If you're concerned about keeping your home and family safe and warm this year, check your furnace's heat exchanger and home's air registers for problems. A cracked heat exchanger can place your home at risk for carbon monoxide leaks, and dirty air registers can make it harder for your furnace to heat your house. With the right information, tips, and advice you can prevent issues this cold season. Here's what you do to stay safe and warm this winter.

Run a Detailed Inspection of Your Heat Exchanger

The heat exchanger distributes warm air to your home's rooms throughout the winter. It's also designed to keep carbon monoxide and other toxic gases from entering your home by separating them from warm air. But if your heat exchanger develops cracks from old age, it can potentially be deadly for your family. 

Cracks can leak small amounts of gas into the indoor environment. Although most natural gas companies place sulfur in their gas supplies to help homeowners detect leaks, you might not notice small leaks until it's too late. In addition, gas might continue to seep out of the furnace once you turn it off. Because gas is flammable and combustible, the leaks can be particularly dangerous if you lose power in your home and light a match around the furnace or in the room that houses it.

The exchanger is located in the top of the furnace and just above the combustion chamber and blower motor housing. If your furnace has a removable paneling over the heat exchanger, you can use a flashlight to examine it. Shine the light over the surfaces of the exchanger and look for thin cracks, holes, and rust. Soot and residue may also cover the part. If you see any of these symptoms of a cracked heat exchanger, contact a heating specialist for services.

If you notice a faint rotten egg smell coming from the exchanger or furnace during your inspection, be sure to tell a contractor immediately after contacting them. You may need to replace or repair the heat exchanger. 

Keep Your Air Registers Clear

After you inspect and possibly service your heat exchanger, clean your home's air registers. Air registers cover the entrances of floor, ceiling, and wall air vents. Many registers feature movable slots or grilles you can use to direct or redirect heated air as it enters your rooms. Some air registers don't have features you can use to control airflow. In any case, you want to keep the surfaces of your registers free of dirt, dust, and even mold. Blocked air registers keep warm air from circulating through your house, especially if you haven't cleaned them in a long time. 

First, locate every air register in your home and remove them with a screwdriver. Place the coverings on a flat surface, such as a table or the floor. Next, follow all of the steps below:

  1. Fill a large bucket with clean water.
  2. Place two drops of dish detergent into the water, then use your hand or a large spoon to mix the solution together thoroughly.
  3. Dip a soft-textured rag into the bucket until it's damp with soapy water. Squeeze out the excess water, then wipe down one register at a time.
  4. Repeat step three until every register is completely clean.

If you can't remove all of the contaminants with your rag, use a soft toothbrush to scrub away the debris. Place the registers out to dry for 20 to 30 minutes, then screw them back into place. It's a good idea that you check and clean your air registers regularly to keep them free of debris.

For more tips on how to keep safe and warm this winter, contact a heating contractor. If you want to learn more about an HVAC company's services, find out here.