Sometimes owning a home can be awesome and exciting, such as sitting outside in the summer and enjoying a lazy sunny afternoon. And sometimes, it can be boring, like home maintenance. But you know what isn’t boring? Not having to replace big ticket items because you listened to your friendly neighbourhood home inspector and spent a little time taking care of your castle. And your furnace is one of those big-ticket items.
If you live in Canada you need to take care of your furnace. Most homeowners know to change the filter in their furnace, and if you’re not up to date on that ñ do it now. But that filter isn’t there to protect your lungs (as much as the HEPA marketers want you to think it is). It’s there to protect the blower motor. So, make sure the filter is clean because that 2 a.m. phone call in January to the furnace repair shop can be an expensive call!
When I’m doing a home inspection, I tell my clients that there are 2 things that they can do to assess the status of their furnace (assuming they’ve already replaced the filter). The first thing is to look at the flame in the burner, and the second is to check air flow.
Take the main cover panel off and look to see the flame (some furnaces have a view hole so you don’t have to remove anything). You want it to be clear blue. The more orange and yellow you see, the less efficient it is. It’ll still heat your home, but it’s like lighting a campfire with a flickering match; you can do it, but you’ll burn half a dozen matches. An inefficient furnace will still heat your home, but it’ll burn through more fuel to do it. If you have a mid-efficiency furnace and you’re seeing 50% of the flame is yellow/orange, call a technician. If you have a high efficiency furnace and you see more than 25% of the flame is orange/yellow, call a technician.
The second thing you can do is ensure you have proper airflow throughout your home. Go to the heat registers and check for airflow. If it’s limited, and your filter is clean, then the blower motor may need servicing. Or you may need to keep your children from putting their toys down the heat register (I can’t tell you how much Lego I’ve pulled out of my heat registers!).
Having an inefficient burner or blower motor doesn’t necessarily mean you have to replace the whole furnace. Sometimes servicing from a qualified technician will buy you many more years of furnace life. So, after you’ve replaced your filter, check those 2 things. If one or both of them aren’t up to expectations, have a reputable technician come and check it.