Putting your furnace to bed for the summer

Summer Furnace Maintenance

by Benjamin Roussey

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Winter is coming to a close, and you heave a sigh of relief as you prepare to enjoy the warm weather. But before you can start taking advantage of clear, sunny skies, you have to properly shut down your furnace. Even if you are not using your furnace, it consumes some amount of energy, and switching off the furnace will keep you from wasting energy and money.

Things to Do

Most gas and propane furnaces have a pilot light, which should be switched off during the summer or the warmer months. Doing this will also ensure that the air conditioner will function efficiently. The gas or oil valve in the fuel line connected to the furnace must also be switched off. This is also an ideal time to carry out a routine inspection of the furnace and pinpoint any problems that might have occurred during the winter. If you have been thinking of replacing your furnace, now might be the time to seriously consider this option.


Change the furnace filter. You have to do this even if you have been regularly cleaning the filter during winter while the furnace was fully operational. Also, vacuum the compartment where the filter is placed to clear it of any dust. Also vacuum the blower fan.

Over the years, furnaces tend to develop cracks in the combustion chamber and this can cause carbon monoxide to leak into the home. Carbon monoxide is routinely produced even in efficient furnaces but only in minute amounts. So, adding a carbon monoxide detector if you do not have one already is a wise move. The alarms need to be plugged into electrical outlets or wired into the electrical system.

Burner compartments must be inspected for any accumulation of debris. Use a bottle brush or other soft brush to avoid damaging the burners during the cleaning process. A vacuum cleaner with an appropriate attachment can also get the job done. Check the furnace belt for damage. Bad belts should be replaced. Most furnace motors are sealed and permanently lubricated, but there are those that have covered oil ports above the bearings. These will have to be lubricated every year.

Repair or Replace?

If your furnace needs extensive repairs or is no longer energy efficient, you might be considering replacing it. Do it now. Don't wait until the cold weather hits in October. You won't have time to properly shop and there could be some delays in installation.

New furnaces typically have electronic ignition and are over 90% energy efficient. The new furnaces will have AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) ratings showing their efficiency. Some features of a highly-rated energy efficient furnace are modulating combustion and variable speed blower fans, which can help the furnace function at a lower capacity when the weather isn't at its coldest.

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By carrying out these simple repairs and maintenance checks, you can keep your furnace in tiptop condition all through the year and ensure that you are not literally left in the cold next winter. You'll keep your furnace operating at peak efficiency and extend its life.

Reviewed March 2017

Benjamin Roussey is from Sacramento, CA, and grew up doing all varieties of home improvement projects around the home since his parents did not hire contractors or outside help to maintain their home or vehicles. As a result, he has acquired a multitude of home handyman skills in plumbing, carpentry, electrical and everything in between. He also has two Masters degrees and he served four years in the U.S. Navy.

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