According to the U.S. Department of Energy, home heating accounts for up to 42% of a utility bill. Ensure your furnace provides years of reliable and efficient service by maintaining it annually. Furnace maintenance helps you keep your system in peak condition and ward off emergency repairs. A clean furnace doesn’t waste fuel, and it runs more efficiently. In this guide, you’ll learn more about annual furnace maintenance, troubleshooting tips and when to call an HVAC professional.
General maintenance tips
To maintain a furnace properly, you need to take steps throughout the year. Following these tips can help ensure your furnace keeps firing up properly and putting out enough heat. Furnace maintenance includes the following:
- Change filter every one to three months: If you or anyone in your home suffers from allergies, it’s a good idea to change the filter monthly. Monthly filter changes are also wise if you have pets or frequent dust build-up.
- Clean floor vents: Cleaning floor vents with a vacuum brush helps reduce dust accumulation that happens each time the furnace fires up and blows air.
- Check any recommended connections or gauges: Temperature and pressure gauges tell you if the furnace is operating correctly. Check connections like ductwork, wiring and the thermostat that might loosen.
- Turn on unit every season it’s not in use: If a furnace is turned off for one month or longer, its valves might seize up. You can prevent that from happening by reactivating the furnace for a few minutes once every season it isn’t in use.
- Schedule yearly maintenance with an HVAC professional: Routine maintenance prices run around $90 but waiting can be costly; in-depth furnace cleaning and maintenance can go up to $180.
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Common furnace problems
In this section, learn about the top furnace issues that typically come up as well as how to address them, including which you can DIY, and when it’s better to hire an HVAC professional. We’ll also cover the general costs for professional repairs.
Blower motor issues
Your furnace needs a blower motor to move the heat it generates to other areas of your home. If your blower motor isn’t working anymore, you’ll notice your home isn’t heating efficiently. You can replace the blower motor without hiring an HVAC professional. But if you’re more comfortable having a pro handle it, you’ll pay between $400 and $600 for parts and labor for single-speed blower motors. Variable-speed blower motors range between $600 and $1,300 for parts and labor.
Water leaking from a furnace is usually easy to diagnose. Condensation builds up in high-efficiency furnaces, similar to an air conditioner. Sometimes condensate leaks happen due to clogged or damaged tubing. Hiring an HVAC professional to unclog, fix or replace the condensate line can cost between $75 and $250.
Control board problems
Typically, it requires an HVAC technician to look at and diagnose what’s wrong with the control board. If you want to attempt this fix without a professional, there are a series of error codes on the panel door. Look at the LED on the control board flashing error codes and match it up with the list on the panel. Hiring an HVAC professional to install a new control board ranges between $400 and $600. If you want to do it yourself, that averages between $50 and $250.
Filters help protect furnaces and help them run efficiently. Dirty filters decrease your furnace’s airflow. Without fresh air, the unit’s heat exchanger could deactivate because it’s too hot. You can change the filters yourself for between $10 and $50 using flat and pleated filters.
If your furnace doesn’t produce heat, the system might be experiencing an electrical short. In some systems, an electrical short can result in a power failure. You’ll need to hire an HVAC professional to diagnose and address this problem. Those repairs run around $300.
Ignitor isn’t working
Gas-powered pilot-ignitors are common on older furnaces. These ignitors have a flame that burns continuously. Newer furnaces have an electric ignitor. A common problem among gas furnaces is the pilot light going out. You can re-ignite your furnace by following the instructions in your user’s manual. Or, you can hire an HVAC professional to restart the furnace ignition system. Fixing the ignitor ranges between $15 and $90 for parts. Hiring an HVAC professional ranges between $120 and over $300.
The thermostat isn’t working
If dirty filters and broken hoses aren’t the culprits, your thermostat might be what’s causing your furnace problems. Sometimes issues like dust accumulation, faulty wiring and extreme temperature changes can cause your thermostat to malfunction. Hiring an HVAC professional to fix or replace the thermostat is usually $65 per hour for installation and between $20 and $250 for the thermostat itself.
How much does it cost for furnace maintenance?
Pricing for furnace maintenance varies. You can find flat rates between $80 and $180. Or, maintenance plans are available between $100 and $500 per year. Hiring an HVAC professional to come for a service call runs between $80 and $100.
How often should you have your furnace serviced?
Service your furnace at least once annually. However, the recommendation is to maintain it year-round in the spring and fall.
How do you clean a furnace?
Having a clean furnace keeps it running efficiently throughout the heating season and helps it last longer. Dust and debris accumulate on the furnace’s burners, so start by pulling those out and cleaning them with a stiff bristle brush. Use canned air to blow out the burners and vestibule. While everything is apart, change the air filter. Then, clean the panel vents and ductwork vents. Use a vacuum to clean the blower motor and heat exchanger.