Your furnace is probably the most important element in your
household when the weather turns ugly, because its sole task is to
keep you comfortably warm. Most homes have forced-air furnaces that
circulate warmed air through ducts to heat the house. Taking good
care of it now might prevent an emergency call when the "mechanical
men" are busiest and less likely to be able to just come right over.
So where do you start? There are three things you can do in the
first weeks of fall to help ensure your heating system provides
The first, and most important, is to clean or change your furnace
filter. The purpose of the filter is to keep dust and other
particles from being spread around your home and to keep your
furnace elements clean. A dirty furnace is an inefficient or failing
Filters come in three varieties: disposable, electrostatic and
electronic. The most common filter is disposable, made of paper or
fiberglass, and is designed to be changed MONTHLY during the heating
and air-conditioning season. If air is moving through your furnace,
you need to change the filter. A lot of people seem to be really bad
about remembering to change the filter.
When the filter gets clogged up with dust, it slows down the
airflow, and if it gets too dirty, the filter itself can fail and
collapse, allowing all the nasty dust to enter your furnace intake.
If you are really bad about remembering to change the filter,
then maybe an Air Bear filter is for you. This filter is almost 5
inches thick, keeps your air cleaner and needs to be changed only
once a year. Bassett's Mechanical from Mount Pulaski installs Air
Bear filters, and most furnaces can be retrofitted with the Air
Electrostatic filters trap dust by charging them electrically.
The nice thing is that you clean the filter rather than throwing it
away. The charged particles adhere to the filter until you wash them
off. It is best to check and clean electrostatic filters on a
monthly basis. Electronic filters, the most expensive, operate
without intervention for long periods of time and usually guarantee
10 years of dust-free operation. Jake at Ace Hardware can help you
with your furnace filter needs.
After you have changed the filter, it's a good idea to go through
the house and vacuum out the registers. Take the screws out of the
registers and open them up. Use the vacuum hose from your carpet vac
or your shop vac and clean up all the dust you can see around the
register and down into the duct. Whatever you don't vacuum up will
likely be in your rooms when you turn on your furnace.
A lot of people wonder if they should have their ducts cleaned.
In most instances the answer is no. There is no data that cleaning
ducts prevents health issues except if (1) there is substantial
visible mold in your ducts, or (2) your ducts have been infested
with vermin such as rats or mice, or (3) there is a substantial
buildup of dust or dirt in your ducts. Marion from Lincoln Heating &
Cooling is a ductwork expert and can provide expert advice regarding
cleaning or replacing bad ductwork.
The third thing you should do, after you have vacuumed the
registers and reassembled them, is to test your heating system. Set
your thermostat to heat and turn up the dial. Your furnace should
kick on when the temp on the dial exceeds the temp in your house.
Listen for your furnace to kick on and begin to heat up. Then listen
for the fan to start. It should begin to blow after your furnace has
heated up sufficiently. The air that comes out should be warm to