Furnace maintenance tips: Keep your furnace in shape, save money

MENTOR, Ohio - Now that November is here, our furnaces are running full time. However, there are things you need to know to save money on your heating bill and keep your family safe.

Technician Ken Presler of Bill Reynolds Heating and Air Conditioning said regular maintenance is key to maintaining your furnace. He recommends having it inspected yearly.

One of the first things you need to look at it is the outdoor combustion air pipe to make sure it is not obstructed. This brings air into your home. You also want to check the furnace's outside exhaust pipe or flue to make sure it is not obstructed with anything like fallen leaves.

Then it is time to move inside.

"One of the first things I want to look at is the burners and the heat exchanger. What I'm looking at with the burners is to see if they are burning OK and they will show signs of that. I also can look into the heat exchanger to see if there are any abnormalities, cracks, holes, what have you," Presler said.

The heat exchanger is important because it is the No. 1 cause of CO poisoning in a home. Presler recommends having several CO detectors in your home. The best places for those are where you spend the most time, like the bedrooms and your main living area. Presler said it is not important to put a CO detector in your furnace room because the furnace sends air throughout your home, not directly into the furnace room. And if the room is closed off, the detector could go off and you may not be able to hear it.

The flame sensor in your furnace also needs to be checked. If needed, it can be cleaned by filing it down or scraping it clean with a piece of emery cloth.

The gas pressure will also be checked during an inspection, along with the air flow. That means changing your air filter out on a regular basis.

"As a homeowner, that is one of the easiest things you can do to protect your furnace and, or your air conditioning to make it last longer is to get your filter replaced every year," Presler said.

Programmable thermostats are also good ideas. But only let the temperature drop 5 to 7 degrees when you are away from home. Otherwise you waste too much energy trying to bring the temperature back up in your home.

Presler also recommends running the thermostat's fan in the "on" position when you clean, so dust that is kicked up, gets sent through your furnace filter. The rest of the time, the fan should be in the "auto" position.

That bring us to what is the most ideal temperature for your home. Presler said to set it at whatever makes you comfortable.

A well-maintained furnace can last 20 years. But keep in mind, a furnace that is already 15 years old may not be as efficient as one made today.

"The older you get furnace wise, that you see some of them out there, they are in the 50th percentile, you can see the savings right away if you were to upgrade to an 80 percent efficiency furnace and the efficiency even goes up to 95 percent," Presler said.

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