Not only does your furnace keep you warm during the winter months, but it also plays a crucial part in the air quality of your home. In layman’s terms, the furnace warms up air using its heat exchanger, then uses its blower fan to release the warm air into the ducts and throughout your home.

There are 5 simple yet important steps every homeowner should take before turning on the furnace, ensuring its proper functionality, as well as the safety of everyone at home.

1. Don’t wait until the temperature drops to turn on your furnace

Caucasian lady pressing modern thermostat
Homeowners tend to wait until the temperature drops before turning on their furnace. As logical as that may be, it is not the best approach. Even though the furnace had been turned off all summer, damage might still occur, causing it to fail. In fact, service calls are at their highest during the first cold days of the season.

2. Maintain a clearance zone around the furnace

Furnace Hot Water Tank
Air movement is required for the furnace to function efficiently, and to avoid fire hazards. Always have a clearance zone ranging from 4 to 6 feet around your furnace and avoid storing flammable substances in the area. Be mindful of where the in-wall vents are located and make sure they are not blocked by furniture or other items.

The same applies to furnaces located outdoors. Even though open space might be an indication of continuous air flow, trees and other types of greenery can restrict proper air circulation.

3. Replace or clean the filter

Man replaces a filter in a furnace
The filter functions to block any dirt or dust particles from entering the ducts and into the air flowing throughout your home. Some units come with replaceable filters, while others have reusable ones. If your furnace has a reusable filter, clean it regularly following the instructions on the owner’s manual. If your furnace comes with a disposable filter, inspect it monthly and replace it when dirty. The average lifespan of a disposable filter is 3 months, and shorter for homes with pets and smokers.

4. Keep the furnace clean

Build up of dust and dirt on a furnace vent
Various components of your furnace can be easily accessed and cleaned using a vacuum, brush or even a cloth. Make sure the unit is turned off during cleaning. Having said that, some parts are trickier to handle, which makes it advisable to have the furnace professionally cleaned on a yearly basis, preferably during the fall, before turning it on for the winter months.

4. Consider an energy efficient model

It is worthwhile to consider upgrading your furnace to an energy efficient model. They waste less energy when converting cool air to warm air, and as a result, perform faster and lower your utility bill. It is better to do so in the fall or spring, when the HVAC industry isn’t flooded with service calls, making it easier to get an appointment, as well as the chance to take advantage of low season discounts.

Look out for the ENERGY STAR® symbol to identify energy-efficient products.


5. Get your furnace inspected

Man inspecting furnace
Keep in mind that inspecting your furnace by a licensed technician is highly recommended. Any damage build-up such as rust or cracks, can result into the release of carbon monoxide gas into your home. To be safe, have your carbon monoxide detectors tested prior to turning on the furnace.

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Spring Home Maintenance checklist

© The Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company of Canada. All rights reserved.

This article is for informational purposes only. All recommendations are general guidelines and are not intended to be exhaustive or complete, nor are they designed to replace information or instructions from the manufacturer of your equipment or software. Contact your equipment service representative or manufacturer with specific questions. Under no circumstances shall BI&I or any party involved in creating or delivering this article be liable for any loss or damage that results from the use of the information or images contained in or linked to in this article.

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