You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 6 a.m.

Maintaining your furnace will result in a warm winter

By Keith A. Paul


Photo by: Nicholas Paul

Hi Keith, Last year, my parent's furnace went out during one of the coldest days in February. The contractor said it needed repair because of lack of maintenance. Although our furnace is only five years old, what do you recommend I do to prevent this from happening again, especially with two young children in the house?

—Danny R., Ypsilanti

Hi Danny,
As the saying goes, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." It is true with the case of your furnace and especially with the newer model furnaces.

"Newer furnaces are more maintenance intolerant compared to older models," according to Walter Zarb, owner of PlumbPro Plumbing and Heating.

"They have more electronics with a control board and are much more sensitive to dirt, dust and mold."

Taking some time could not only save you hundreds in repair bills, but is also a must for family safety.

Have a yearly inspection from a licensed professional. I would look closely at the companies offering furnace cleaning for $39 or lower. The cost of a legitimate contractor to perform this inspection is more than the $39.

Why? They must be licensed and properly insured, add the vehicle expense, gas, and hiring the right employee it is all expensive. But well worth it when it comes to having your furnace correctly inspected. Although most of the items below are reviewed during inspection, it is also good for you to know and perhaps attempt some of the tasks yourself.

Replace or clean the furnace filter regularly. First, turn off the furnace and determine your filter type. There are disposable, (typically 30 and 90 days), and then there are some that are washable and last many years. If you use disposable filters, I suggest keeping a case of them available during the winter months.

While comparing which filters are best for you, check the MERV rating. The MERV test ratings are from American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). The ratings are 1 through 11, with the higher number being more efficient and leaving you with cleaner air.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 170 people die each year due to non-automotive consumer products. Install a carbon monoxide detector alarm that meets the requirements of the current UL 2034 safety standards.

Check the furnace flue. There are unsafe carbon monoxide gases released from furnaces which can be deadly. Check to ensure connections are tight and replace any missing screws. Also, correct any open gaps immediately.

Clean out all debris inside the unit. It is common for dust, dirt, and rust to accumulate in the bottom of the furnace and air filter area. Grab your shop vacuum and go at it.

Turn the furnace on and ensure each burner is lit. Any unlit burners means your furnace may be running inefficiently and needs to be addressed. This repair is best left to the professionals.

A clean and well-maintained furnace will not only give you peace of mind during the blustery cold winter months, but can save you quite a bit of money and keep you and your family safe.

Paul is a State of Michigan Licensed Builder. Paul serves as President and founding member of Nationally franchised HandyPro Handyman Service, servicing Washtenaw, Wayne and Oakland Counties. Listen to Paul every Saturday at 11 a.m. on “It’s Your Business, Make It Happen” WAAM Talk 1600AM. Email questions or comments to