Furnace Maintenance Boosts Efficiency and Saves Energy and Money

Keep your home snug this winter. Prepare your furnace now.

Before the first cold morning after summer has you getting out of bed shivering, give your furnace an inspection and tune up to make it work more cleanly and efficiently. This will save energy and money on heating bills. Take these simple steps to prepare your heating system.

Find and Fix Dangerous Carbon Monoxide Leaks

First, remove all the furnace access covers and look for cracks and excess corrosion, especially in the heat exchanger Ė the place where air circulates through the combustion chamber. Fuel is burned in the combustion chamber, and if any carbon monoxide leaks out it could be drawn into your home. If you suspect this is the case, call a professional to test for the gas and/or install a carbon monoxide alarm in your house. The alarm, available at most home centers, looks and installs much like a smoke alarm.

Clean or Replace Filter

Next, clean out any dust and spider webs in the furnace with a vacuum and remove the filter. Clean and/or replace the filter. If you do not already have one, you may want to install an electronic air cleaner in place of the existing filter. This air cleaner creates an ionized electric field that removes airborne particles and is very energy efficient. Proper air filtering has been shown to prevent what is called " sick-building syndrome," which has symptoms including increased incidents of allergy attacks and even colds and flu.

Use a Programmable Thermostat

If you donít already have one, think about installing a programmable thermostat. They may look complicated but they hook up to the same wires as old type thermostats. Once installed, program the thermostat to the times you usually turn the furnace on and off. Having the thermostat anticipate temperature needs saves energy and money because the furnace is not left on unnecessarily or turned on full blast to quickly heat up a home.

Check that the Pilot Light Burns Evenly

With the thermostat off, light the pilot light and fire up the furnace. Let it burn for a while, then check to see whether the flames are burning evenly and with a nice blue color.

If the flames are more yellow than blue, you may need to adjust the air/fuel mixture. Different furnaces adjust this mixture in different ways - if you donít have the instructions for your furnace, have a professional adjust it for you. An inefficient furnace wastes fuel and takes longer to heat up.

Determine Whether You Need a New Furnace

Finally, if you decide that it's time for a new furnace, check with your local utility to see if there are any rebates or purchasing plans available. Also check the Energy Star Program. Many manufacturers offer low-cost financing on appliances that meet the Energy Star guidelines.