Handyman: Get tuneup to ensure furnace is running right

Glenn Haege
Special to The Detroit News

The way the past two winters have been, don’t wait to find out your furnace has issues when the temperature outside is in the single digits. If you haven’t had your furnace checked in the past few years, now is the time to schedule an appointment for a tuneup. Spending some money now to get it in proper working order will save you money on energy costs and ensure you won’t need to plug in the portable heaters while waiting for service on a cold day.

“It is not uncommon for our techs to go on a tuneup call and find that people haven’t even changed their furnace filter in 10 to 15 years,” said Rob Rotondo, marketing director for Randazzo Heating, Cooling and Fireplaces, (888) 884-3322, “A furnace is a machine and needs to be maintained regularly to perform efficiently just like a car needs to have its oil and filter changed. But unfortunately people usually wait to call us when something goes wrong.”

Their furnace tuneup starts with a 16-point precision inspection, with the number one priority being the safety of the unit. He said the standard inspection includes a visual check of the heat exchanger along with a combustion analysis to determine whether the furnace is operating at peak efficiency.

“Over time a furnace’s performance will degrade, and our technicians can bring it back,” he said. “But even a furnace that is only 10 years old will have lost some efficiency, so it is best to have it looked at now before the winter hits.”

Tuneups should also include checking for gas leaks and adequate gas pressure along with inspections of the ignitor, burners and sensors.

“We get a lot calls from people saying that their furnace is turning off after it is on for only a few minutes, and often that is due to a dirty or faulty sensor,” Rotondo said.

The sensor is designed to confirm that a flame in the burner is actually present when the gas valve is open. If it doesn’t detect any flame, it automatically shuts down the unit.

Other companies that offer furnace tuneups include Family Heating, Cooling and Electrical, (734) 422-8080,; Flame Heating, Cooling, Plumbing and Electrical, (888) 234-2340,; and Hartford and Ratliff, (248) 471-3110,

You can get a $50 rebate (available on a first-come, first-served basis) from DTE ( and Consumers Energy ( when you use one of their participating HVAC contractors for a furnace tuneup.

If you have already had a tuneup recently, you may just need to do your own standard maintenance to get your furnace ready for the winter. That includes changing your furnace filter, cleaning or changing the drum, pad or sponge in your humidifier and turning on the water valve to your humidifier.

Then switch the metal arm on your ductwork near the furnace to "W" (winter) from "S" (summer). This enables the warm air from the furnace to flow through the humidifier during the winter. In addition, if you have a 90 plus efficiency furnace, you should also go outside and clean out any leaves and debris from the vents from PVC pipes that run outside from the furnace. If you have a Skuttle make-up air control unit you also need to open it up for the winter.

If you would like to suggest a question for this column, e-mail If you want to talk to Glenn Haege, call his “Handyman Show” on WJR-AM (760) at (866) ASK GLENN, (866) 275-4536 between noon and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. “The Handyman Show” can be heard on more than 130 radio stations.