Forced air furnaces are, by far, the most popular heating delivery source in America. Modern furnaces can achieve 90% or more efficiency relative to the fuel it consumes. Older forced air furnaces are lucky to be 80% efficient. If you can’t afford to fork over $5,000 for a new system, you’re not alone. There are a few tricks to make that old system work the best it can.
Find and clean obstructions
One common problem with all forced air systems is having obstructions around the return air vents. Return air vents are essential components to the forced air system and allow cycled air to return back into your furnace. Many people often overlook this area as an opportunity to improve efficiency. First, locate all of your return air vents. Turn your furnace or central air conditioner on and feel every vent. All registers that don’t have air coming out are return vents. Next, make sure that all furniture and home accessories are not blocking the return vents. If you must cover one of the return vents, try to arrange your furniture to allow part of the register to be exposed. Lastly, remove all the vents and wash them in a 5-gallon bucket filled with hot water and ammonia or vinegar. You’ll be shocked at how dirty these are. Before you put them back in place, clean the opening and any exposed ducting you can reach.
Heat delivery duct maintenance
Now it’s time to address your delivery ducting. We’ve all seen ads for duct cleaning online and in the local newspapers. Duct cleaning can improve air quality substantially, but doesn’t really address the root cause of dust build-up or efficiency. Dust build up is a culprit of one problem only. If you don’t replace your furnace filter regularly or more than regularly, your furnace will run 5% or more less efficiently. Take your current filter out and take it to Home Depot or Lowes for a replacement. Insert the new one and turn the furnace or central air conditioning on. Feel the vents to find the delivery ducts. Turn blower off and remove all the delivery vents. You’ll find that these are even dirtier than the return vents. After cleaning them in hot water, put the registers back on.
In addition to doing these simple tasks, bring an HVAC professional into your home for scheduled maintenance at least once a year. Even if you’re not in the market for a new high-efficiency furnace, you need to get the most out of the one you have. Regular cleaning and maintenance will ensure the highest efficiency out of your old furnace