Skip to content

Energy Tip - September 16, 2013

Maintain furnaces and boilers to ensure safety, efficiency

The heating season is right around the corner, so it’s time to make sure your heating system is working properly. Heating and cooling account for about 55 percent of the energy used in a typical U.S. home, the largest energy expense for most homes. Furnaces and boilers, the two most common ways to heat homes, should be inspected and adjusted on an annual basis to maintain efficiency and safety.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the following maintenance for furnaces and boilers should be provided by a heating system professional:

  • Check the condition of your vent connection pipe and chimney. Parts of the venting system may have deteriorated over time. Chimney problems can be expensive to repair and may help justify installing new heating equipment that won’t use the existing chimney.
  • Check the physical integrity of the heat exchanger. Leaky boiler heat exchangers leak water and are easy to spot. Furnace heat exchangers mix combustion gases with house air when they leak—an important safety reason to have them inspected.
  • Adjust the controls on the boiler or furnace to provide optimum water and air temperature settings for both efficiency and comfort.
  • If you’re considering replacing or retrofitting your existing heating system, have the technician perform a combustion-efficiency test.

Furnace filters should be replaced according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. A clogged filter will cause the furnace to work harder, reducing efficiency and comfort. Standard filters should be replaced monthly. High performance pleated filters may last up to three months or longer, depending on the system, filter, and conditions.

Regular preventive maintenance will help ensure that your heating system operates safely and efficiently, and it will likely save you money and heartache. Check with utilities or heating contractors about tune-ups and maintenance and repair plans.

The Department of Energy offers information on furnaces and boilers, including tips on maintenance and retrofitting or replacing your current furnace or boiler with a more efficient unit. A range of information on home heating systems is also provided.

Minnesota Energy Tips is provided twice a month by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources. Contact the division’s Energy Information Center at or 800-657-3710 with energy questions.