Fall is the time to make the big switch from your air conditioner to your furnace. While you probably won’t be using your furnace immediately, you should prepare and inspect your heating unit for the upcoming winter weather. The last thing you want is to search urgently for a heating alternative when your furnace doesn’t turn on during a 40-degree January morning.
That’s where our fall furnace maintenance guide comes in. The trusted Georgia Air Cooling & Heating team has put together this handy maintenance checklist so you’ll have warm air when you most need it. We’ve compiled all the measures that prevent extensive repairs and replacements.
Read on to learn how to optimize your furnace. For further assistance, count on us for furnace repair in Richmond Hill, GA.
Changing or Washing Your Filters
Each time you run your furnace, it sucks up the surrounding air, heats it, and rereleases it through vents and filters. Since dust, dander, and other pollutants travel through the air, they also pass through the filters, which trap these allergens before they enter your furnace system.
This process leaves particles on the meshy surface of your filters. The more you run your unit, the thicker the buildup.
Contaminant buildup leads to any of the following concerns:
- Higher allergen levels: While you may think these filters trap and lock in contaminants, cleaning the air in household rooms, they do quite the opposite once a buildup occurs. Clogs allow excess dust and dander to detach from the filters and blow back into the air you breathe. The ensuing debris triggers allergies, irritates eyes and skin, and harms the respiratory system.
- Limited airflow: A buildup also creates a barrier against quality airflow. The wall of contaminants prevents air from passing in and out of your system at full volume. As a result, it reduces the flow of hot air warming your home.
- Large energy bills: With limited airflow comes larger energy bills. Air restriction causes your furnace to take longer to heat your home. Not only will it run longer cycles, but it’ll work harder, pulling more electricity than necessary.
Prevent these issues by removing any air filter and washing it clean with mild detergent, warm water, and a soft-bristle brush before use. Otherwise, replace each furnace filter every three to four months or more frequently if you live with pets or in an area with poorer air quality.
Brushing Dirty Burners
To conduct fall furnace maintenance, you must turn off the electrical power and detach the combustion chamber door and burner cover to uncover the internal compartments. Then, examine the burner flames after increasing the thermostat since the flame color indicates a faulty compartment.
The flame should always appear blue and burn uniformly. If there’s an orange or yellow hue, try adjusting the burner.
If pushed off to the side, blocking the air inlet, the system won’t receive enough oxygen to complete the combustion process. It will then produce carbon monoxide. Try recalibrating the burner so it doesn’t cover the air inlet.
Other times, dirt and debris clog the inlet, contributing to the same problem. Use a brush or cloth to wipe the dirty burners after shutting off the gas. Clean burners increase energy efficiency and lower harmful carbon monoxide levels in your home.
You may also use a vacuum hose to eradicate buildup from the furnace base and burners before moving onto the blower compartment.
Pulling Out the Blower
Now that you’ve located the blower compartment, remove the control panel door and pull out the blower. Using a 7/16-inch socket and ratchet, screw out two bolts and screws to remove it from its chamber. With a stiff brush, dislodge particles from the blower fan blades before thoroughly vacuuming up the particles.
Cleaning the blower wheel isn’t necessary for annual maintenance but should be conducted every three to five years for efficiency. That’s because dirt in the wheel affects airflow, preventing the fan blades from turning and leading to an overheating heat exchanger and frozen coils.
Optimal cleaning not only protects your entire furnace system from deteriorating but does the following:
- Keeps your system from working harder, driving up your utility bills
- Improves air quality in your living quarters
- Reduces noise in the blower compartment due to struggling fan movement or debris rattling around
- Enhances heating power by effectively blowing warm air through household ducts
Cleaning the Pilot Light
The pilot light is one of the most vital parts of your furnace. Cleaning this device is essential for fall furnace maintenance.
The pilot light’s sole job is to take gas that travels to the main burner and ignite it to produce heat. The pilot light must remain lit. Otherwise, if poor ventilation, drafts, or a faulty thermocouple extinguishes the flame, you’ll notice a gas smell and your furnace blowing cool air.
To clean the pilot light, power off the circuit breaker and close the gas shutoff valve as a cautionary approach. Use a wire brush to remove particles from the pilot light.
Next, use compressed air to remove soot and a small vacuum to suck up the remaining debris. To get into smaller spaces, use a straw to blow air directly onto dirty surfaces or crevices.
Check your pilot light’s ability by turning up your thermostat after powering back on the electricity. This last step will ensure your furnace heats up properly.
Dusting Off Igniters
If your newer gas furnace has igniters rather than pilot lights, you’ll need to clean these devices instead. Doing so will ensure your heating system has that tiny spark necessary for warming the air the furnace sources and rereleases into your home.
Refrain from touching or removing the igniters since they are small and fragile. Instead, use pressurized air from a gentle hand-held gadget or drinking straw to remove any buildup around the area. The area is usually hot, so be careful not to touch it.
Removing Flame Sensor Residue
The flame sensor is in front of the pilot light and determines whether the pilot light is on. If the sensor detects the pilot light is out, it signals the furnace to power down to prevent unburned gas from escaping the system and flooding into your home. Without a properly functioning flame sensor, this gas contributes to carbon monoxide poisoning and possibly explosions if you light a fire around the gas leak.
If the metallic rod is faulty, your furnace may short-cycle constantly, sometimes refusing to turn on altogether. You’ll also notice any of the following issues affecting your flame sensor if it’s malfunctioning:
- Cracks or fractures around the porcelain protector of the flame sensor
- Corrosion on the sensor
- Soot on the sensor
For soot or other debris on the sensor, turn off the breaker box before returning to the thin rod in the burner compartment. Next, unscrew the flame sensor and gently use sandpaper to remove dried-on soot and residue. Wipe away the impurities before reconnecting the sensor wires and testing your furnace.
Running Your Furnace After Your Annual Fall Furnace Maintenance
Once you’ve completed your fall furnace maintenance, run your heating system to ensure it’s in optimal condition. While these steps usually deter unnecessary professional work, you may still notice alarming concerns that require a specialized technician’s touch.
Some issues to look out for include the following:
- Short cycling: While the flame sensor can easily trigger short cycling, other factors prompt your system to power on and off before undergoing one complete heating cycle. Thermostat misreadings or malfunctions create inaccurate temperature readings. Alternatively, a faulty heat exchanger limits or blocks warm air.
- Weird noises: Aside from a loose or filthy blower wheel, noise comes from any part of your system. You may hear squealing from dry blower motor bearings, banging from expanding and contracting ductwork, rattling from unsecured doors and panels, or repetitive clicking from struggling ignitions, just to name a few.
- Unusual flame activity: If you notice flames burning unevenly, dirt is likely blocking a portion of the burner. Otherwise, cracks in the heat exchanger or other faulty equipment may require professional repair.
Going the Extra Mile with Georgia Air Cooling & Heating
If you’re experiencing these or other heating concerns, a semi-annual furnace tune-up may be in order. That’s because parts tend to age and receive wear and tear with use, despite top care and cleaning habits.
If you can’t solve a problem on your own or don’t understand the root cause of your concern, contact Georgia Air Cooling & Heating. Our five-star team will show up promptly to run diagnostic tests and listen to your concerns before cleaning and examining all system parts. We’ll use state-of-the-art equipment and top-branded products for a successful repair or replacement. Whether you’re interested in fall furnace maintenance or wish to learn why you should replace your furnace and AC at the same time, call Georgia Air Cooling & Heating at (912) 513-3756. We provide financing and special offers in Richmond Hill, GA, and the surrounding areas!