Simple furnace maintenance you can do yourself
Q: My oven seems to be working properly, but I want to run it at maximum efficiency. Are there simple maintenance tasks on the furnace that I can perform myself on a regular basis?
A: An oven, especially today’s models with all of the electronics, is a complicated piece of equipment, but there are some simple things you can do yourself to keep it working efficiently. Your summer air conditioning costs will also be lower because they use the same air conditioner (fan) as the stove.
If you decide to do some of the maintenance yourself, don’t skip the regular professional checks. Many serious problems with an oven show no noticeable symptoms that only a professional can tell. Not only will some add to your utility bills, but they can also be dangerous.
Check how much energy your home uses from year to year. Compare the actual consumption of gas, oil, electricity, etc., not just the bills. Also take into account the variations in the severity of the weather from year to year. The energy consumption for lighting, water, heating and appliances does not fluctuate much from year to year.
During your annual maintenance check, always check the safety elements first. Drizzle some soapy water on the gas and propane line connections. Look for bubbles that indicate a leak. If you find a leak of any kind, get away immediately and call your gas company. You will usually see and smell a fuel oil leak.
Visually inspect the cable insulation leading to the oven, but do not touch it. If you see any flaws, turn off the circuit breaker first before checking them in more detail. Make sure you have all of the circuit breakers as an electric oven uses 240 volts of electricity.
With the power off, unscrew and remove the side cover to access the fan. A clean fan moves the room air more efficiently and helps to keep the heat exchanger surfaces clean. They also transfer heat (and cooling in summer) when they are clean.
Use a vacuum brush attachment to remove dust build-up from the fan. Wipe all surfaces with a damp rag to pick up more dirt. Some older systems have bearing oil cups on the engine. Put a drop of oil in each cup. This is a good time to change or clean the central oven filter.
It is important to tighten the screws when you install the side cover. Also check all other screws for tightness. If they are loose, air can enter through gaps instead of flowing through the heat exchanger. This can reduce efficiency. For a heat pump, also check the screws on the outdoor unit.
Lines are often very leaky and the heated air never gets into the rooms. Turn up the thermostat to start the oven. Keep your hand near each duct connection to check for leaks. Clean the dust off the duct and wrap these spots with black gorilla tape.
Check the thermostat’s accuracy by temporarily taping a bulb thermometer on the wall next to it. You may be keeping your home several degrees warmer than you thought, and this will add to your utility bills.
Q: I was up in my attic and noticed a large gap between my brick chimney and the attic. I could feel a light breeze rushing upwards. What’s the best way to block this leak?
A: Cut aluminum sheet a little larger than the distance from the joists to the chimney. Place a bead of sealing bead on the joists and nail the facing onto it. Bend the edge over the side of the beam.
Using a piece of wood as a straight edge, hammer it against the other end of the surround and chimney to create an upward bend firmly against the chimney. Run a heavy sealant to seal it against the chimney.
• Write to James Dulley, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit dulley.com.