In many ways, an electric furnace is much simpler than a gas furnace. Where gas furnaces require numerous parts to ensure their safe operation, electric furnaces rely on relatively straightforward resistive heating elements. While any hot wire can be a potential fire hazard, the dangers associated with electric furnaces are typically less severe than gas or oil-burning units.
However, this simplicity can lead homeowners to believe that their electric furnaces don't require any maintenance at all. Although the maintenance procedures for an electric furnace are different from a gas or oil-powered heater, it's still important to keep up with routine care. If your home uses electric heating, you'll want to ensure you take care of these three essential maintenance tasks.
1. Filter Replacements
All forced-air heating systems use similar "plumbing" to direct warm throughout your home. Where gas furnaces move air over their heat exchangers, electric furnaces push air across their heating elements. This design is simpler since there's no need to contain and remove harmful exhaust gases, but protecting sensitive heating elements from dust and debris is still necessary.
Gas, oil, and electric furnaces all use filters to keep their critical bits clean. You can usually find your filter in the air handler directly before the furnace. Changing this filter is essential to keep your home's air clean and ensure adequate airflow. As with any other type of furnace, airflow restrictions can cause overheating, which may damage your furnace over the long run.
2. Routine Cleaning
Cleaning your furnace is arguably more important with an electric furnace than with a gas unit. The interior cabinet of the furnace will contain more wiring, and there's no exhaust fan or fresh air intake. As a result, more dirt and debris can settle inside the furnace cabinet. These contaminants can end up in your ductwork, pushing dust throughout your home.
More importantly, dirt and debris that builds up inside the furnace cabinet can eventually find their way to the heating elements. Dirty heating elements will heat less efficiently and produce a burning smell when running the furnace. Routine cleaning inside the cabinet can help prevent or minimize these problems.
3. Wiring Inspections
It's essential to check the wiring inside your furnace at least once per year as part of any regular maintenance schedule, and it's generally a good idea to leave this job to a professional. A trained technician will look for signs of burnt wiring, damaged insulation, arcing near connectors, and other potential performance or safety issues.
This inspection will also usually include a routine check of the heating elements, which can partially fail and reduce your system efficiency. Finding these problems during a routine inspection and maintenance visit can help you get your system running at peak performance again and avoid potentially frustrating downtime during the chilly winter months.
To learn more about heating maintenance, reach out to an HVAC contractor near you.