You rely on your furnace to keep your home comfortably warm. A professional inspection will provide several key benefits.
- SAVE MONEY: Your furnace will operate more efficiently when properly maintained. Regular inspections help reduce fuel/energy waste and lower your annual heating cost.
- SUSTAINABILITY: An annual tune-up by a qualified and experienced technician can help extend the life of your heating equipment by preventing unnecessary damage to vital system components.
- LOWER COST: During a routine maintenance visit, your HVAC specialist can identify and address minor problems before they become more severe issues requiring costly repairs or replacements.
- LESS RISK: Regular maintenance can help prevent safety issues, such as the risk of fire and the dangers posed by unhealthy gas fumes and lethal carbon monoxide leaks.
Furnace Inspection 101
The steps performed during a routine furnace inspection can vary, depending on the company you hire. Still, as a general rule, you should expect that an experienced professional will include the following tasks:
- Checking the vent system (if your model is vented) for leaks or blockages.
- Examining the heat exchanger for signs of corrosion and cracks or separations. A damaged heat exchanger can allow deadly carbon monoxide to escape. Specifically, ask for this inspection if the technician doesn’t provide the inspection as a standard procedure.
- Checking the blower (fan) and cleaning its components. This should include accessing the blower wheel to ensure it’s free of dirt and debris. A dirty fan can drive your power bill higher.
- Testing for a tight seal on the blower access door. This compartment can have a special shut-off switch that should be tested (safety).
- Checking the air intake (return air) grills for blockages and soil/dirt.
- Performing an amp-draw test on the blower motor and comparing the results to the unit’s listed specifications. This can reduce the risk of fire and help extend the life of the blower components.
- The tech should check the burner for proper ignition and test the flame sensor for accurate operation.
- Lubricating all the motor’s moving parts will help reduce friction. When there’s friction, the motor will work harder. When it works overtime, it requires more electricity. That can drive your power bill up and result in premature failure.
- A thorough inspection of all electrical connections ensures they are tight and free of rust and corrosion.
- Testing the thermostat calibration. When the thermostat is calibrated correctly, your home will be more comfortable. It can also save you money on your energy bills by preventing overheating.
- Examining the flue for obstructions. If the toxic fumes from combustion can’t escape up the flue due to a blockage, indoor air quality will suffer.
- The tech should test safety controls. The inspection should include checking the high limit control, which prevents the furnace from overheating and helps reduce the fire risk.
- If your model has them, the tech should check the belts for signs of wear or cracks.
- Testing that the system’s startup cycle is functioning correctly.
- Check the furnace’s air filter. A dirty filter can reduce the unit’s efficiency by restricting needed airflow and damaging vital system components over time.
Gas Furnaces Require a Little More Checking
If you have a gas furnace, your technician should inspect and confirm the following:
- Examining the thermocouple and replacing it if necessary. This helps eliminate the risk of an explosion.
- Analyzing the combustion gases and comparing the results to your furnace’s specifications. This is a critical inspection procedure, and you should ask if the tech will perform this task.
- The tech should check that the pilot or electronic ignition is functioning correctly.
- Test and confirm the burners are operating correctly and, as necessary, the burners should be cleaned.
- The tech should have a gas detector and check the fuel lines for leaks that could pose a fire hazard or allow gas to escape.
- A thorough inspection will include testing the manifold gas pressure to ensure that the correct fuel reaches the burners.
What You Can Do – Yourself
You can take some steps after your furnace inspection to help maintain your heating system’s efficiency. They include:
- Keeping your blower motor bearings well lubricated. If the unit has oil cups (usually found on older models), add a drop to each every once in a while.
- Keeping the blower unit free of dirt by vacuuming it periodically. WARNING make sure you shut off the power before you perform this task.
- Testing your exposed ductwork joints for air leaks. Hold up a lit stick of incense to the joints while the furnace is running to locate air leaks. Then, seal up these areas using metal tape. This can mean you’ll need to walk in the attic (if the duct is in the attic) – WARNING – potential fall hazard.
- Checking your thermostat accuracy. Put an outdoor thermometer on the wall next to the thermostat. Run the furnace for several minutes, and then compare the thermometer’s reading to the displayed room temperature.
- Cleaning or changing your furnace filter once a month throughout the heating season.