Annual furnace maintenance—scheduled prior to the first use of the heating season—is highly recommended by HVAC professionals for a handful of reasons. Most furnace warranties require it as a condition of coverage, and you may need to present documentation when making a claim. Well-maintained furnaces are cheaper to operate on a monthly basis by as much as 30%. Maintenance includes preventive measures that can help avoid costly repairs, maximize the lifespan of the equipment and minimize the total cost of ownership. To have a better understanding of how a furnace inspection and tune-up helps, let us explore what the usual service appointment entails.
Review the Outdoor Service Disconnect
The outdoor service disconnect—also known as a cut-off panel—provides an easily accessible means of disabling the HVAC system for the purposes of maintenance or in an emergency. These are generally installed outside and in weatherproof boxes. In many cases, the first thing your tech will do is disable the system via the box and inspect it to ensure that the unit is in working order.
Inspect, Clean, and Service the Furnace Unit
The main component of a furnace is the heat exchanger. This unit needs to be cleaned with a specialized cleaning agent, and the technician will inspect the exchanger for corrosion and other indications of damage. The technician will also inspect all mechanical connections and tighten and replace them as needed. Likewise, he or she will examine all electrical connections, tighten them as needed, and replace any wiring that is damaged. The technician must also test all the furnace safety controls, and later, after some of the other steps have been completed, he or she will test the startup cycle. The tech will examine the element and sensors and test for potential suboptimal configuration. The furnace will be allowed to run for a while so that the tech can observe the operation and monitor for any potential problem indications, such as odd noises, strange smells, unexplained vibrations, and so forth.
Maintenance Specific to Gas and Oil Furnaces
Inspection and the tune-up will be a bit more involved if you have a furnace that burns gas, oil, or a similar fuel source. An electric furnace is a bit more straightforward with its heating elements. Gas furnaces have a burner that needs to be cleaned and inspected. There is also a pilot, which must be cleaned and must be carefully inspected due to all the troubles a bad pilot can cause. The tech has to inspect the thermocouple, test gas pressure, and examine the fuel lines for potential leaks.
Inspect, Clean, and Service the Blower
The blower is a separate unit that moves the air through the ductwork and, therefore, the home, and it must be inspected and serviced as well. Your particular system may have an air handler, which actually contains the blower. A blower can get quite dirty, so the tech needs to clean it. This unit also has one or more belts that are subject to a great deal of wear and tear. These must be inspected and replaced if the wear is too great. Due to the vibrations that occur in this unit, all mechanical connections must be examined and tightened as needed. Electrical connections must be examined and replaced as needed. The tech must also lubricate all of the moving parts and fill any lube reservoirs with lubricant oil.
Check the Condensate Line and Clear If Necessary
Furnaces require condensate drainage. That moisture often drips into a pan and then is funneled into a condensate line, which carries the moisture outside the home where it evaporates. The tech will check this system in order to ensure that it is oriented properly, but the most important thing is to ensure that there are no blockages that could obstruct the flow of the moisture. If there are, then the technician will remove them.
Check, Clean, and Calibrate Thermostats
Many furnace problems are the result of a thermostat that is either not calibrated correctly or is malfunctioning, which makes it necessary to test all thermostats connected to the HVAC system. The tech will first remove the face and then use a fine brush to clean the electrical contacts. The next step is to test the thermostat reading and calibrate it via the calibration screw if necessary. In the worst-case scenarios, a thermostat may need to be repositioned or replaced outright.
Examine and Clean Intake and Exhaust Ventilation Elements
A furnace inspection also involves the inspection and cleaning of all living-area-facing ventilation elements. This includes intake registers, exhaust vents, deflectors, and so forth. Your technician will open the registers to determine if the air filters need replacing or cleaning—depending on which style they are—and proceed accordingly. They will ensure that all vents are cleaned and fully opened. Some closed vents may be acceptable if the system has a variable-speed blower. Your technician will also determine if any of the vents need deflectors and if any existing deflectors are improperly located.
Inspect Carbon Monoxide Detectors If Applicable
If you have a furnace that burns natural gas, heating oil, or a similar fuel source, carbon monoxide is a byproduct of that process. A well-functioning furnace will only create a minimal amount that is not harmful to the residents. But a malfunctioning furnace can create dangerous levels. This is the reason why most building codes require battery-operated CO detectors. Your technician will not only gauge the CO levels your furnace is producing but test that your CO detectors are functioning and well located.
Ductwork Inspection and Cleaning
It is worth mentioning that ductwork inspection and cleaning are not part of usual seasonal furnace maintenance. The main reason for this is that furnace maintenance should be scheduled on an annual basis, whereas duct cleaning only needs to be done every three to five years. Nevertheless, if it is time for your ducts to be cleaned, your annual furnace tune-up appointment is a great time to schedule it.
Verify All Warranty-Specific Maintenance Is Performed
As mentioned in the introduction, many furnace warranties require seasonal maintenance in order to maintain some or all of the coverage. The maintenance required tends to be similar from one policy to the next, but there are some exceptions. The value in hiring an established and reputable HVAC company is that your tech will know what those aspects are and ensure that they are carried out.
Turn to the Furnace Pros in the Northern Valley
Gallagher's Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning has been in business for 30 years serving the Greater Sacramento area and the Northern Valley. In addition to maintaining heating and cooling systems, our technicians install and repair them. Our team also includes indoor air quality specialists who clean ducts and install and service air filters and purifiers. We also have highly experienced and licensed plumbers who do everything from fix leaky faucets to install the latest tankless water heater and water purification systems. If you would like to learn more about our services or want to schedule an appointment, call us or contact us online today.