What Are Some DIY Tips for Keeping My Furnace Running Smoothly?

DYI Furnace Tips

Furnace maintenance is an important part of keeping your home cozy and comfortable during the cold winter. If you don’t pay attention to your furnace until problems arise, you could shorten its lifespan, hinder its performance, and end up with expensive repairs – often at the most inconvenient times.

While you should always schedule furnace maintenance from professional HVAC technicians, there are several effective DIY tips for keeping your furnace running smoothly that you can do as a homeowner. Here are some suggestions from the pros at Bell Brothers.

Key Takeaways:

  • Professional furnace maintenance is a key part of keeping your furnace operating properly.
  • DIY furnace maintenance can help you extend the life of your furnace in between professional tune-ups.

Clean Your Furnace

With regular use, dust, dirt, and debris accumulate inside your furnace and impact its efficiency and performance. Cleaning your furnace on a regular basis is a crucial part of your DIY furnace maintenance to ensure your furnace operates at its best.

Here are the steps to clean your furnace yourself:

  1. Turn off the power to your furnace.
  2. Remove the access panels to get to the interior components.
  3. Vacuum the interior with a vacuum and brush attachment to remove dust and debris from the burners, blowers, and other components. Be careful vacuuming around delicate components or using strong suction.
  4. Check and clean the fan blades with a soft brush or damp cloth.
  5. Clean the flame sensor with fine-grit sandpaper to remove any residue that may prevent clean ignition.
  6. Inspect and clean the air intake and exhaust vents to remove debris.
  7. Replace the access panels and fasten them securely.
  8. Turn the power back on and check that your furnace is operating correctly. If anything is amiss, contact an HVAC technician.

Change Your Air Filters

The one furnace maintenance task that any homeowner can perform easily and safely is changing the air filters – and it makes a huge difference in your furnace’s operation. Air filters are designed to trap dust, dirt, allergens, and other microscopic particles to prevent them from circulating in your home.


How often to change your filters depends on several factors, including your home’s air quality and the type of air filter you have. Disposable filters should be replaced every one to three months. Reusable air filters can be washed and reused according to the instructions.

If you check your air filters and they appear dirty, change them even if it isn’t time. Clean air filters have a big impact on your home’s airflow, your system’s efficiency, and your indoor air quality.

Adjust Your Thermostat

Your thermostat controls your furnace’s operation. If you’re not checking and adjusting it regularly, you could be overworking your system and affecting your home’s comfort.

Here are some things to watch for:

  • Check the battery:If your thermostat has batteries, make sure they have enough power and replace them as needed.
  • Clean the thermostat:Dust and dirt can get into the thermostat sensors and affect its accuracy. Gently clean the thermostat with a soft, dry cloth on a regular basis.
  • Verify the programming:If you have a programmable thermostat, make sure it’s set for the temperature and schedule you prefer.
  • Lower the temperature: Reducing the temperature by even just a few degrees when no one is home or overnight can make a big difference in your energy savings without impacting your comfort.
  • Check smart thermostat features:If you have a smart thermostat, check its features like the remote control and settings to ensure your furnace’s performance is optimized.

Lubricate Furnace Components

Furnaces have a lot moving parts that need to work properly for efficient operation. You may need to lubricate some of the smaller parts to reduce friction and prevent wear. In addition, properly lubricated parts can reduce excess noise in your furnace.

If you’re comfortable doing this yourself, here are the steps for lubricating your furnace components:

  1. Turn off the power to the furnace.
  2. Identify the lubrication points according to your owner’s manual.
  3. Use the lubricant recommended by your furnace’s manufacturer. If you’re not sure, consult with an HVAC technician.
  4. Apply the lubricant to the appropriate points according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.
  5. Restore power to the furnace and check that it’s operating properly.

Clean Around the Furnace

Most furnaces are kept in the basement, which is where a lot of stored items and clutter can end up huddled around it. Furnaces need proper ventilation and airflow to operate efficiently and safely, so keeping the area tidy is an important part of furnace maintenance.

Here are some tips for maintaining a clean furnace area:

  • Move clutter away from the furnace:Avoid storing items or belongings near the furnace, ensuring unobstructed access for maintenance and repairs.
  • Regularly dust and vacuum:Keep up with cleaning the area around the furnace to prevent debris from entering the system.
  • Check for anything combustible:Avoid storing combustible materials like gasoline, spray paint, or other flammable materials near the furnace.

Keeping the area around your furnace clean not only prevents hazards like fires, but it provides easy access for HVAC technicians for maintenance, repairs, or in an emergency.

Check and Clear the Condensate Drain

If your furnace has a condensate drain, it’s vital that you check and clean it regularly to prevent clogs and water leaks that can damage your home, or worse, shut down the furnace.

Here’s how to check your condensate drain:

  1. Turn off the power to your furnace.
  2. Locate the drain line, which is usually near the heat exchanger or evaporator coil.
  3. Remove blockages or debris in the drain line with a flexible brush or a wet/dry vacuum.
  4. Clean the drain pan to ensure proper drainage.
  5. Restore power to the furnace and check that it’s operating properly.

Inspect and Replace Belts

If your furnace has belts connecting to the motor and blower, inspect and replace them as needed to ensure smooth operation. This will help you avoid breakdowns from worn or broken belts.


Here’s how to inspect your furnace’s belts:

  1. Turn off power to your furnace.
  2. Remove the access panels to get to the belts.
  3. Inspect the belts to look for signs of wear, cracks, or fraying. If they’re damaged, they need to be replaced.
  4. Adjust belt tension according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.
  5. Replace any damaged belts according to the manufacturer’s instructions or call an HVAC technician.
  6. Restore power to your furnace to ensure it’s operating properly.

Learn Your Furnace’s Safety Features

All furnaces come equipped with safety features to protect against hazards like water damage or fires. Understanding what features your furnace has, where they are, how they work, and how to test them is an important part of DIY furnace maintenance.

Your owner’s manual should have a list of the features that you can check. Here are some specific features to look for:

  • Limit switch:The limit switch is a vital safety feature that shuts off the furnace if the temperature gets too high.
  • Pressure switch:The pressure switch ensures proper airflow and shuts down your furnace if it can’t combust or vent properly.
  • Flame sensor:The flame sensor is responsible for detecting the presence of a flame. Ensure that the flame sensor is clean and properly connected.
  • Venting system:The venting system removes combustion byproducts. Check for blockages or damage.

Checking these features regularly is important for your home’s safety and preventative maintenance. If you notice and correct problems quickly, you can avoid a major breakdown or serious safety concern in the future.

Keep Vents Clear

Furnaces work by circulating heated air throughout your home. The air vents and returns need to be clear for your furnace to operate properly and keep your home cozy and comfortable.

Make sure to check your air vents for obstructions like rugs or furniture. Move everything away to allow the air to flow freely. You should also dust and vacuum the air vents when you’re cleaning the rest of your home to prevent the accumulation of dust or debris.

Pay Attention to Unusual Noises and Smells

Often, strange sounds and unusual odors can alert you to problems in your furnace that require repairs.

Here are some common sounds and their possible causes:

  • Burning dust:When you first turn on your furnace after a period of inactivity, burning dust can cause a slight odor. It should subside, however.
  • Rotten egg smell:A strong sulfur odor can indicate a gas leak, which is an emergency. Contact your gas company immediately.
  • Musty smell:A musty or moldy smell can occur from an accumulation of dust or mold in the furnace or ductwork.

If you notice these smells or strange noises like knocking, rattling, or other sounds that aren’t normal for your furnace, contact a professional HVAC technician to have your system inspected and repaired, if needed.

Schedule Regular Furnace Maintenance

Your furnace is one of your home’s biggest investments, so it’s important to keep up with its care to extend its lifespan and keep your home comfortable. While you should leave comprehensive maintenance to the professionals, these DIY furnace maintenance tips can help you keep your furnace healthy in between appointments.

Looking to schedule preventative furnace maintenance or repairs? Contact us at Bell Brothers to schedule an appointment!