Important Tips For Getting Your Furnace Ready For Cold Weather

As the autumn weather begins to turn colder, you’re going to want to make sure your furnace is ready before the temperature really drops to bone-chilling levels. Since the furnace probably hasn’t been in use for the past eight months, some maintenance and component inspection is in order to ensure you and your family remain comfortable and safe for the cold weather ahead. Here are some important tips for getting your furnace ready for cold weather.

Change that furnace filter now

The furnace’s air filter should be replaced at least twice a year, so if you haven’t installed a new one recently, do it now. A dirty air filter will restrict airflow, causing the furnace’s blower system to work harder, which increases energy consumption and can lead to premature component failure.

While there are many furnace filters on the market, one of the best is the Allergen Shield Plus filter. The Allergen Shield Plus is a commercial-grade MERV 8 filter that is more efficient and offers less airflow restriction than the average cardboard frame filter. Many filters use an electrostatic charge to attract air pollutants during the filtration process; that charge can weaken over time which causes these filters to lose their ability to filter the pollutants effectively. Instead of relying on an electrostatic charge, the Allergen Shield Plus uses a long-lasting depth-loading material (three layers of filtration: rough, intermediate, and refined) that can absorb virtually all common household dust, dander, and pollen.

Standard cardboard frame filters can also leave a gap between the sides of the filter and the vent slot which will allow dust and dirt to recirculate throughout the home. The Allergen Shield Plus solves this problem by using flexible filter material that extends beyond the steel frame, eliminating air bypass. This also means the filter can be installed in both one-inch and two-inch vent slots.

One more advantage of the Allergen Shield Plus filter is the anti-microbial treatment that is added to the depth-loading material. This treatment prevents mold and mildew from building up on the filter, even if it gets wet, which can be a common problem with pleated paper filters.

Maintenance is the key to a safe, well-functioning furnace

In addition to replacing the furnace filter, there are some other important items you should write down on your furnace maintenance checklist:

  • Clean out the interior of the upper and lower furnace compartments at least once a year. You can use a vacuum with a long attachment to do this.
  • Consider hiring professional ventilation cleaners to clean out the home’s ductwork. This should be done every few years and is strongly recommended following any home renovation or if there is evidence of mold growth or animal infestation.
  • To maintain good air flow, make sure the home’s venting or registers are free of obstructions.
  • The space around the furnace should also remain well-ventilated. If the furnace is located in a closet, the closet doors should be louvered, or space left at the bottom of the door, to ensure good air flow.
  • Check for any air leaks in the home’s ductwork and use duct tape to seal.
  • To ensure the warm air stays inside and the cold air outside, you may need to re-caulk the windows or replace the weatherstripping.
  • Consider using expanding foam to seal up any holes around the home’s exterior.
  • Finally, go ahead and turn on the furnace and monitor the system’s thermostat to confirm it’s working properly before that really cold weather sets in.

Safety first and always

Safety should always be a top priority. Here are three safety guidelines you should always follow:

  1.  Before removing any furnace access panels for cleaning or repair, make sure both the power and gas supply to the furnace have been shut off.
  2. Keep flammable products such as gasoline, paint, or paint thinners, away from the furnace (these products should be kept away from the water heater as well).
  3. Since the air exhausted through the flue from gas furnaces contains toxic fumes such as carbon monoxide, carbon monoxide detectors should be installed near each bedroom and the devices’ batteries replaced regularly.

Accessing & cleaning the furnace’s flame sensor

If you find that the furnace seems to be starting then stopping unexpectedly when you fire it up for a test, it’s likely the unit’s flame sensor is dirty. You can try cleaning the sensor to see if this solves the problem. The flame sensor is usually mounted on or near the burner assembly in the furnace. While the steps required to access the sensor can vary depending on the furnace model, there are some general guidelines you can follow:

  • As always, shut off the power and gas supply to the furnace before you remove any panels.
  • Depending on the model, you may be able to simply slide the upper or lower compartment access panel upwards to detach. Otherwise, you will probably need to rotate or unthread two retaining knobs, or unthread mounting screws, before you can remove the panel.
  • The flame sensor is usually secured to the burning housing with a single mounting screw. Unthread the screw and carefully pull the sensor out of the housing.
  • Keep in mind, you may need to first disconnect the wire from the sensor to fully remove it from the housing or to have better access to the sensor to clean it.

You can use Emery cloth sandpaper or a fine abrasive pad to gently clean any build-up from the flame sensor’s sensing rod. If present, you should also clean off any corrosion where the power wire connects to the flame sensor terminal. Use a lint-free cloth to wipe the component clean of any remaining debris.

  • When you’ve finished cleaning the sensor, reseat it in the burner housing and secure it with the mounting screw.
  • Reconnect the wire to the sensor terminal.
  • Reposition the access panel and secure it with the mounting screws or retaining knobs as required.
  • Turn the gas supply back on and restore power to the furnace.
  • Call for a higher temperature on your home’s thermostat and observe if the furnace now appears to be functioning normally.

Of course, the flame sensor could simply be defective and unable to work at all. While a defective sensor is the most likely reason a furnace would start and then stop, keep in mind that other components, such as the igniter, the pressure switch, and the control board, could be faulty as well.

Find the right filter for your furnace and more with Repair Clinic

Repair Clinic.com makes it easy to locate the right air filter, or other furnace replacement parts, that match your furnace. To find the proper Allergen Shield Plus filter for your furnace, simply enter the brand name in the Repair Clinic website search bar. You can narrow the search by entering your filter’s size (by measuring the existing filter’s height, length, and depth). Need to identify the correct flame sensor, pressure switch, draft inducer fan motor, gas valve, or control board that works with your furnace? Enter the full model number of the furnace in the search bar to see a complete list of compatible genuine manufacturer replacement parts from top brands like Bryant, Lennox, Goodman, Rheem, York, Coleman, Ruud, Heil, or Payne.

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