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Getting to be that time of year: Maintain furnaces to ensure safety

The heating season is right around the corner, so it is time to make sure your heating system is working properly.

Heating and cooling account for about 55 percent of the energy used in a typical U.S. home, the largest energy expense for most households. Furnaces and boilers, the two most common ways to heat homes, should be inspected and adjusted on an annual basis to maintain efficiency and safety.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, prior to the heating season, the following maintenance for furnaces and boilers should be provided by a heating system professional:

  • Check the condition of your vent connection pipe and chimney. Parts of the venting system may have deteriorated over time. Chimney problems can be expensive to repair and may help justify installing new heating equipment that will not use the existing chimney.
  • Check the physical integrity of the heat exchanger. Leaky boiler heat exchangers leak water and are easy to spot. Furnace heat exchangers mix combustion gases with house air when they leak — an important safety reason to have them inspected.
  • Adjust the controls on the boiler or furnace to provide optimum water and air temperature settings for both efficiency and comfort.
  • If you’re considering replacing or retrofitting your existing heating system, have the technician perform a combustion-efficiency test.

Furnace filters should be replaced according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. A clogged filter will cause the furnace to work harder, reducing efficiency and comfort.