5 tips for maintaining your forced-air system

Knowing more about your furnace can potentially save you a lot of money. Here are five tips for maintaining your forced-air heating system.

5 tips for maintaining your forced-air system

1. You should get an annual inspection

  • Whether the furnace in your forced-air system has a burner fuelled by gas or oil, it needs an annual inspection before heating season, and that's a job you may not be knowledgeable enough to tackle yourself.
  • Before cold weather sets in, give your gas or oil supplier a ring — they'll either dispatch a staff technician or recommend another trustworthy pro for the job.
  • A proper furnace inspection will include a careful check for cracks in the heat exchanger (the part of the furnace that heats the air before it's blown through the house) and detection of dangerous carbon monoxide leaks.
  • If you have an automatic fuel delivery plan with your supplier, this inspection may come free with your plan.

2. Don't be afraid to ask questions

  •  Learning the ins and outs of duct systems can be overwhelming for a novice. Don't be shy about asking the technician doing your inspection what this or that lever or button does and any other questions you may have about how your system functions.

3. Change your furnace filters regularly

  • Dirty filters slow airflow, making your forced-air system work harder than it has to — and guess what that means for you, the homeowner? Higher energy bills. Dusty buildup can also find its way back into the machinery that powers the climate control, leading to expensive repairs or even mechanical failure.
  • Once a month, check the furnace filter for dust and grime, and replace it as needed. (If you have a reusable filter, wash it with a garden hose, and let it dry completely before sliding it back into place.)
  • Furnace filters generally need to be replaced or washed every three months, and monthly at the height of the heating and cooling seasons.

4. Don't settle on cheap filters

  • For better performance and air quality, purchase the most sophisticated filter style your system can handle.
  • Woven fibreglass filters are the cheapest, but they are designed to filter out only larger dust particles, enough just to protect the blower and other furnace parts.
  • Pleated and electrostatic styles filter out a wider range of contaminants.
  • Check your manual before installing more restrictive, higher-efficiency filters.

5. Ductwork needs occasional cleaning

  • Cleaning ductwork is an expensive and sensitive endeavour, and if it's done poorly, it can have an adverse affect on your indoor air quality. It's certainly not a yearly chore — every five years is more like it — and only if there are visible signs of trouble, such as mould growth within ducts, rodent or insect infestations, or if excessive dust or debris is coming through the heating registers.
  • When your ductwork does require cleaning, carefully screen candidates by getting multiple estimates, comparing service claims, and checking licenses and references.
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