Furnace Tune-Ups 101

Furnace Tune-Up

You already know that annual furnace inspections are a must to ensure this costly appliance heats things up efficiently and flawlessly this winter. Moving into the colder season, you (hopefully) have an inspection scheduled already—if not, move that to the top of your to-do list before the holiday season kicks into full swing. While inspections and tune-ups should always be left to professionals, there’s no harm in understanding what the experts have planned. Consider this your cheat sheet to furnace tune-ups.

First, a visual inspection will take place while the thermostat is turned to high. This allows the fuel jets to be checked to make sure the fuel-burning process is working properly. Next, your furnace inspector will turn off the fuel supply and power to inspect the venting system. This is what removes fuel gases, and it needs to be free of debris and properly sealed with solid joints in order to do its job. A minimum of three screws is required for each joint.

Digging Deeper

Once all the nuts and bolts are (literally) taken care of, the furnace pro will take off covers to inspect the filter itself. Both the blower compartment and furnace cover need to be removed so that mechanical accessories and the filter can be checked. In most cases, filters fit into a slot located in the air-control part of the furnace and can be spotted via the air-flow indicator. Every furnace requires a quality filter that’s regularly replaced.

Next up is checking the blower—a set of specialty mirrors and flashlights are used to ensure the blower’s path is clear. In some cases, the blower motor requires routine lubrication, which your inspector can take care of annually or biannually.

Cleaning and Reassembly

During an annual inspection, each burner should be removed and cleaned to allow for the best view into the furnace. This is when holes, rust and flawed seams can be spotted. Water is often enough to clean dust from burners—and as a bonus you’ll enjoy better, safer burning. Pilots and sensors are cleaned with a wire brush, which will also provide optimized results through the winter.
Finally, all components are reassembled and safety testing takes place. Your inspector will test for overheating and ensure that fuel usage rates are on par. Before giving you and your furnace the all-clear, carbon monoxide testing is done so you can rest easy this winter knowing you’re burning clean even on the chilliest of nights.