An Inside Look at a Furnace Tune-Up

It’s that time of year when many homeowners may hear about the importance of a furnace tune-up before the winter sets in. Just as your car needs maintenance, your home’s furnace does too. Many homeowners think their system is working just fine, only to be surprised by a mid-winter furnace repair they could have avoided. 

“The obvious reason for a tune-up is to help you avoid your furnace going out on the coldest day of the year,” said Carry Reed, a vice president and general manager at Robinson Service Experts, “but even more important, a tune-up improves reliability and efficiency; that way your furnace doesn’t short cycle, or overwork itself, and diminish the overall life span of the unit.” 

The basics of a furnace tune-up 
Depending on the location, HVAC experts may vary slightly in how they perform a precision tune-up. Here are the core elements of a Robinson Service Experts furnace tune-up

1. Inspect and clean the burner 

Here, the technician inspects and thoroughly cleans the burner, clearing out debris, dust and other buildups that have occurred throughout the year. Older systems may even have rust flakes fall onto burners. If they are not cleared off, this can cause an uneven burn, create soot and potentially damage wires and other system components. 

2. Test and check gas valves 

Gas valves need to be checked and often adjusted every year to ensure proper fuel supply pressure goes to the furnace, Carry explained. “You want to make sure the furnace is operating at the right BTU levels and not overheating. We also check the flame valve sensor and on older systems the pilot light as well.”  

Technicians working on heater

3. Check for heat exchanger cracks and carbon monoxide leaks 

When your furnace burns gas, it naturally generates exhaust gases that sometimes include carbon monoxide. A properly operating furnace and venting system will not produce carbon monoxide, and every system is designed to safely and effectively draw exhaust gases out of the home. A heat exchanger with cracks can leak exhaust gases into the home, and if the furnace is not operating, it may also leak carbon monoxide into the living space. The technician should also inspect other components involved in removing the harmful gas from the home like the flu pipe or furnace venting system. 

“At times, you’ll see flu pipes damaged on the roof from weather and the homeowner overlooks it. Birds or rodents may also nest in them. All of these things compromise the ability of the gas to properly vent to the outside. We also recommend a carbon monoxide sensor in the home to alert you to any malfunctions,” Carry noted. 

4. Evaluate electrical components 

There are a number of electrical safety switches and relays inside a furnace that need to be checked annually. A certified technician should inspect the blower and check all electrical components throughout the system to ensure connections are tight, free of corrosion, and operating at proper current and voltage levels. 

5. Change the air filter and clean the blower 

With every tune-up, the technician should clear out any dust and debris in the blower and, where applicable, lubricate its bearings. This should also be done for the spring tune-up before summer starts. The technician should also change your air filter and remind you to do the same every month or two, depending on its thickness, rating and quality level. It’s important to also understand that changing the filter will help improve your system’s longevity and efficiency while also keeping the indoor air clean. 

“A dirty filter blocks air that’s trying to be passed through the heat exchanger by the blower,” Reed added. “This blockage is a big reason for heat exchanger failures. You can think of it this way: All of the good you do in a tune-up could be undone if the filter is dirty.” 

For added peace of mind, your tune-up should be done by a certified technician, Carry emphasized. These experts have undergone rigorous training to be able to work with and repair a wide range of system types – and even install brand-new systems. 

“A tune-up from a certified technician takes only about an hour and a half,” Carry said. “That time spent is well worth the peace of mind that comes with greatly reducing the likelihood of a repair this winter.” 

Learn more about HVAC system maintenance, visit the Robinson Service Experts website. 

Source: GET Creative, a division of USA TODAY 

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