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November 9, 2010
It isn't all that unusual for many of us to carry on without taking any notice of how our furnaces are performing. That is, until it stops working. When a furnace finally gives up, it's usually lack of maintenance that is to blame.
The concept of maintaining your furnace is somewhat foreign to many people - and it shouldn't be. Think about it: you wouldn't continue to drive your car without changing it's oil or air filter, rotating the tires or inspecting the breaks, right? Not only is it a bad idea for your vehicle, it can be dangerous. In this scenario, your furnace is just like your car. Routine maintenance and upkeep is vital to the quality of performance and level of safety of your furnace.
Why It's Important
When it comes to your furnace, safety is the key. If your home uses a gas furnace, it's especially important to have it inspected at least once a year. If not properly maintained and inspected, you could be at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas produced from the burning of fossil fuel. Common carbon monoxide sources are often oil or gas-powered furnaces and wood-burning stoves.
When someone suffers from carbon monoxide poisoning, physical symptoms could appear as fatigue, chest pain, impaired vision, headaches, dizziness, confusion, nausea and can sometimes be fatal in higher concentrations.
A professional inspection will include a check of the carbon monoxide levels produced by your furnace. This is particularly important if you own an older unit with heat exchangers susceptible to cracking. Having an annual heat exchanger integrity inspection with ultraviolet dye, a black light, mirrors, and infrared camera can detect cracks, holes, fissures, faults, and breaches in the integrity of the metal that could become hazardous to the home and dangerous to occupants. It's also a good preventive measure to have a carbon monoxide detector installed near the furnace as well as on each level of the living space.
In addition to carbon monoxide concerns, a professional tune-up will include an inspection of the furnace for loose wires or signs of corrosion, burning or exposed metal along insulated wires. If your furnace is gas powered, a thorough inspection of the gas line might also be a good safety measure. The line should be inspected for leaks and the current pressure should be evaluated. Gas pressure that is too high can lead to a an increased risk for carbon monoxide poisoning and can also cause the unit to over fire and use more gas than is really needed.
If your furnace isn't running efficiently, it's costing you money. Professional tune-ups can help improve the performance and efficiency of your furnace in a number of ways.
No matter the type of furnace you have, to run smoothly, regular cleaning and upkeep is a must. A professional is equipped with the experience and knowledge to identify weaknesses in the unit's components as well as potential problems that can lead to future breakdowns. While more modern units require less attention and maintenance than their older counterparts, their increasingly complex electrical components do typically require the expertise of a service professional in order to be assessed and cleaned properly.
Regular maintenance not only helps you avoid unexpected breakdowns, but it also can significantly improve the life of the unit. With annual tune-ups, your furnace can afford you more years of reliable comfort.
What You Can Do
One of the most common and important types of maintenance is something you can take hold of on your own: changing your air filter. To run effectively and efficiently, it's vital your unit stays clean. Your air filter should be changed every 1-3 months, depending on the kind. A clean air filter can play a powerful role in how efficiently your furnace runs. When an air filter is dirty, your unit has to work that much harder to warm your home. The harder it works, the more money you spend in energy costs.
If your furnace seems to be running just fine, scheduling an annual tune-up might seem like an unnecessary expense. However, the peace of mind and improved comfort you get in return is well worth your time and money both now and in the long run.