To turn on the heater or not to turn on the heater? That is the question of the evening in Houston during the winter. At this time of year, the days are warm, but the nights might get a little chilly. This makes it twice as important that you do a good check of your furnace before you turn it on for the first night. No one wants to be woken in the middle of the night with a furnace malfunction.
With that in mind, here are a few areas to be sure and check before your first heated night:
For this, I mean the area around the furnace and any parts. This is a good time to change your air filters, clean the ducts, and clean around and in the furnace area. Your vacuum and brush attachment work great for this. Be sure to move any rags, paper, or other items that may have been stored near the furnace while it has not been in use. Also, as the weather is no longer brain boiling hot, now might be a good time to climb into your attic and check the ductwork for any damage. Small holes, loose connections, and gaps at branching points can be easily repaired with duct tape.
If your furnace has a blower with a belt, inspect the belt for cracks and general wear and tear. The belt should depress slightly when you push down on it with your fingers. You will only need to remove a couple of bolts if you need replace a worn belt.
During the heating season, high efficiency furnaces may drain as many as two gallons of water a day, which can cause residue to accumulate in the drain hose. Remove the hose and fill it with a solution of 25 percent bleach and 75 percent water. Flush the hose after a few minutes.
This is a great time to change the batteries and test your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. Your furnace is just one more hazard increasing the risk of smoke, carbon monoxide, and fire.
Whether your furnace vents out the side wall of your home (via direct vent) or through a chimney, check to make sure it is free of obstructions. If your unit vents up the exhaust flue of a chimney, birds and debris may fall through the opening. Disconnect the duct at the furnace and check for debris.
If you are like me, this may be more than you are comfortable with. A quick call to your heating and air conditioning specialist can get this checked out. You definitely do not want the first time your heater kicks on to be while you are sleeping.