The winter heating season is upon us here in Rochester MN area. When doing a home inspection and analyzing the heating system, I try to determine is a home's forced air heating system's age.
If it is an older unit I suggest you have a professional heating contractor service it every year. If you furnace is newer, every couple of years should suffice. This is your best protection against carbon monoxide dangers and heating problems. Routine service will also ensure peak efficiency to save you operating costs. A good service and inspection costs about $80-$120 and should include a complete cleaning, safety check, and tuning.
The service contractor should:
clean the burner and heat exchanger, and inspect for cracks.
tune the burners for proper combustion.
perform a carbon monoxide test in the heat exchanger.
check the vent pipe and draft diverter.
inspect the chimney for obstructions and draft.
check vent pipes for proper clearance and materials.
test fan controls and safety controls.
check the thermostat.
run the furnace through a complete cycle.
check flame roll-out.
check gas pressure (if appropriate for your furnace).
clean and adjust the pilot light assembly.
inspect gas fittings and repair any leaks.
lubricate the fan and motor.
check belt condition and tension.
service the filter.
clean the fan and housing if excessive dirt has accumulated.
Replacing parts or cleaning extensively will cost extra.
You should have a basic understanding of how the system works, so if you aren't clear on what is covered during the home inspection, ask the service contractor to explain the basics. You should routinely service the filter and lubricate the fan and motor a second time during the heating season. You should also inspect the flue connection to the chimney.