Tips for Preventing a Late Winter Heating System Breakdown

Even though you may be hoping that the worst of the winter temperatures are behind us for the season, there’s still the potential for cold days and nights. Be sure your home’s furnace, boiler, or heat pump is in tip-top shape for the remainder of the heating season. Your family will depend on it for warmth and comfort until the spring and summer temperatures arrive.

We’ve put together some simple maintenance tips to help keep your system running efficiently, and help prevent a late-season breakdown.

Perform a visual inspection

If you have a natural gas furnace, be sure that any exterior air intake and exhaust pipes aren’t blocked by any snow or ice. Any obstructions with air flow aren’t just dangerous, but they could also cause your system to work harder than necessary to keep your home warm. This extra strain can lead to premature wear and tear on your unit’s most vital components.

Change the filter

We can’t stress enough how important it is to replace the air filter on a routine basis. The general rule is to swap it out once a month during peak heating season. The same rule applies all year if you have individuals who smoke or pets, as the filter can clog more quickly. Also, if you aren’t sure what MERV-rating you need for your filter, check the owner’s manual to see what’s recommended.

Many homeowners may ask why it’s so critical to replace the filter so often. The filter’s job is to catch airborne contaminants and prevent them from circulating through the air inside your furnace and inside your home. As it does so, the filter gets clogged with dirt, dust, pet hair, etc., and this can significantly restrict airflow and cause your system to work overtime to keep your home comfortable. This may ultimately lead to a breakdown of your unit.

Check your vents

Make sure there isn’t anything obstructing the vents in your home. If furniture, rugs, curtains, etc. are restricting airflow, the warm air being pushed through your ducts can build-up and cause problems for both the ductwork and for your furnace’s internal parts. Also, blocked vents will make certain areas of your home feel colder than normal.

If something doesn’t seem right, call a professional

If you’ve noticed that your heating system is making strange noises when running, is cycling on/off randomly, or isn’t keeping your home as warm as usual, contact a heating expert for diagnostic work. The technician sent to your home will thoroughly examine the unit to see if/where the problem lies, and then he or she will recommend the best course of action for taking care of the issue before it results in a breakdown of the unit.

Don’t forget furnace safety!

If you have a natural gas furnace in your home, be sure you have a working carbon monoxide (CO) detector installed in the same area as your heating system, as well as on each level of the home. Test the unit often and check to be sure that the batteries aren’t in need of replacement.

Additionally, regardless of whether you have a natural gas or electric-powered heating system, keep the area around the unit clear of clutter. This doesn’t just help prevent fires, but it also provides an unobstructed path to your heater in case a technician needs to perform repair or maintenance work.