Indoor Air Quality
Five Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Furnace
For many people, the sound of a furnace kicking on reminds them of the winter and a warm home. But while furnaces are regarded as one of the most efficient and consistent heating systems on the market, they will eventually break down and need to be replaced. Knowing when that time has come for your furnace can be difficult though. Take a look below to see some of the signs that indicate a need to replace your furnace rather than just repairing it.
- Rattling. If your furnace makes a rattling noise, it could just be a loose part. But it could also be a cracked heat exchanger allowing carbon monoxide to leak into your home. (Your furnace’s heat exchanger is a long tube of metal that gets heated by the burner and warms the air coming into your home.) The exchanger is also responsible for removing all of the dangerous combustion gases from your home. If it gets cracked, it almost always needs to be replaced instead of repaired.
- Rust. If your furnace is coupled with an air conditioner system, condensation from the AC can actually drip down onto the furnace. This usually happens when the condensate drain system gets clogged and overflows. The water often drips onto the heat exchanger and rusts it until a hole develops in the heat exchanger, necessitating replacement.
- Inefficiency. As your furnace ages, it will start to deteriorate. Even if you get it serviced twice a year, time marches on and your furnace won’t be able to heat your home as well. If you start to notice an increase in your utility bill, you should probably call for repair or replacement. Your heating technician can tell you whether he or she can repair the system and improve its efficiency or if it’s time to start thinking about replacing it.
- Frequent repair. Your furnace shouldn’t require that much professional attention except for some maintenance visits each year. If you have to call for repairs on a regular basis, you may be better off spending that money on a new system.
- Age. Age can be a very important determining factor in whether or not you decide to replace your furnace. You don’t always have to wait until your furnace is completely dead in order to consider replacing it. As your furnace ages, it will likely develop several of the issues listed above. You could save yourself a lot of headaches by replacing it early.
Whenever you detect any problems with your furnace, make sure that a professional performs any replacements and installations. Also, be sure to call early when you notice any problems so that you can keep them from developing into larger, more costly issues.
Steps to Take if Your Heater Breaks Down During the Winter
It’s one of the least pleasant scenarios to imagine during a cold winter evening: your furnace, heat pump, boiler, or other heating system abruptly stops working. You can try to cover yourself with blankets and hope that the heater turns back on, but chances are high that it won’t fix itself. The heater will need help, and there are some steps you can take to see how serious the problem is and what you can do about it.
One thing you absolutely should not do is to change into a "do–it–yourself hero" and attempt to fix the heating system on your own. This can cause further damage to the heater, and with a gas–powered system it might create serious health hazards. If it comes down to repairs, call for professional heating technicians to handle the work.
Follow these steps if your heater breaks down
- Check on the heater’s power source: It’s possible that the heating system has lost its connection to its energy supply. For electrically–powered heaters (heat pumps, electrical furnaces and boilers), make sure that the heater is still connected to the house’s electrical system. If you have a gas–powered heater, look to see if the pilot light has gone out and attempt to relight it if it has. Don’t try anything further with a gas heater if this doesn’t work.
- Check the thermostat: User error on the settings for a thermostat can often account for a heating system shutting down when it shouldn’t. See that the programming on the thermostat is correct.
- Check on circuit breakers: Sometimes a heating system will trip circuit breakers (or blow a fuse if your home still uses a fuse box) and lose power. This applies to many modern gas heaters as well, which use electrical igniters to start. If any breakers have been tripped, reset them and see if the heater comes back on. If it trips the breaker again, than the heater likely has an electrical malfunction.
- Call an emergency repair technician: If none of the steps above get your heater started again, then you should call a repair company that offers 24 hour emergency service and works on a variety of heating systems. If you have a gas–powered heater, you should shut off the gas flow while waiting for the repairs to arrive as a safety precaution. (Now you can go get the blankets.)
To help keep your heating system from a breakdown, make sure that you schedule a preventive maintenance visit for your heater before the cold weather arrives. A skilled maintenance technician will find places where the heating system needs adjustments and tune–ups, and anything that requires repairs. With the right professional helping out, your heater will be in excellent shape for the whole winter.