When a heating system starts getting old, it needs a little more maintenance and care than newer systems. This is especially the case if your heater is currently working but hasn't been inspected or maintained in some time. To make sure everything is in proper working order and to keep it running for a while longer, here are three steps that will cover the most important part of your system.

Component Inspection and Cleaning

There are several parts in your heater that can stop working correctly if they get too dirty, which can affect the operation of the entire system. Keeping your furnace clean keeps it running smoothly and without any risk of shutting down due to problems that trip its safety mechanisms. Here are some things to keep in mind, many of which you can clean and maintain yourself.

  • Replace your air filter. Your air filter helps keep the air flowing through your house clean, but it also helps keep your heater and its parts clean. Your filter should be replaced every three to six months. If it looks very dirty and hasn't been replaced in a while, do this as soon as you can.
  • Check the flame sensor. The flame sensor shuts off the supply of gas to your heater if a flame isn't on, but if it gets dirty, it may shut off the gas even if the flame is on. Make sure this is clean so your heater doesn't short cycle.
  • Check and clean the blower wheel. This spinning part is responsible for pushing air through your vents, and it can get very dirty and weighed down with dust over time, which can also cause your heater to short cycle. If it hasn't been cleaned in several years, it's probably overdue.

Duct Repairs and Replacements

Beyond your heater itself, your ducts are one of the most important parts of your entire heating system. Over time, ducts can start to lose their effectiveness at keeping the air warm and distributing it to each vent. Insulation can start to fall away and the ducts themselves become less airtight, usually as a result of age and also possibly damage that can come from pest infestations.

Repairing or replacing your aging ducts is a worthwhile investment. With old or damaged ducts, you can lose up to 30 percent of the air traveling within them before they ever get to your house, which means more energy is spent getting your house to the temperature you set. It also means the air coming in will be less warm. A properly functioning heater is only as good as its ducts, so if you haven't had your ducts serviced or inspected in at least five years, call for an inspection as part of your maintenance.

Electrical Troubleshooting

Just as an aging furnace can start to wear down, so too can its electrical components and the circuit it runs on. A heater uses a lot of power, so it's important that the circuit it uses is kept in good shape, both to make sure your heater stays running and to keep your house safe from potential damage. Electrical problems can start fires or cause overheating that can damage your heater to the point where it needs to be replaced.

First, be on the lookout for any obvious signs of electrical trouble. One sign is a breaker that trips constantly. The breaker trips to prevent a circuit from causing any damage, and if it's tripping repeatedly, there's a problem that needs immediate attention.

Next, check your fuses for signs of wear or burning. Fuses tend to last at least a few years, but they can start to work less effectively as they get older. These components are generally inexpensive and don't require professional help to be replaced.

Finally, ask a professional to look at the rest of your heater and its parts, such as the capacitor, blower wheel, and blower motor. These parts last longer, but require more work to maintain, repair, or replace if necessary. Some symptoms of these parts not working correctly are short-cycling, where your heater turns off quickly after turning on, or the fan running while the heater isn't running. 

To learn more about heating systems, reach out to a local HVAC contractor.