Furnace Maintenance

Just as your car needs tune-ups to keep in good running order, your furnace needs periodic tune-ups to keep it in tip-top running shape. A regular maintenance program for your heating equipment is relatively inexpensive and requires little effort, but pays off in lower energy costs and avoided equipment repairs or replacement.

Refer to your equipment manufacturer's list of recommended maintenance practices. If that list is unavailable, use the list below as a general guide for your maintenance program. Implementing these recommended maintenance procedures should result in a 5 to 15% savings in your energy consumption.

  1. Clean mineral and corrosion build-up on gas burners before heating season and at mid-season. Inspect the heat exchanger for corrosion and soot build-up. Turn off gas pilots in the summer.
  2. Lubricate fan motors and replace frayed fan belts.
  3. Inspect filters carefully and create a filter replacement schedule. Inspect all room air registers and grills of furnace ductwork. They should be kept clean and free of all dirt and obstructions.
  4. As part of annual maintenance, have all furnace system controls inspected. Repair, recalibrate or replace as necessary.
  5. For rooftop units, check condition of insulation on housing and exposed ductwork annually. Replace as necessary. Also check for air leaks; patch as necessary.
  6. For rooftop units, check for correct minimum position of the outside air damper (if installed) and adjust as necessary. If the damper is motorized, inspect the linkage. Weatherstrip the damper blades if this has not already been done.
  7. Consider closing down outside air dampers in proportion to occupancy level if air handling systems must remain on during evenings and weekends and if codes will allow. If less than 15% to 20% of the normal day-time occupancy is anticipated, the leakage through fully closed dampers will usually provide sufficient ventilation. This should only be done during periods when the temperature is such that bringing in outside air will result in additional cooling or heating loads.
  8. If possible, have the thermal control switch for the fan operation reset to allow the fan to run longer and remove more heat from the heat exchanger.
  9. Derating some burners may allow you to more closely match the burner capacity with the heating load.

Spark Ignition

If your heating unit has a standing pilot light (i.e., the pilot is always on during the heating season), consider installing an electronic or mechanical ignition system. This system saves up to 5% of the heating energy by eliminating the standing pilot. When the thermostat calls for heat, the pilot is ignited by an electronic or mechanical spark, and then ignites the gas flow.

Replacing Your Heating Equipment

Replacing your heating equipment is sometimes the most cost-effective way to achieve energy savings. Older heating equipment can have annual fuel utilization efficiencies (AFUE) of as little as 50%, whereas new energy efficient condensing and pulse furnaces achieve AFUEs of up to 97%. Equipment and fuel costs must be considered to determine if equipment replacement is a cost-effective measure. Call several local equipment suppliers for estimates on new equipment.