blower and the air return. If your furnace filter looks like the lint filter on your dryer after a full load, it's time to change it. Write down its dimensions, and head to the store for a new one. Filters in common sizes can be found at hardware, home improvement and large retail department stores. You can purchase filters that last just one month, or spend a little more for a filter that will keep the air clean for three.
Step 2: Replace the Old Filter
Before you take a filter out of the furnace, turn off the power. You will find the switch is mounted on or near the heating unit, typically prominently marked. If it isn't, once you find it, a good practice is to identify it for future repairmen (including yourself) by designated it with a Sharpie.
Next, open the access panel and take out the old filter, which will have an arrow on it. Make a note of which way it is pointing, so you put the new one in the right way. Use the Sharpie to identify the filter direction on the access panel, as well.
Finally, slide the new filter in and replace the panel. Mark your calendar one month (or three, depending on the filter) out, so you remember to keep up with filter replacements in the future.
Furnaces, like teeth, do best when they get regular cleanings and check-ups. Arranging for professional HVAC services from a reputable company like All American Air & Electric, Inc. once a year for your furnace (and air conditioner, too, for that matter) will ensure it operates properly, maintains its efficiency and lasts as long as possible.
Uncle Sam recommends that furnaces be serviced each year in the fall (and air conditioners in the spring) as a "pre-season check-up." Proper annual HVAC service for the furnace will include:
- Inspecting the thermostat to ensure it works well
- Ensuring the electrical system is functioning properly
- Cleaning the blower wheel, motor and housing
- Lubricating the motor and any other moving parts
- Replacing the fan belt, if necessary
- Inspecting the evaporator coil and drain pan
- Checking and, if necessary, clearing the condensate drain
- Ensuring system controls are properly operating
- Checking gas (or oil) lines to ensure connections are tight and the pressure is correct
- Checking the burner assembly and heat exchanger to ensure they are working properly and efficiently
- Inspecting the flue system, particularly looking for corrosion or separations between sections, and replacing any parts as needed
In the Meantime
Between filter changes, don't just ignore your furnace. Remain vigilant and take note of any changes in its operation. Experts recommend that changes in its ability to heat, or the sounds it makes during regular operation, should be reported to your HVAC service provider.
In particular, homeowners should be on the lookout for signs of bigger problems. Funny smells (other than burning dust odor) could be a sign of a natural gas leak (rotten egg odor) or a malfunction (electrical odor), and both of these should be immediately reported, as well.
Nonetheless, with a little TLC, a quality furnace should keep you and your loved ones warm and cozy for many years to come.