4 Easy Ways to Keep Your Furnace Running in Tip Top Shape

When our cold Alberta winters arrive, we need to be able to rely on our furnaces to keep us safe and comfortable. The last thing we want to worry about is waking up in the morning to an ice-cold house and a broken furnace. With a little preventative maintenance, we can keep our furnaces running safely and efficiently for many years.

Different Types of Furnaces

Most of our customers in the Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan area use forced-air gas furnaces, so our maintenance guide focuses on natural gas and propane furnaces. However, electric furnaces are gaining popularity because of their energy efficiency, quietness, and relative low maintenance.

Also, oil furnaces are another option, and while the blower assembly, fan, and vents need to be maintained similarly to gas furnaces, the combustion chamber is a bit more complicated, so if you’re having an issue with your oil furnace we’d recommend calling one of our Canuck Plumbing and Heating professionals. 

Step-by-Step Furnace Maintenance

A malfunctioning furnace is more than just an inconvenience; it can be dangerous. Frozen pipes, damaged ducts, even gas leaks, fires, or explosions are all potential hazards of a failing furnace. However, you don’t need any special training to do routine maintenance on your gas furnace as long as you carefully follow some basic safety precautions and the instructions in your furnace’s safety manual.

Before You Begin: Safety First

If you’re planning on giving your furnace a thorough cleaning, you’ll want to turn off both the gas, as well as the power to the furnace. If you believe you have a gas leak or a problem with the burners, don’t try to fix it yourself; follow our Carbon Monoxide safety guidelines, and call an HVAC professional immediately.

Step 1: Make sure your thermostat is functioning properly.

Your thermostat controls when your furnace turns on, so it’s a good place to start furnace troubleshooting or maintenance. After all, your furnace could be perfectly clean and functional, but if your thermostat isn’t working properly, your furnace won’t work properly either. A good way to test it is to adjust the temperature on the thermostat up and down and listen for the furnace to turn on and off. If you think your thermostat is old and malfunctioning, you may want to consider upgrading to a programmable thermostat for the most consistent and energy efficient temperature control.

Step 2: Replace filter regularly and keep the filter system clean.

Clogged filters are one of the most common problems with malfunctioning furnaces, but the fix is quick and easy. Routinely check your filter and keep it as clean as possible. If you think the filter is clogged, it’s a good idea to simply replace it. Furnace filters aren’t very expensive, and replacing them often can help keep dust, dirt, and debris out of the furnace (as well as the air we breathe) and prevent more expensive furnace breakdowns in the future.

Step 3: Vacuum out the blower assembly, gas burners, vents, and fan.

Next, you’ll want to focus on the blower assembly, which sits right next to the filter. Over time, dust, dirt, and debris will settle and collect in the blower assembly, and this can cause clogs and failures, or even significant damage, so it’s important to keep this area clean.

Again, before you begin this process, you’ll want to be safe and turn off both the gas and the power to the furnace. Then, you’ll have to remove the panels covering the filter. Carefully, use a vacuum to remove as much of the dirt and dust build-up as you can in and around the blower assembly, and then wipe it off with a damp cloth.

Next, check the fan components and the vents for more dust and dirt, and carefully clean everything with the vacuum and damp cloth. Dust and dirt are terrible for furnaces and allowing it to accumulate can be damaging and dangerous.

Step 4: Inspect and clean ducts to prevent clogs and leaks.

Another place where dust and dirt can accumulate is in the furnace ducts, even more so when using forced-air gas furnaces. Use a high-powered vacuum cleaner with a long extension to reach in and vacuum out the ducts as best you can. Also, you’ll want to inspect the ducts to ensure they’re properly sealed and connected. If you believe your ducts may be damaged or leaking, don’t try to patch them or fix them yourself. Have your ducts inspected by a certified HVAC professional.

Signs Your Furnace is in Need of Maintenance

Routine cleaning and maintenance should be done one a regular basis, and will help prevent your furnace from malfunctioning; however, there are also some warning signs that you furnace isn’t working properly that you’ll want to pay attention to:

  • Strange noises (banging, rumbling, hissing)
  • Increasing energy bills
  • Improperly burning pilot flame (should be a strong blue flame, NOT an orange or yellow flame)
  • Trouble starting
  • Starting and stopping
  • Age (furnaces have an average lifespan of about 12-15 years, so if your furnace is aging, you may want to keep a closer eye on it for malfunctions)

Whether you’re in need of a whole new furnace, or just need help with some regular maintenance to keep your furnace running in tip top shape, our highly trained HVAC professionals at Canuck Plumbing and Heating are here to help. We’ve been servicing furnaces in the Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan area for over 15 years and we’re always eager to help. Give us a call today!

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