There are only a few ways to heat a house in winter, and a centralized furnace is the most inexpensive and effective method. The only other options are a log fireplace or an emergency propane heater, but those do not have the benefit of the ductwork or a fan to circulate warm air to every room in a home. Keep your primary means of home heating efficient with regular maintenance.
Consider the following tips to save energy in winter before resorting to calling an expert for furnace maintenance:
Initiate Maintenance Ahead of Time
A furnace is less likely to fail than an electric system moving refrigerant simply because there are fewer parts to fail. Still, continuous burning of natural gas can sometimes cause problems, and it is good to let an expert take a look at an older system while the weather is nice. Having a system inspected in the off-season is likely to be less expensive for a variety of reasons.
Take a Look Yourself
Even an amateur can tell if great pipes or vents are broken or bent. A visual inspection now and then will give the homeowner a vague idea if anything is out of place. It is also important to look at the drainage system that typically deals with the condensation of refrigeration during summer. This same drainage helps to funnel any moisture that condenses as the result of burning natural gas.
The nose can be as important as the eyes. Pipes carrying gas should be inspected. A small dent might point to a possible rupture, but any significant leak should have a smell. Most natural gas companies include a substance that emits a strong odor so that leaks are easily detected.
Examining And Clearing A Drainage Tube
It is important to relieve the AC unit of any moisture that builds up. In summer, the air conditioner condenses water as it blows warm air over cold coils. In winter, natural gas produces water vapor as well as carbon dioxide as it burns. This water vapor comes in contact with the cold outside walls and condenses. Both sources of moisture have to be drained.
Always inspect the drainage channel by inserting a flexible piece of wire. It should fit in unless the drainage channel has sharp bends. Any solid buildup can be removed with a wire, while slime can also cause a clog. In the case of grimy buildup, kill and dissolve with vinegar or some other mild acid. Find where the water normally drains into the pipe and pour a little vinegar there.
Inspect Any Thermostat Wires
Any inspection of wires should be after the unit is turned off, but basically, open the lid of the HVAC unit and look at the small wires that run to the power switch within the unit. These wires should not be loose and should hold fast when lightly tugged. If they are broke, the owner should note the fact. Any visible damage should be repaired by an expert.
Removing Any Debris
Sometimes, outside solids and dust can make their way into the system. This is bad because it can clog the natural gas vent and result in the incomplete burning of fuel. To prevent carbon monoxide from entering your home, make sure to sweep or vacuum out any loose debris that is inside. Make sure the filter is changed according to schedule, as a clogged filter can break and release particles into the system.
Clean the Flame Sensor If Needed
Most HVAC units have some sensors inside that stop working if they become clouded with dust or soot. After identifying them, cleaning them with a cloth will allow the furnace to work according to its proper settings. Some people unscrew the sensor to clean it. Just be careful if it is fragile.
Ensuring Proper Maintenance
Many homeowners treat their HVAC units as if they do not need maintenance. They are rugged but should be inspected every few years. Natural gas furnaces are largely worry-free since they burn away natural debris, but the fan can be damaged by free particles. Also, corrosion and carbon buildup from burned debris can prevent the complete burning of natural gas.
Always be on the lookout for poor burning such as a furnace that never seems to stop in regular weather or else a smell coming from the furnace. Distress in pets is a good sign since they might be more sensitive to carbon monoxide. Try to follow the maintenance schedule set by the manufacturer, and always replace the filter. They become clogged at the microscopic level and have to be replaced.
There is a lot that homeowners can do, but many repairs can only be performed by a certified technician. Only experts with the right license can work with refrigerants or operate on gas lines. It is the law and a matter of safety. To that end, some professionals are more efficient than others, so pick one with a lot of experience and a good reputation.