Turning on the Furnace for the First Time Each Year

 In Blog

Even as an HVAC Tech, I get nervous turning my furnace on for the first time each Fall or Winter. I don’t know why either. I guess it has to do with that smell that emits from the ducts that first time you turn it on every year. Or just the fact that a lot of us are dealing with a gas fired furnace that actually blows flames into a fire box for us to get warm. These are common issues discussed every year when the first cold snap hits. Generally in our area we only get really cold in December and January anyways, but it’s not uncommon for November and February and even March to have cold rainy days that require us to have some form of heat going in our house.

Although you may be nervous to turn your system on, Do It! Do it when it’s nice out still, like in October or November. You know why? Because if you wait to turn your furnace or heat pump on until that cold snap hits, and your system doesn’t work, you may find yourself at the end of a long line of other callers to the local heating and air conditioning company’s waiting list. Companies that have a maintenance program like Fox Family Heating and Air Conditioning reward their monthly members by putting them at the front of the line for diagnostic and troubleshooting calls.

The single most important thing a homeowner or renter can do to make sure their system runs trouble-free is to change their filter every month or two.

The single most important thing a homeowner or renter can do to make sure their system runs trouble-free is to change their filter every month or two. A lot of people think they need to change their filter every three months or even six months! Not changing these filters on a more regular basis will lead to problems for the longevity of your system. Why? Because if a system can’t breathe in, it can’t breathe out correctly. Almost like trying to breathe through a wet towel. It’s torturous on your fire-box or heat exchanger. The system is designed for a certain amount of air to run through the blower motor and then on past the hot fire box or heat exchanger and then in to the ducts and out the registers to your rooms. If the air slows down because a dirty air filter is preventing all of the air to go through the filters efficiently, than the heat exchanger is going to overheat and start causing intermittent problems like shutting down.

Okay so now that our filter or filters are clean and we are going to turn on our system now; what should I expect? The clicking of the thermostat letting you know the thermostat has sent a signal to the furnace. The whining of the inducer motor coming on for the first time this year. The familiar thunderous sounds of the gas flames shooting into the heat exchanger, and about a minute later, the warm air coming out of your vents. You know that smell you get when you turn your furnace on for the first time every year? It’s actually a fine layer of dust that has most likely worked its way through your filter and blower and settled on your heat exchanger. It’s totally normal! No worries. If it bothers you too much, maybe open the door or some windows and vent it that way. Rest assured, it’s not carbon monoxide because that gas is odorless and can really only be detected by a carbon monoxide detector.

Remember to get your furnace maintained every year by a state certified contractor like Fox Family Heating and Air Conditioning and it should give you many good years of service.

By the way, this is a great time to change those batteries in your existing smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. If you can’t reach your detectors or monitors, feel free to call Fox Family Heating and Air Conditioning to do it for you. Also your local fire department is always trying to remind folks to change the batteries in their detectors and monitors. I’m sure they would be happy to help a citizen of their community out as well, and probably free of charge. Oh yeah, and it would be super convenient if you had the new batteries ready to go for us to put in.

If you don’t already have someone coming out to your house to clean and check all of your HVAC system and its components, Fox Family Heating and Air Conditioning offers a super easy way to have it done automatically. You won’t even have to remember to call us. We take care of it all. Just like your car runs better when it’s been cleaned and maintained at the local lube spot, your furnace will too. Every Fall or Winter is a good time to get the required maintenance done on your heating system. Don’t have a desire to be on an automatic program? Call for a furnace tune-up. A typical cleaning lasts 45 minutes to an hour and a half. It’s usually about a 30 point checklist, but I’ll go into that on another post.

A couple other safety suggestions for furnace operation:

  • Some people like to rest brooms, leaf blowers, and weed eaters against their furnace in the garage. Some of this stuff is considered combustible and should be removed from the area considering there’s an open flam just inches away.
  • Make sure no boxes are slid up against your furnace, the furnace is constructed with vents for fresh air to get into the flame for a proper burn. Clogging up the area in front of the furnace can cause issues with combustion.

This wraps up our discussion on the intimidating task of firing up your furnace for the first time each year. Just remember, your furnace has all kinds of safety features built in which will shut it down in case of flame roll-out, too much heat, or some other safety issue. Remember to get your furnace maintained every year by a state certified contractor like Fox Family Heating and Air Conditioning and it should give you many good years of service.

Contact me if you have any questions or want to schedule a quick maintenance review of your system.

Greg Fox

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