Getting The Heat On

How do I prepare my furnace for winter?

Great question and even better timing! The quick answer is, except for checking a few basic items, you don’t. This is a job for professionals. Winter is close and if it’s another few weeks before you get around to a furnace tune-up you are going to be waiting in line for your contractor.

One thing you can and should always do, at the beginning of the season and then monthly, is to change the furnace filter. You will find it in the metal duct connected to the furnace, just before the air enters the lower fan section. A clean filter improves efficiency, performance, and safety.

Did you know a perfectly good furnace can create CO because of a dirty filter!

By robbing a furnace of air, combustion (the burning of fuel) will not be complete and a byproduct of incomplete combustion is CO.

The new high-efficiency furnaces are essentially people proof; good care for a homeowner would be looking for rust and moisture on the floor or behind the front cover. Older furnaces, however, can very often be operated in a condition that permits back draft which allows deadly gases to enter the home. Here the main indicator of a problem would be loose metal chips or scorching near the burners behind the furnace door. With all furnaces you could check the quality of the burner flame.  This will tell you if it’s burning safely.  The entire flame should be blue; orange flame tips indicate improper burner settings and yellow tips indicate the presence of carbon monoxide. Finally, check the round exhaust pipe which is on the top of the furnace. If this is rusted, scorched, has holes, or is leaking moisture it is unsafe and needs to be replaced.

After all that…still make The Call

Having a pre-season professional tune-up will give you peace of mind and will very likely save you money over the heating season.

A furnace, out of tune, having a cracked heat exchanger or even missing covers can be a source of carbon monoxide emissions. Unfortunately, we don’t get a second chance with carbon monoxide. It is a tasteless, odorless, colorless gas that kills many people during the heating season.

Doug Hastings
MN Home Inspector, Minneapolis & St. Paul
ASHI Certified Inspector
Kaplan University, Home Inspection Lead Instructor

Rob ‘Pops’ Leslie
Kaplan Professionals, Retired


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