Fluttering leaves and bone-chilling breezes are often the first signs that fall has arrived. It seems as if in one day we transition from summer to fall. As you turn on your heat for that first time, make a mental note to be sure your furnace or heat pump is ready to go for another season of service.
One item that most of us never think about as we prepare our heating and cooling systems are the vents and ducts that pipe that nice warm air to each nook and cranny of our homes. Every several years consider having a company come in to clean out the duct work in your house. This is especially important if you live with allergy-prone people. When you think about it, whatever is sitting inside a duct is passed along into the air we breathe when the heat kicks on. We may be inhaling particles of dust, dirt and—horrible thought—dead insects or even rodents.
Preparing the actual furnace is well worth the short amount of time it will take you when you consider the safety issues involved. For those with gas heating, it is especially important to check for potential problems before you start using your furnace consistently. Planning ahead helps—you don’t want to find out your furnace isn’t working when the first 30-degree day hits.
Retired master plumber Bob Herrmann says it is important to have a professional heating service technician come in to examine your furnace and check for gas leaks. “Make sure you have the right mixture of air and gas for the flame,” says Herrmann. On newer furnaces equipped with electronic chips, service people will also use a voltage meter to be sure all parts are functioning properly.
There are several things homeowners can do, regardless of the type of furnace they have. First of all, remove the covers and vacuum out the furnace, cleaning out the dust and lint that have accumulated. Replace your filter to start the season and be sure to do this every month to keep the furnace functioning efficiently. Check the thermostat to be sure it is working correctly.
Inspect all inlet, outlet and exhaust vents that are vented outside to be sure they are clear. Bees often like to build nests in these, a potentially life-threatening situation if the nest is blocking a vent which releases carbon monoxide. Also, some older homes still have galvanized vent pipes. If your home has these, be sure they are in good condition and not rusted through—another dangerous situation. Any problems with pipes and vents should be addressed with your heating repair technician.
If you have a humidifier attached to your furnace, be sure you change its filter and check to see that the water supply line isn’t plugged up. Depending upon the amount of insulation your house has, you will want the humidity level set between 30 to 50 percent. For heat pump owners, make sure you keep the outdoor part of your heat pump cleared of any snow or other debris.
A final precaution for all homeowners is to keep your utility room clean and uncluttered; this is not the place to store hazardous chemicals.
Following these simple steps will insure that when the fall and winter winds blow through your neighborhood, you’ll be safe and snug and prepared for the cold season ahead!