Getting ready for winter in advance is important to make sure that you don’t run into major problems once cold weather hits. There are a lot of places in the home that will likely need some maintenance or upkeep as part of your winterization process. Of these, your furnace is one of the most important; falling behind on furnace maintenance can result in problems at the worst time, and getting them fixed in the cold of winter can be both difficult and expensive.

Fortunately, a lot of furnace maintenance is fairly easy to do even for complete beginners. There are several things that you can do if you want to make sure that your furnace is ready for winter. While the specifics may vary depending on your actual home heating setup and the type of furnace you have, here are some of the basics of furnace maintenance that you should keep in mind both for winter and throughout the year.

Furnace System Cleaning

There are several cleaning tasks that you should do every two to three months throughout the year, but that are especially important heading into cold weather after your heating system has been off for the summer. Replace your air filter and clean your system’s humidifier if it has one. If your system has a burner, you should also clean it to remove any dust, lint, or other debris that could affect functionality. Take the time to open up your vents and vacuum out the registers and ductwork as well, as there was likely a lot of dust and other buildup that occurred during the summer.

You should also take a little time to clean and test various sensors around your home to ensure that they are working properly. This includes things like smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, as they’ll be very important in case there’s some problem with your heating system. If you use gas heat, having a functional gas detector is also important. So if you don’t have one already, you should install one. If you do, make sure it is clean and working so that you’ll be alerted of any potential gas leaks before they can become dangerous.

General Maintenance

There are other basic maintenance tasks that you should perform in the lead-up to winter as well. Test your thermostat to make sure that your furnace is turning on and off automatically at the set temperatures. Check to make sure that blower fans can turn freely as well, and add a small amount of lubricant if needed to keep them spinning without grinding or hanging. Visually inspect the components of your furnace for signs of wear, rust, or damage; even small cracks can result in leaks or more significant damage once the furnace is in full operation.

Check out the function of your registers to make sure that they open and close as expected; this will help to ensure that the heat your furnace produces is going exactly where you want it to go and isn’t being blocked by a register that’s stuck closed. You should also turn on the furnace and let it run briefly to make sure that it is actually blowing warm air, since a heating problem is definitely something that you want to fix before winter comes. If you use a house fan as part of your summer cooling solution, make sure that it is turned off and closed for the winter so that you aren’t losing heat from your furnace as a result.

Getting a Pre-Winter Inspection

Depending on your furnace setup, there may be a lot of components that need to be checked to make sure that everything works properly. This can be a big job for beginners, which is why many HVAC companies offer pre-winter inspections that identify and fix potential issues before they can become major problems. We can help you find a company in our area offering this sort of inspection; to connect with HVAC pros and inquire about their pre-winter specials. Your furnace will be glad that you did.

This content is not the product of the National Association of REALTORS®, and may not reflect NAR's viewpoint or position on these topics and NAR does not verify the accuracy of the content.