Regular inspection and maintenance is the best way to ensure reliability of your natural gas furnace. You can do most procedures quite easily, but a qualified and licensed gas contractor should inspect and service your furnace at the intervals recommended in the owner’s manual; usually annually.
Here’s what you can do:
Safety note: WHEN INSPECTING OR CHANGING FILTERS OR FAN BELTS, BE SURE TO SHUT OFF THE ELECTRICITY AT THE FURNACE SWITCH AND AT THE CIRCUIT BREAKER PANEL FIRST.
1. Change or clean filters at least every three months and keep the fan compartment door tightly closed. Filters are located at or near the blower compartment of the furnace and are usually held in place by a simple clip.
2. If your furnace has a fan belt, inspect it for cracks or signs of wear (and replace if necessary) at the same time you change the furnace filters.
3. Keep vents and air returns clear of obstructions like furniture, lint, dust or pet hair.
4. Check the chimney and appliance vent system at least once a year to ensure that the pipe is connected securely, that there are no signs of corrosion or damage, and that nothing has fallen into the base of the chimney or into the flue.
5. Keep the area around the furnace clear. Do not store items against the furnace. Do not store flammable items in the furnace room.
6. If you enclose the furnace, do so with assistance from a licensed gas contractor.
7. If your furnace motor has oiling points, apply one or two drops of SAE 20 non-detergent oil every heating season. Avoid over-oiling!
There are almost always warning signs if a furnace is malfunctioning.
The most common are listed here…
1. Frequent pilot light outages (not all furnaces have pilot lights, check your manual)
2. Delayed ignition (mid- and high-efficiency furnaces have an intentional delay, check your manual).
3. A yellow or wavering flame.
4. Excessive soot or corrosion on the appliance or vent system (white, brown or black streaks).
5. Too much or too little heat.
6. Any continuous or intermittent odour – either the “rotten egg” or sulfur smell of the odourant in natural gas or a sharp odour that may cause eyes to sting.
7. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: nausea, headaches, lethargy or other flu-like symptoms.
8. Indications that the flame has ‘rolled-out’ of the furnace – scorch marks by the door or other opening.
If you smell gas:
IF YOU SMELL GAS OR SUSPECT A GAS LEAK, CALL YOUR NATURAL GAS UTILITY EMERGENCY LINE. Take the time to locate the proper number and keep it handy in the event you may need it.
If your pilot light goes out:
Most natural gas appliances with pilot lights are designed to shut off automatically if the pilot goes out. To relight the pilot, follow the manufacturer’s instructions (usually located on a metal plate near the furnace burner or gas controls). If it fails to relight, turn off the manual valve in the natural gas supply to the furnace and call a qualified and licensed gas contractor.
NOTE: Many newer gas furnaces do not have a pilot light. Check your owner’s manual.