Basic Furnace Repair and Maintenance

Basic furnace maintenance can prolong the life of your furnace, save energy and reduce frustration.

| Feb. 6, 2008

furnace filter

Changing your furnace filter on a regular basis is one of the easiest and most inexpensive things you can do to maintain your furnace and household air quality.


“It’s a clinker! That blasted, stupid furnace! Dadgummit!” shouts Ralphie’s father in A Christmas Story. Then we hear incomprehensible cursing as the father tumbles down the basement stairs to work on the furnace, and the narrator (Ralphie as an adult) says, “In the heat of battle, my father wove a tapestry of obscenity that, as far as we know, is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan.” 

Ever feel that way? Such emotion is understandable when your furnace quits working on a cold day. But some basic maintenance can save you aggravation and minimize unexpected problems. You can schedule a tuneup with a technician each year, but there are some simple things you can do yourself, too. 

Be sure to turn off power to your furnace before working on it so that a motor doesn’t start while you’re tinkering. You can usually change a filter without turning off the gas or oil supply, but for all other maintenance be cautious and turn off the fuel supply. Before you do, be sure you know how to relight the pilot light. 

With almost any heating system, replacing the thermostat with a programmable digital thermostat will save energy. These thermostats automatically adjust the temperature of your home to keep you comfortable when you’re there and save energy when you’re not.

At a very minimum, change the air filter in any forced-air furnace on a monthly basis. A good programmable thermostat will remind you when to change the filter. Some experts recommend inexpensive fiberglass filters; others, midrange filters that trap smaller particles. Furnace performance should not be impacted if filters are changed regularly. Base filter selection on your sensitivity to air-borne particles. Vacuum the blower and accessible areas of the furnace every few months. Even with regular filter changes dust will accumulate on the blades of the blower.

If you have an older natural gas or propane furnace, oil the motor and blower shafts — they only need a couple of drops of 20-weight oil on an annual basis. Most new models have sealed bearings that don’t need to be oiled.

2/14/2014 3:01:11 AM offers you preventive measures for your AC unit.

richard morriss
10/23/2008 2:03:23 PM

You can purchase a washable filter at a local store and use it. They make a washable electrostatic filter that have a good life cycle.

keith britton
10/22/2008 1:47:23 PM

To conserve landfill and trying to be environmentally sound, I sometimes clean and reuse my filters. What would you recommend for a more permanent answer to replacing filters monthly or tri-monthly?

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