Most heating contractors, and furnace manufacturers will recommend that you have your furnace checked by a qualified HVAC technician every year, prior to needing to turn on the heat for the season. A reputable and qualified HVAC technician will have the experience and knowledge to know the operating specs or your heating equipment. He/she will also know the check the things that you will not know.
However, there are things you can do yourself, to catch problems before they become more dangerous or costly. This article contains some things that an average homeowner can do to help properly maintain a heating system. If you have a propane or natural gas furnace, you must exercise extreme caution.
Shut off the gas and power supplies before proceeding! Do not do anything to your furnace with the gas or power on. Only qualified HVAC technicians should ever test your heating system while it is running.
The most obvious thing that a homeowner can do to maintain a heating system is to replace the furnace filter. It recommended that you use a high quality pleated style filter. In some cases, you will need to find a compatible equivalent to your existing furnace filter. Furnace filters should be checked monthly. Depending on your local air quality, and the type of filter, some higher end furnace filters may last significantly longer.
One of the most common reasons people will call a technician complaining of having no heat is that they have a blockage in the drain system. All high efficiency furnaces have a drain hose and drain trap of some sort. Bacteria can grow into a slimy formation that restricts condensation flow through the drain system. You can pour household bleach into the drain lines to kill this bacteria.
Outside the house, check the furnace intake pipes and exhaust pipes to be certain that trees and shrubs are not growing into them. Remove the intake and exhaust pipe and check to see if there are any leaves or other obstructions in them. This is another major problem people have with their heating systems.
Check if any wire connections are loose or shorted. Test the plug harness connections to make sure that they are not loose. The blower compartments and burners can be vacuumed to prevent contamination of the blower motor and burners. If your blower motor requires oiling, you may need to call a qualified service technician. The blower assembly will most likely need to be removed in order to oil it on both sides.
It's recommended to have a service technician clean the burners and inspect the heat exchanger. The technician should also clean the flame sensor. People will often break the igniter thinking that it is the flame sensor. Have the technician check pressure switches, limit controls, and other safeties.
Although these steps may not seem like there is that much you can really do yourself, you should ask the service technician as many questions about your system as you can. Being informed about your heating system can be very helpful in diagnosing or even preventing a problem. Down the line, it will save you money.