Winter Home Care: Be a Friend to Your Furnace!

If you rely on a furnace (or boiler) to keep your home warm throughout the winter, there are several things you should do on a routine basis to help keep your furnace working year round. Plumbers are often called out to homes dealing with froze or burst pipes when the weather drops below zero and furnaces stop working.

There are several areas to check before the cold sets in:

1. One of the main reasons for a failed furnace is through dirt in the pipe work. This is mostly a check you will not be able to do safely yourself, so arrange to have your furnace overhauled yearly by an expert. This should ideally take place in the late summer or early fall, to prevent dirt build up over time and to keep your furnace firing efficiently.
2. Amazing though it sounds, when cold sets in, it can often be ice that can cause a furnace breakdown. Having a regular overhaul ensures that components such as filters inside the furnace are cleaned and, as necessary, replaced. This can avoid the chance of a buildup of icy sludge forming inside, which could then freeze overnight if the heating is turned off.
3. Another ice problem can come from any waste or ‘condensing’ pipe that leaves the boiler and leads to the frozen outdoor climate. The moisture in the waste pipe is obviously prone to freezing, so do check that any condensate pipe is properly lagged against cold weather. This should have been done at the point of installation, but if you are unsure, do take specialist advice to check that this is done properly.
4. The nature of problems can depend on the fuel that your furnace uses, e.g. gas, wood, oil or electric. Left unchecked, the smallest problem with any of these furnaces could lead to harmful emissions in the home or even house fires, so it is important to make sure that, as well as a tune-up from a specialist, you winter-ready your furnace room. Make sure that there are no toxic or flammable chemicals, for example, creosote from summer work in the garden, which has been abandoned on the side and forgotten about. Clear out any old rags and garden textiles, then sweep or vacuum through to remove debris that could get sucked into furnace pipe work. Keep the area clear and tidy.

Remember that in prolonged cold snaps, your furnace may be working 24 hours a day, so it makes real sense to take all steps not only to prevent breakdowns but also to ensure that it is running as cost effectively and efficiently as possible.

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