Your heating system is either a hot-air furnace or a boiler supplying radiators or baseboard heaters. Between professional inspections, there are some basic checks you can carry out yourself. These are the main things to check:
Before starting any maintenance work, switch the furnace off (the switch looks like an ordinary light switch, and is usually on the wall near the furnace). Check the manufacturer’s instructions, and when in doubt, call a natural gas-certified professional.
- Check and clean the furnace filter throughout the heating season and if necessary, replace it. A dirty filter reduces air flow into the furnace and impairs performance. To access the fan or the filter, check the manufacturer’s manual.
- Inspect the fan or blower and wipe away any dust. If the motor drive belt shows wear, have it replaced.
- After checking the fan and the filter, close the access panel. Keep it closed at all times. Switch the furnace back on.
- If the fan motor needs lubrication, give it two drops of No. 20 light electric motor oil. Check the manufacturer’s instructions: some fan motors are sealed and do not require manual lubrication.
- Clean all the heat registers and cold-air returns in the home. Make sure they are not obstructed by drapes, carpets or anything else.
- A high-efficiency furnace may have different maintenance requirements.
Boiler with radiators or baseboard heaters
Before starting any maintenance work, switch the boiler and the pump off and check the manufacturer’s instructions. To determine what type of heating system you have, read the manufacturer’s instructions or check with the installer.
- At the beginning of each heating season, to ensure efficient operation, bleed the air from the radiators or baseboard units. Each one should have a valve, which can be opened by turning it counterclockwise. Have a small container ready to catch any water that leaks out. As soon as you have a continuous flow of hot water, close the valve.
- Check the water level in the expansion tank, in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Check whether your system has a pump requiring lubrication, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Finned-pipe hot water systems should be inspected annually and cleaned as required by a natural gas-certified professional.