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Furnace maintenance must-knows

Help ensure that your home furnace runs smoothly and efficiently.

Staying cool, keeping warm: Those are the two essential functions of your furnace. But how do you judge when your furnace is nearing the end of its life or when it just needs a little TLC? And what steps can you take to make sure your furnace can do its job? Use these tips and essential pieces of home furnace maintenance information to find out.

Maintenance checklist:

  • Filter: Check it monthly and replace when suggested (or earlier, if needed). A clogged, dirty filter makes it harder for a furnace to do its job.
  • Ducts and vents: Your ducts should be securely fastened together, and vents should be clear of debris or dust. Vacuum and dust your home regularly to keep dirt out of air ducts. If your furnace uses a combustion air duct to pull in air from the outside, make sure nothing blocks the outdoor vent such as shrubs or debris.
  • Service: Schedule service calls as suggested in your owner’s manual or annually. The serviceperson can help you keep tabs on any issues with the condition or function of your furnace.

Average costs for a new furnace:

  • Gas furnace + installation: $3,600
  • Electric furnace + installation: $2,600

Average life span of a furnace:

Does efficiency matter?

  • Absolutely — a more-energy-efficient furnace equates to savings on your monthly utility bills. An Energy Star-certified gas furnace, for example, is about 15 percent more efficient than a non-Energy Star version.
  • A programmable thermostat can help manage your furnace and energy consumption.
  • Not sure whether your furnace is efficient? Ask your service professional what your annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating is. Below 80 percent may indicate it’s time for a new model.

Signs you may need a new furnace:

  • Your current furnace keeps breaking, leading to frequent disruptions and service calls.
  • You notice big jumps in energy consumption, even when there’s no associated jump in temperature extremes.
  • The heat coming out of your furnace is strange — one room is cold, another is hot, for example.
  • Your service professional indicates there are cracks or other problems.

If you need a new furnace…

  • Get three bids to compare.
  • Make sure that costs include removal and disposal of the old model.

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