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posted: 10/7/2013 6:00 AM

Fall is the perfect time for a furnace tuneup

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  • What's included in a furnace tuneup will vary greatly from company to company. Certified technicians can detect future problems in addition to cleaning up existing parts.

      What's included in a furnace tuneup will vary greatly from company to company. Certified technicians can detect future problems in addition to cleaning up existing parts.

 
By Sharon Naylor
Creators.com

As the temperature changes from summer warmth to fall coolness, it's the perfect time to schedule a tuneup for your furnace. Doing so now, while your furnace is working, prevents the nightmare of a dead furnace in the middle of winter, with its lofty costs for an emergency visit by a repairman, which can run you hundreds of dollars in just a site fee and another possible couple of hundred for repair parts and labor.

If your furnace has been operating on straining parts for a long time, you may also run the risk of expense and hassle of having to get an entirely new furnace. That can be prevented by making a simple phone call now to a reputable heating, ventilation and air conditioning, or HVAC, company to set up your annual furnace checkup and tuneup.

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What's included in a furnace tuneup will vary greatly from company to company. Overall, your technician will check vent systems for blocks and leakages, analyze gases, check for a tight seal at the blower access door, check and clean fresh intake grills and louvers, inspect the heat exchange for rust and corrosion, check the burners for proper ignition and flame, check the drainage system for blockages and leaks, check the internal hoses, clean the drains and traps, clean the blower wheel, check the wiring for corrosion and damage, check the filter, oil the motor and check gas pressure and temperature rises, among other checkpoint items. Each of these tasks may carry some risks if you attempt them yourself, so a trained and accredited professional's work is a wise choice since you get their trained eye and top-of-the-line testing gauges.

When you do call an HVAC company, be sure to ask for a technician who is NATE-certified. NATE stands for North American Technician Excellence and is an HVAC industry certification of quality. NATE-certified technicians can detect wear and tear in a multitude of furnace systems, and a reputable one will suggest needed new parts in addition to cleaning up the existing ones.

Another benefit of scheduling a furnace tuneup is that your furnace warranty might require it. Check your product manual to see how often the manufacturer recommends tuneups and what the warranty states about regular maintenance schedules in order for your warranty to remain in effect.

As a smart consumer, be ready to look up prices of parts at www.furnacepriceguides.com/gas-furnace before your furnace repair technician's visit so that you're familiar with potential parts and labor costs, and keep that site bookmarked and easily accessible when your technician suggests any fix-ups. Of course, the technician's company sets the prices, but at least you'll have an idea of the average ballpark price.

When you get your furnace tuned up, you also arrange for the following:

• Saving energy. Regular maintenance can improve some furnace models' efficiency by about 25 percent. When your technician removes dust from the air ducts as part of your tuneup, your system will run more easily and use less energy, which cuts down on your expenses. The U.S. Department of Energy and the Alliance for Residential Building Innovation report that regular furnace tuneups and replacement of parts can result in cooling energy savings of 30 percent.

• Reduce air pollution. Well-maintained heating and air-conditioning systems will minimize greenhouse gas emissions, and some parts may be Energy Star-marked for eco-friendly use.

• Keep your family safe. A tuned-up furnace may be less likely to create dangerous and life-threatening carbon monoxide leaks. Your technician will test for leaks, encourage you to place a new carbon monoxide detector by your system, and also advise on additional safety hazards, such as storing flammable items too close to your furnace.

• Extend the life of your system. A tuned-up furnace working with less effort creates less wear and tear on parts and on the system as a whole. Tuneups extend the life of your furnace, perhaps preventing you from having to buy a new one any time soon.

• Prevent costly breakdowns. It's not just a full system replacement that can be the danger. Your furnace might stop working because a part is out of order, which requires you to call a technician, live without your furnace for days or longer until the technician can make it to your home. The broken part will cost money to replace, plus a lot more money in site visit and labor. These mini breakdowns can cost a lot of money over time, and a tuneup can prevent them.

• Prevent inconvenient service needs. If you have houseguests for Thanksgiving, that would be a terrible time for your furnace to break down. In addition to the lack of heat, it can be very embarrassing to have anything break down in front of family and friends. Winter's temperature extremes can make this an even bigger concern.

Once you have maintenance performed, appoint yourself the guardian of your newly tuned-up furnace by changing the filters regularly and keeping flammable items far from your furnace.

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