4 Tips To Keep Your Furnace Working All Winter Long

Winter is coming. The leaves have changed colors. The kids have all adjusted to their normal daily school routine. Trick or Treat has concluded. We’ve turned our clocks back. Soon, everything pumpkin spice will be phased out for peppermint mocha and Michael Buble will re-emerge from the cave he resides in for 10 months of the year to usher in the Holiday shopping season.

Hopefully, by now, your central air conditioning has long been shut off and covered. Any window AC units of yours have been removed and stored away in the attic or basement. It’s furnace season. It’s time to crank up that heat. While most of you are already running your furnace, unfortunately, many of you have also skipped the recommended annual furnace tune-up. This is why Top Notch Heating and Cooling – Pittsburgh PA HVAC experts – have put together some quick tips to help ensure your furnace runs optimally all winter long.

Replace Furnace Filters

Regularly replacing the filter in your furnace will prolong the lifespan of the unit. Not only will it keep your furnace running optimally throughout the winter, but it’ll also keep your gas bill down.

Unfortunately, for as simple as it is, many homeowners fail to change their furnace filters as often as they should. This can lead to rising heating bills and contribute to more serious and costly maintenance issues down the road.

So, how often should furnace filters be replaced? The cheaper fiberglass filters, which while cost-efficient, really don’t do a great job of filtering, should be switched out every 30 days. Higher-end pleated filters can last as long as 6 months before they need to be replaced; however, it’s generally recommended they be changed every 90 days. Filter efficiency decreases as more dirt, dust, and allergens from the air are trapped.

Clean the Heat Exchanger Annually

Here’s why you shouldn’t dismissively wave off any mention of annual furnace maintenance. Heat exchangers need to be professionally brushed and vacuumed once a year. Making sure heat exchangers are properly maintained and cleaned annually will prevent expensive complications later. Dirty heat exchangers can contribute to anything from a poorly performing furnace to the need for total equipment replacement.

Dirt, soot, and sediments are only a few contributors to dirty heat exchangers. There can also be a crystallization of salts and minerals, organic fouling from organisms, and chemical fouling as well. Corrosion from water and condensation build up or the use of chemicals must also be cleaned.

In addition to cleaning, heat exchangers also need to be inspected annually. Particularly to look for cracks that could allow dangerous carbon monoxide to leak into a home.

Clean Your Air Ducts

Heat is blown through your air ducts. It’s a good idea to have your air ducts checked every season to make sure there’s no obstruction inhibiting airflow. It’s not uncommon for objects to get inside your ductwork and create a blockage. A professional HVAC technician can thoroughly clean a vent’s exterior and remove any obstructions.

Check Your Thermostat

You may think this is a no-brainer, but we get so many calls every year from homeowners reporting an issue with their furnace who are really experiencing a completely correctable issue with their thermostat.

Replace the batteries in your thermostat when you first turn your furnace on. If it’s time to replace your thermostat, consider a programmable one that lets you set different temperatures throughout the day or even program temperature changes through a smartphone app. Modern thermostats like these are a great way to effectively lower heating costs.


We recommend that homeowners in the Pittsburgh area have their HVAC equipment inspected and maintained twice a year. Once prior to running your AC unit and then again prior to running your furnace. Contact Top Notch Heating and Cooling today for the best HVAC in Pittsburgh. Call 412-381-0598 to schedule your annual Pittsburgh furnace tune-up or if you’re experiencing any problem with your furnace. Or reach out to us at https://topnotchair.com/contact.

Are Annual Furnace Inspections Really Necessary?

Your furnace is the heart of your home in the wintertime. Without it, it would be impossible for your home to be habitable on a cold winter’s night. This is why it’s important to keep it well maintained if you intend on staying warm all winter long. This requires a furnace inspection by an HVAC professional. But how often does this inspection really need to occur?

The simple answer is service schedules sort of differ depending on the brand and type of furnace in your home. Most manufacturers will recommend a service schedule of once every 2 to 5 years. For the Pittsburgh area homeowners we serve, due to the harshness of Western Pennsylvania winters, as well as environmental and architectural (lots of older large homes) components, we recommend your furnace be inspected once a year. Preferably, prior to its first use when the weather turns cold.

Is it necessary? The best analogy we can think of is it’s like scheduling a dental appointment every six months. You’re going for a basic check-up and cleaning. It’s probably not necessary but it’s recommended since the overall health of your mouth will be better through the long run. You’re less likely to be one of those people running to the dentist in agonizing pain from a sudden toothache. The dentist will catch issues when they’re small; before they become a bigger problem.

That’s the idea behind an annual furnace inspection. Looming issues can be caught before they escalate into a more expensive problem. You’re less likely to need to call an emergency 24-hour HVAC service when your furnace suddenly stops working on a cold, cold night. That’s because an inspection and some maintenance before you start running your furnace will prevent that complete system failure from happening.

But what does a furnace inspection and tune-up consist of?

Every HVAC contractor is going to have a description with subtle differences in language that make it almost impossible to compare services between competing heating companies. For instance, you may see this service described as a furnace “check-up”, “safety check”, “certification”, “tune-up”, “complete tune-up”, “basic tune-up”, “ or “annual maintenance check-up.”

Services will vary from one HVAC contractor to the next. This is why you need to know exactly what services the HVAC company you hire will provide as part of their annual inspection and tune-up. We’ve compiled this list of generic services recommended annually by different furnace manufacturers. These manufacturers expect these services to be carried out by a qualified HVAC technician:

  • Check vent system for blockage/leakage
  • Check blower access door to ensure the seal at the furnace is tight
  • Analyze and compare combustion gases to the unit specifications
  • Inspect heat exchanger for rust and corrosion
  • Check fresh air intake grills and louvers for blockage
  • Check drainage system for blockage and/or leakage
  • Check burners for proper ignition, burner flame, and flame sense
  • Check blower wheel needs for debris and remove blower wheel to clean if necessary
  • Clean condensate drain and trap and replace water in the trap
  • Check wiring for corrosion and damage.
  • Conduct amp-draw test on the blower motor and compared with what is listed.
  • Check and replace filters if necessary (this needs to be done several times a year)

In addition to this list, gas pressure testing plus static air pressure and temperature rise checks are also performed.

What does a HVAC Tune Up Cost?

You get what you pay for. A cheap furnace tune up will most likely skip some important services. Remember, annual furnace maintenance isn’t just about safety. Preventative maintenance is another reason you want a yearly furnace tune-up. The more thorough the inspection and cleaning services are, the less likely it is you’ll wake up in the middle of a January night with no heat thanks to a furnace that has quit working altogether. When that happens, you’ll need an emergency HVAC service since your furnace stopped working, which means you’ll be paying emergency rates. Paying a little more for an HVAC tune up will ultimately save you money in the long run.


Top Notch Heating and Cooling provides HVAC tune-ups in Pittsburgh. If you’d like to learn which services our furnace tune-ups include, contact us today at 412-381-0598 or by reaching out to us online at https://topnotchair.com/contact.