First Time Turning On the Furnace? Here Are 5 Things to Do

This week, Northern Colorado saw a very early first freeze. We set a record for most snow on September 10th only two days after record-high temperatures around 100-degrees on September 8th. Whether you joined many Northern Colorado families in turning on their heat for the first time or not, here are some things to watch for as we begin flipping on the furnace for the colder months.

1 – Change the Air Filter

If you haven’t been using your AC recently, or do not have central air conditioning that utilizes your furnace, you’ll want to change your air filter before turning on your furnace for the first time. 

Even if your forced air conditioning system has been engaged, it’s a good idea to check the filter before switching over to heat to ensure there’s no extra build-up.

An old, used-up air filter isn’t going to start your system off right and it’s important that you have a good, working air filter in your furnace to keep peak performance and avoid damages to your system.

2 – Check Your Thermostat Settings

Ah, the wonders of technology. Many homes today have smart or digital thermostats that can perform a number of functions ranging from a heating or cooling schedule to detecting when someone is home and automatically changing the temperature in the home accordingly.

Regardless of the complexity of your thermostat, be sure to check the following:

  1. Determine if you have an existing schedule in the thermostat for heat and ensure that still matches with your current lifestyle. After all, if you’re no longer commuting to work during the day, you may not want the system barely running during those hours. The last thing you want is last year’s schedule to kick in and not provide what you’re hoping for.
  2. Double-check that the system is set to heat. We know, this is an obvious one, but many folks each year panic when their furnace pushes out cool or cold air, only to realize that the system is set to Fan or Cool. You could save yourself an unneeded emergency HVAC call by double-checking the thermostat.
  3. Check the humidifier on your furnace and engage the system if it’s off. Many homes in Northern Colorado feature a digital humidifier, often with a thermostat-esque device on the furnace itself. Since humid air retains heat better than the dry air we see in Colorado winters, this can be a money-saving device. Many families turn theirs off during the winter, so ensure yours is turned back on and set to somewhere around 30-40% (or whatever was recommended for your home at the time of installation).
  4. Know your “smart” features. As mentioned above, many families in Northern Colorado have different habits this year, with the challenges of the coronavirus, that were not present last year. If your home has a smart thermostat that relies on a cell phone, ensure you have the right devices connected and that any other enabled functions still make sense for you.

3 – Monitor Smells and Noises

It’s tough to describe exactly what is normal for a first-time firing of the furnace system in your home without actually being there. Still, if you notice a rattling, rumbling, or other bizarre noise that isn’t typical for your system, you may want to monitor the situation closely and call our office for advice right away.

As far as smells go, a dusty smell coming from the vents for the first hour or so is pretty normal. This comes from dust settling on the burners within your furnace during months of use and shouldn’t be worried about too much. 

However, a smell of natural gas or potent or lasting foul odor would not be typical and should be looked at by a certified HVAC service expert right away.

4 – Not Feeling Hot Air? Check These First

If you’ve flipped the switch and haven’t seen hot air blowing, here are the first things you should try:

  1. Give it a minute. Your system has been off, likely for months, and it could take a minute to engage. Some HVAC systems, such as heat pumps, have a defrost cycle to run through before you’ll actually see a temperature change. Be a little patient before worrying.
  2. Triple-check the thermostat. Yes, we know, saying it again is probably overdoing it, but we really do get calls from folks that just didn’t set the thermostat correctly every year.
  3. Check the breaker for a disabled switch. Rarely, we’ll see a breaker disabled on the furnace upon checking a system that is unresponsive. If your system isn’t doing anything, this is an easy one to check off the list.
  4. Secure the furnace access door. If you took our advice on changing the air filter, a likely solution for nothing happening with your furnace is that the door was not properly resecured after removing it to change your filter (or that it was bumped, etc.). 
  5. Contact our offices for help in troubleshooting. After you’ve done the 4 above, the best thing for the uninitiated is to call in a professional for help. Don’t wait! If you’re turning on your furnace for the first time today, imagine that many other local families are doing the same and could also encounter problems. Get an appointment quickly before the rush.

5 – Keep Your Furnace Maintained

If you didn’t get service for your furnace last year, it’s time to get in a professional to check for any needed maintenance or repairs. Even if your system is working, the first time you turn on the system is a great time to make a future appointment to ensure everything is working properly.

You should expect that you will eventually need to replace your furnace, and that could be sooner than later if you have an older model. If it isn’t working on the first heating of the season, it could be time to schedule a replacement instead of a repair or maintenance service. Modern furnaces offer incredible energy-saving benefits that can actually allow for the system to pay for itself over time compared to an older model you’ve been holding onto.

Contact Lion for Help

If you’re not getting the heat you hope for on the first cold days this year, give Lion Home Services a call. Whether you need emergency assistance or a future appointment for maintenance, repairs, or a replacement furnace, our team can help.

Give us a call today for advice or to schedule the appointment you need to enjoy your home as the temperature in Northern Colorado begins to drop!