Spring furnace maintenance is really all about making sure your furnace is in good shape for next fall/winter. It also ensures that when it's time to turn on your air conditioning in the summer, your system is ready to go.
A majority of Canadian households run their furnaces from October to March or April. That's about 6-7 months of furnace use, on average. Those who have HVAC systems that produce both heat in winter and cool air in summer run their systems nearly year-round.
No matter what kind of system you have at home, the constant use means wear and tear on parts. Running a furnace or HVAC system is just like running a car: the more you use it, the faster it will wear out. This is why your system needs regular maintenance, just like your car does.
Your system should be "tuned up" at two critical points each year: pre-fall/winter (before you need to use your heat) and spring (when you transition from using heat to turning off your furnace and using your air conditioning). Here's what you should be focusing on in the spring:
1) Pressure wash the outdoor condensing unit or heat pump. Spring is the best time to do this. Wait until the weather has warmed up and you're certain that you won't be using your heat again until the fall. Pressure washing of this component removes winter grime and bits of gravel that frequently get caught inside of parts during the cold, wet and slushy weather. It also helps to loosen up and remove dead leaves that may have gotten caught in its parts. A clean system runs more efficiently. Plus, you're less likely to incur damage to parts from all those bits.
2) Check your filter. Your furnace filter needs to be replaced approximately every 3-4 months when you are regularly using your system. Here are some general tips on how to decide whether you need to change the filter or not:
* Is the filter visibly dirty or clogged? If you can see bits of dust and debris in it, it's a good idea to change it. If dust and debris is minimal and you don't plan on running your system for a few months, you can opt to change it before you turn it on in the fall. Just don't forget! If there's a lot of debris in it, go ahead and change it now.
* Check the color of the filter. Filters may be white, gray or cream-colored. Even if there is minimal visible debris caught in the filter, you should change it if the color of the filter has changed/darkened.
* When you replace the filter, write the date on the new one in permanent marker. This way you'll know for certain whether you've been using it longer than three or four months.
* If your filter has been in use for more than four months, change it even if it doesn't seem very dirty. Not all debris can be seen, and your furnace will perform more efficiently with a clean filter.
3) Get your system inspected. You should do this at least once per year. If you do it in the fall, it may not be necessary to do it again in the spring.
However, spring is an ideal time to attend to this task. This way you won't freeze if it turns out that there is something wrong or if a part needs replacing. Few things are worse than waiting until the first cold snap of autumn to turn on the furnace, only to discover that it's not working, and now you're stuck with no heat while you wait for a new part to be ordered and installed.
For the same reasons, spring time is a great time to replace an old furnace or HVAC with a new one. Replacing a furnace usually takes some time, anywhere from days to weeks. Doing it in spring means you won't go without heat and air conditioning during other times of the year when you really need it.
Sandium Heating and Air Conditioning is your spring furnace maintenance specialist.
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