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Is Your Furnace Ready for Winter?

Local heating and cooling expert shares tips for furnace maintenance, and new law requiring furnaces with higher efficiency to be sold after May 1, 2013.

As temperatures drop this fall, homeowners will prep their furnaces for another Chicagoland winter.

Chuck Mattingly, a heating and cooling expert at Wheaton's Borter Heating and Air Conditioning, 0N441 Pleasant Hill Rd., says homeowners should have their furnace cleaned and inspected at least once a year, before they know they need it.

Effective May 1, 2013, a government rule will require homeowners to buy more efficient—and more expensive, furnace units. Homeowners will no longer be able to buy chimney-vented furnaces anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon line, Mattingly said.

“Most people are unaware of it,” he said. “We’re starting to notify townhome and condo associations that don’t know yet… and get to the point of, how we’re going to run venting out and how much it’ll cost.”

The average life of a furnace is about 15 years. A well-maintained furnace, though, should last about 20 years. The cost could range from $1,500 to $3,000, he said.

The new law will require installations of products with 90 percent efficiency or higher, Mattingly said. Until then, homeowners can continue to purchase and install units with the average of 80 percent efficiency.

Tips for Furnace Maintenance

1. Replace the filters

Mattingly says filters should be replaced once a month, whether it's heating or air-conditioning the home. The furnace blower also air-conditions the house, he said. Without replaced filters, the furnace will tire of extra wear and tear and could overheat.

2. Have the furnace cleaned once a year

Mattingly said furnaces should be cleaned by now, before the busy months of October and November. August and September are usually the best times to have a cleaning—before the heating season, he said.

The furnace's heat exchanger is where fire is burned. Rust or cracks in the heat exchanger increase the risk of introducing carbon monoxide into the house, he said.

3. Keep combustible items away from the front of the furnace

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