close up of gas furnace blower

How to Prepare Your Furnace for Winter

7 Tips to Prepare Your Furnace for Winter

The cold weather has officially arrived in Iowa, and that means it’s time to make sure your furnace is ready to keep you warm until those sunny spring days arrive! To make sure that your unit is functioning properly and efficiently, here are a few helpful steps to follow

1. Turn On Your Heat

Your furnace will kick on once you flip the switch on your thermostat to the desired temperature. Next, the gas valve will work with the thermostat to regulate the amount of gas that flows into your unit.

2. Cover the AC Condenser

To prevent icicles and other debris from falling on your unit, be sure to cover your air conditioner for the winter. To do this successfully, you can use a board to cover the fan, but avoid wrapping it in a plastic tarp, as this specific covering material can trap in moisture and cause damage to your AC. And if you happen to have a heat pump, your unit will work all year round — so there’s no need to cover it.

3. Change Your Air Filters

You may have air filters in a vent on the ceiling or in a nearby wall, but regardless of their location, it’s essential to change them every few months. Indoor contaminants, such as dust and pet dander, can clog your air filters and significantly lower your air quality.

Furthermore, cleaning your filters regularly, or replacing them every few months, will reduce the number of allergens floating around in your home. This will improve your air quality and reduce indoor allergy symptoms, such as a scratchy throat and stuffy nose.

4. Lubricate the Blower Motor

You can find out if your system has the type of motor that needs lubrication by checking in your owner’s manual. To give your blower motor a little TLC, first turn it off and open the cover. Next, clean the caps (which cover the bearings), remove them, and lubricate the bearings.

If you’re not sure where your blower motor is, a quick call to your local furnace repair company will make the job easier.

5. Check Your Tank Level

If you have an oil-powered furnace, you’ll need to make sure you have enough in your tank to keep you warm all season long. And while you’re checking your oil level, be sure to give your oil filter and burner nozzle a glance and clean them off (if necessary).

Also, be sure to never work on your furnace while it’s still on — the unit should always be off before inspecting it!

6. Clean the Heat Exchanger

This step is meant for your local professional. The heat exchanger on your furnace should be brushed, vacuumed, and inspected annually while the unit is off. During your service call, the technician will look for any damage to the piece, which could lead to gas leaks in your home.

7. Test Your Igniter Switch

If your system is older, you may need to relight the pilot before using it. On newer systems, the ignitor is run by electricity. To test your ignitor, push the reset button. If the pilot doesn’t seem to light, checking your breaker is the next step. However, if the unit appears to be fine, it’s time to call a professional.

Does My Furnace Need Repair?

While there are certain actions you can take at home to prepare your furnace for harsh winter temperatures, the following signs might mean that your furnace needs professional repair:

Inadequate Heating

If your furnace isn’t doing its job (to heat your home and keep your family warm), it’s a good idea to schedule a maintenance appointment. Your unit may not be working correctly (due to leaking ductwork or a faulty thermostat), but a professional is the best person to identify these issues and repair them quickly.

Persistent Noises

It’s normal for your furnace to make noises at some point, but loud, repetitive noises may be a sign of a problem. Try to describe the sounds to your HVAC specialist while they’re inspecting the system.

And if you happen to hear whistling noises, they may be coming from the belt — which can indicate fan issues. Additionally, banging noises may be the result of loose parts inside of your furnace.

Tripped Carbon Monoxide Detector

All furnaces should have a carbon monoxide detector built-in, which will alert you of any toxic gasses emitting from your unit. If this alarm goes off, turn your furnace off to be cautious, and open some windows to ventilate your home.

After this, be sure to reach out to your gas company, and furnace contractor, to locate the source of the leak or determine if the detector has gone bad.

Abnormal Smells

Your furnace should smell like the fuel it uses to operate — especially the first time it’s turned on for the season. However, these smells should fade the more your unit runs.

But if you notice a strong odor around your furnace that either appears suddenly or does not fade over time, be sure to call your local service professional for a repair.

Get Your Furnace Up and Running With Golden Rule

If you’ve noticed your furnace is making a strange noise, you smell gas, or your energy bills have skyrocketed, it’s time to call in the professionals. At Golden Rule Plumbing, Heating & Cooling, we offer comprehensive furnace repair and maintenance services throughout Des Moines.

Our goal is to make sure that you’re comfortable through the winter months when your furnace will be put to the ultimate test. Give us a call at (515) 305-2955 or contact us online today for an appointment.

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