The short answer is no. It’s always a better idea to contact a local professional heating and cooling specialist to work on your furnace. That said, there are some minor troubleshooting tasks and preventative maintenance chores that require no special skills or tools. In this article, we will explore this topic in more detail to promote safety and to help you protect your furnace from damage that can be expensive to fix.
Protecting Your Investment
Before we begin, it’s important to evaluate the cost of a furnace and your heating system to make a value judgment. Why? Well, if you’re going to work on equipment and you lack familiarity with it, there are certain risks. If you have no formal training as an HVAC technician and you have no experience working with heating and cooling systems, there is a potential for injury and damage.
A furnace represents a significant investment in your indoor comfort, and it makes good sense to protect that investment. After all, you wouldn’t work on your car if you have no experience as a mechanic. This philosophy can be extended to others that you may hire to work on the HVAC system too. Hiring a local “handyman” may lead to an expensive repair bill when you call a professional to fix the original and new damage.
If you still have a warranty on your furnace, you may invalidate it if you choose to work on it yourself or hire an amateur. The best way to protect your investment is to hire a local trusted HVAC specialist with a proven track record.
Which Furnace Tasks Can I Tackle?
Developing DIY skills and building a collection of tools is a laudable goal. There are many ways to use these hard won skills to work on your home and save money. But, when it comes to your furnace, you need to limit your activities to troubleshooting, cleaning, and preventative maintenance. These are all essential tasks, which can improve performance, energy efficiency, and safety in your home. Let’s take a look at four tasks that you tackle in more detail.
1. Locate the Owner’s Manual
Before you do anything, it’s important to locate the owner’s manual and read it carefully. Many people misplace or lose their manual, but you should be able to find a free pdf copy online, and printing it out is a great idea. After all, if you need to refer to the manual during a power outage, it may not be useful to have it on your favorite mobile device or computer. A good owner’s manual will contain a wealth of useful information on furnace filter changes, general maintenance, safety tips, and more.
2. Simple Troubleshooting
If the furnace is not performing as expected, it’s always a good idea to check the thermostat first. This is the brain of the entire HVAC system, and any problems with the thermostat can prevent heating. First, make sure that the heat is “On” because many people forget to change the temperature when the seasons change. Another common problem is a dirty or faulty sensor in the thermostat that’s sending incorrect information. If the ambient temperature readings are wrong, the HVAC system cannot evaluate the need for heating or cooling accurately. Finally, check that the thermostat has power and install some fresh batteries if you’re not sure.
3. Cleaning the Furnace
Keep the area around the furnace free of clutter for easy access to clean and maintain the equipment. To clean the furnace, shut off the power and gas valve and wipe down the exterior with a clean damp rag. Then use a shop vac or vacuum with an upholstery attachment to clean the burners, base, and blower unit. Clean the pilot light or hot surface igniter with a gentle blow using a drinking straw. Clean the flame sensor with a light emery cloth and check the drive belt for signs of wear and tear. Lubricate the blower motor and shaft bearings, and then change the furnace filter (more on this below).
4. Changing the Furnace Filter
Every day the air in the home passes through the furnace filter multiple times. In a forced-air HVAC system, the air is distributed via a blower motor driving a fan through the ductwork and out of the vents. The system relies on a steady supply of air to work properly, and if the filter is clogged, there are a number of possible problems. The blower motor will work harder in an attempt to force the air through the obstructed filter. This drives up the energy bills, and it can cause overheating issues. If the component overheats, it will shut down automatically as a safety feature. But, damage will still occur, and this can lead to an unexpected repair bill or a premature replacement. A clogged air filter will also degrade the indoor air quality (IAQ), which can adversely affect the health of people living in the home.
The Importance of Hiring an HVAC Professional
When it comes to more complex work on a heating and cooling system, there is no replacement for a local trusted HVAC specialist. The most important reason to hire a professional is safety because the dangers and potential for injury is considerable. If you’re attempting a DIY repair on a gas furnace, there are gas main and electrical system dangers to consider. In many jurisdictions, it’s illegal for a person with no license to attempt a DIY repair on any appliance connected to gas main lines. If a job is botched, there could be a gas leak in the home which means a release of toxic gas and an explosion and fire risk. If you’re repairing and maintaining HVAC equipment with no relevant experience, it’s all too easy to make a costly mistake. This can result in a loss of heating when you need it most or, in extreme cases, an earlier than expected replacement.
If you need some essential furnace maintenance or a repair, contact your local heating and cooling specialist.