Guidelines for Professional Furnace Inspections
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Guidelines for Professional Furnace Inspections

While there are many repairs that a skilled do it yourselfer can perform on their home heating system, there are several points that require special training and tools. This type of service should be left to professional HVAC technicians. This article will detail some of the more important points that should be included in a typical furnace tune-up. It is important that your furnace is maintained and working properly before cold weather starts.

While there are many repairs that a skilled do it yourselfer can perform on their home heating system, there are several points that require special training and tools. This type of service should be left to professional HVAC technicians. This article will detail some of the more important points that should be included in a typical furnace tune-up. It is important that your furnace is maintained and working properly before cold weather starts.

Operation and Visual Inspection

Something any homeowner can do, but the technician needs to verify the operation of the thermostat and the heating system. The thermostat is set to “HEAT” and the ignitor and jets on the burner are checked to verify proper operation and combustion.

The unit is shut off and the technician performs a visual inspection of the venting system. The condition of vents and flues are checked as are the seals around any connections and joints. Metal vents should be sealed using at least three metal screws per connection. High-efficiency furnaces will have a condensate line somewhere on the exhaust flue that should be inspected for leaks, rust, or clogs.

Covers and Filter Check

The furnace covers are removed and the interior of the box is inspected for any signs or oil, moisture, rust, soot, or debris. The filter is checked and replaced as required. Older units will have a basket type filter media holder that slides out and newer units will have either disposable rectangular filters or an electronic filter.

Note: When changing your filters, make sure the new filter is installed in the correct orientation with the air-flow indicator arrow pointing in the direction toward the furnace.

Inspecting the Blower

The HVAC technician will inspect the condition of the blower to make certain there are no obstructions. Older furnaces may have blower motors that require annual lubrication. Newer models may have permanently sealed bearings that require no lubricants. The technician will also inspect the belt tension and look for obstructions or signs of wear around the blower shaft and connections. The wiring harness is also inspected for any wear or damaged insulation. The voltage and amperage is also checked while the blower is running.

Other checks include fan limit control at room temperature, and at several temperature points such as 100, 130, and 200 degrees.

Cleaning and Inspecting the Burners

The burners are obviously a critical component of the heating system and they require special attention to work correctly. The burners are removed from the combustion chamber for cleaning and to allow access for further inspection. The inside of the chamber is inspected for rust, cracks, warping, and gaps in the seams. Heat exchangers should be inspected in the same way or they can be inspected when the unit is in operation with an infrared camera to look for hot spots.

The burners are cleaned using a vacuum or wire brush to remove any dust and debris. Natural gas burners are typically very clean and there should only be white or light gray fine ash. Black soot, rust or dirt could be a sign of improper combustion. Oil burners require more cleaning and adjustments that should only be performed by a skilled technician.

The sensor and pilot is cleaned with a wire brush and an emery cloth. Newer furnaces will have a hot surface ignitor or electronic ignition that does not require cleaning. The flame sensor or fire eye can be checked using an Ohmmeter.

Safety Tests

Specialized tools are required for some safety inspections. A gas meter may be used to measure the amount of fuel entering the burner, and a flue gas analyzer can be used to measure the burner efficiency. Carbon monoxide is measured to determine that the burner is working safely and cleanly. The "high limit" on the furnace is verified to prevent overheating.

Tips:  Install a carbon monoxide alarm inside of your home to alert you if potentially dangerous carbon monoxide gas levels get too high in your living space. There are also combination CO and natural gas detectors that will also alarm in the presence of a natural gas leak.

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