Watching Those Filters

Safe And Efficient Furnace Tips

Now that winter has arrived, it's time for you to get your gas furnace running efficiently and safely. These will help ensure that your family stays warm and safe this winter.

Dust Off

Furnaces, although located in ventilated spaces (if the structure is built to code), are often jammed into sparsely used closets, garages, basements, and other dust traps. When this dust and detritus is allowed to accumulate, critical internal components may rendered less than fully functional and, potentially, unsafe. When dusting off your gas furnace, follow these steps to ensure that the process is safe and thorough:

Step 1: CLOSE YOUR GAS VALVE. Leaving your gas valve open while you complete the following steps may allow dangerous levels of natural gas to pool around your furnace. If you do not know how to switch off the valve, consult an HVAC professional before you attempt to complete any maintenance on your gas furnace.

Step 2: Begin cleaning your furnace by vacuuming all accessible surfaces in and around your furnace. This process can be most efficiently completed with a strong shop-style vacuum with a narrow extension tube.

Step 3: After thoroughly vacuuming your furnace, use an air compressor to dislodge any remaining accumulated soot from interior or exterior surfaces of the unit. Using a relatively lower level of air pressure is recommended as higher level may damage internal components.

Step 4: After cleaning your furnace's blower (see below), complete steps 2 and 3 again.

Filter Swap

All furnaces are outfitted with filters to ensure that the hot air they produce is also clean. Over time, these filters can become clogged with dirt, dust, and other particulate matters (particularly in drier, desert climates). Before every heating season, it is recommended that you replace your furnace's filter. Additionally, you can extend the life of your furnace's filter and increase efficiency by removing and cleaning the filter with an air compressor. Exposing the clean filter to UV light can further sanitize the filter as well.  

Blow Out your Blower

All gas-powered furnaces are equipped with a blower. This component is a series of spinning blades that cool the furnace's engine and disperse the furnace's hot air into heating ducts. Over time, these blades can become caked in dirt and soot. Cleaning out the blower requires removing it from your furnace. This process is simple, and instructions are normally located on your furnace, but if you don't feel capable of removing and reinstalling the blower, you should consider contracting a licensed professional who has experience with furnace and air conditioner repair.

Step # 1: After removing the blower, bring it away from the unit to keep any dirt you dislodge during the cleaning process from getting into your furnace.

Step # 2: Use a stout metal brush to scrape the blower blades. You will know when this process is complete when the blades look uniformly shiny.

Step # 3: Carefully re-install the blower and complete the "dusting off" process (described above).

Pilot Check

Now that your furnace is clean,has a new filter and fully functional blower, you can re-open the gas supply valve and re-ignite the unit's pilot flame. Once the flame is reignited, it's important to watch the flame for one to two minutes. While you watch the flame, attempt to detach any flicker or wavering as they might be indicative of a clogged or dirty pilot. If you detect any abnormalities in the flames strength, you will need to switch off the gas valve and use a coffee-stirrer straw to blow out any dust that might be coating or clogging the pilot.

Repeat this process until the flame remains constant and strong.


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