Furnace Maintenance – Repair or Replace?
With the right furnace maintenance and care, a heating system can last decades. Manufacturers, however, recommend that you replace them every 15 to 20 years because new furnaces are more reliable and provide energy savings that make them worth the cost. When you have an older furnace or one that seems to need frequent repairs, knowing when it’s a good time to buy a replacement could save you money and prevent unnecessary stress.
Indications That You Might Need a New Furnace
On average, furnaces last about 15 to 20 years. If you have an older furnace that requires more repairs than usual, upgrading to a newer system is a good idea.
If your furnace poses a safety hazard, replace it. One of the main concerns with faulty heating systems that use natural gas is carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas, so it’s a good idea to keep a carbon monoxide detector near the furnace and have a professional maintain the unit at least once a year. You can schedule an appointment with us here.
Warning signs of gas-related problems with a natural gas furnace include:
- A pilot light that’s yellow; it should be blue
- A flickering pilot light
- Soot streaks around the furnace
- Excess moisture on the windows and walls around a furnace
- Excessive rust on appliance jacks and flue pipes
A furnace that works well should not need a repair more than once every two years. If you have a furnace that’s 10 years old or older, consider a replacement if the repair cost is 10 percent of the replacement cost. For example, if a repair is over $200 and new furnace is $2,000, a replacement may be more cost effective in the long run. Here’s how to troubleshoot your furnace.
If a furnace’s repair cost is 50 percent of the replacement cost, buy a new furnace, regardless of the current unit’s age. Similarly, if you’ve already spent about 50 percent of the replacement cost in furnace repairs, a new unit may ultimately be more cost effective, especially considering the tax benefits and increased energy efficiency savings that you may receive.
A new furnace is considerably more energy efficient than one that is 10 years old, even if it works well. Older furnaces and those in need of repairs tend to use more energy, and your power bills will only increase with time.
When looking at new furnaces, pay attention to its AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) rating—the higher the AFUE, the more efficient the unit. A furnace with an 80 percent AFUE, for example, uses 80 percent of the fuel consumed to heat a home. The remaining 20 percent goes up the flue. So, it only wastes 20 cents of every $1 spent to heat a home. If your current furnace has a 60 percent AFUE, for instance, and you upgrade to a unit with a 90 percent AFUE, you’ll save over $33 for every $100 that you spend on heating costs.
Don’t Procrastinate on Furnace Maintenance and Repairs
Annual furnace maintenance is great for a system tune-up so the furnace can run more efficiently and reliably throughout the year. During the maintenance process, the HVAC professional may also find smaller problems that are inexpensive to remedy before they turn into expensive or dangerous issues.
If you notice any of the following with your furnace, call a Portland HVAC professional soon:
- Strange sounds
- Your home feels cold or drafty, even when you turn up the heat
- Pilot light problems
- The furnace doesn’t turn on or stay on
- Your home is more dusty than usual
While it may seem easier to put off a furnace repair, doing so may:
- Put your family’s health and safety at risk: Never take a chance with appliances that use natural gas
- Be more expensive: Time has a way of turning small, inexpensive repairs into costly headaches
- Waste energy: Furnaces that don’t work well use more energy to heat a space
- Make your home feel uncomfortable: Why pay high energy bills when your home still feels drafty
If you have an older or problematic furnace, talk an HVAC specialist at AAA Heating & Cooling. We’ll assess your furnace’s current situation and history to make a recommendation that’s financially sound, keeps your family safe, and aligns with your needs. Get in touch with us today.
Annual furnace maintenance is a necessary task. It keeps the furnace in good working condition and helps it run as efficiently as possible. Maintenance also allows a professional to find and repair minor issues before they become expensive problems. As a homeowner, reporting irregularities that you notice to an HVAC professional also goes a long way toward keeping your home safe, lowers energy bills, and keeps your family more comfortable.
Furnace Maintenance Issues and Common Causes
The following furnace issues require professional expertise:
- Excessive soot: Soot is a problem that can occur with gas-fired and oil furnaces. Excessive furnace soot causes the heat that the appliance produces to go up into the chimney instead of into the home. Excessive soot also poses a fire hazard and increases the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Seeing debris, soot or rust flakes in the flue vent connector or on the horizontal surfaces near the furnace is a sign that it needs any of the following: cleaning and servicing, a replacement heat exchanger, or burner adjustment. A little oil burner soot (no more than 1/8 inch) after the appliance receives maintenance services is normal. There is a problem, however, if the soot quickly reappears after a professional cleans it.
- Irregular flame: The furnace’s pilot light should be blue, not yellow. A yellow, faint, or irregular flame can be a sign that the burner is dirty,clogged, has a faulty ignition, a thermocouple problem, a cracked heat exchanger, or may be located in a drafty room. A yellow flame may also indicate that there is a non-ideal balance of gases surrounding the pilot light.
- Short or frequent cycling: Short cycling is when the furnace runs for a short period and turns off. Frequent cycling may be due to bad thermostat settings, a faulty thermostat, poor airflow, an exchanger issue or a clogged filter.
- Problems starting and staying on: This is an indication that you may need a new thermostat. Such a problem might also result from bad wiring, a broken pilot light, or a broken fan motor.
- Insufficient heat: When a furnace doesn’t heat a space properly, it might be the wrong size, have a clogged filter, or have a problem with the pilot light. It is also an indication that the thermostat might be faulty.
- Excessive noise: While furnaces aren’t exactly quiet, they should not make strange noises. Noises generally mean there is an airflow problem, a clogged burner, an ignition issue, or a mechanical problem.
- Blower continuously runs: A blower that’s always on may be the result of a faulty limit switch.
DIY Furnace Maintenance
- Check the thermostat: A dead battery in a thermostat may cause the furnace to not produce heat. Make sure the thermostat is on “Heat” mode and that the temperature setting is higher than the room’s temperature. The fan should be on “Auto” so the blower doesn’t run continuously. If the thermostat doesn’t match the furnace’s capacity and capabilities, you’ll need a replacement.
- Change the air filters regularly: Dirty air filters lead to several preventable furnace problems. Replace or clean the air filters according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Stop drafts: If you have problems with the pilot light going out, the furnace is located in a room that might be too drafty. Try closing the windows or the door to the respective room.
While there are simple tasks that help keep a furnace working properly, it’s important to leave furnace installations, maintenance, mechanical repairs and issues with any of the gas components to a licensed HVAC expert. Failing to do so may lead to further damage, safety risks, or voiding the appliance’s warranty. Schedule furnace maintenance before the winter weather arrives to ensure your home feels cozy throughout the winter without interruption.
Below are the 10 most common furnace problems. Read on for advice on how to repair and fix future furnace problems.
- Lack of maintenance
- Dirty filters
- Wear and tear
- Electric Ignition or pilot control problems
- Malfunctioning thermostat
- The furnace doesn’t heat at all
- The furnace doesn’t heat enough
- Frequent cycling
- The blower continuously runs
- The furnace is too noisy
When the cool fall and winter weather arrive, hundreds of people call Portland furnace repair experts because of a problem with their heating system. Whether it’s a commercial or residential setting, the same basic problems plague furnaces. By knowing what the most common furnace problems are, you can take proactive measures to prevent them.
- Lack of maintenance: You fail to schedule annual furnace maintenance and inspections that could prevent unexpected problems and breakdowns. These routine inspections can help the appliance run more efficiently and reliably.
- Dirty filters: Dirty or clogged air filters reduce airflow, making a furnace work harder to circulate. In some cases, a clogged filter may damage the limit switch, which controls the fan.
- Wear and tear: Normal wear and tear can cause airflow problems, heat control-related problems or even overheating.
- Electric ignition or pilot control problems: A faulty ignition or pilot could make it difficult to heat a home or commercial space. Thermocouple problems, drafts or clogs in the appliance may result in an unlit pilot light.
- Malfunctioning thermostat: A faulty thermostat can lead to problems with the fan or comfort levels.
- The furnace doesn’t heat at all: A furnace that doesn’t perform its main task may have problems with the thermostat setting, power, gas or the pilot light.
- The furnace doesn’t heat enough: In addition to a clogged filter, a furnace may not produce enough heat if it’s the wrong size for the space.
- Frequent cycling: Cycling between the “On” and “Off” modes may indicate a clogged filter, improper airflow or a bad thermostat setting.
- The blower continuously runs: Blower issues may indicate a problem with the limit switch, which a professional may need to replace.
- The furnace is too noisy: Rumbling, squeaking and rattles aren’t normal. The sounds may indicate a mechanical problem, airflow reductions or a clogged burner.
Furnace Tips and Advice for Repairs
- Change the air filters: Dirty air filters lead to a multitude of furnace problems. Clean or replace the filter one a month, according to the manufacturer’s directions. A furnace repair professional can show you how to do this.
- Check the thermostat: If it seems as if your furnace doesn’t produce any heat, check the battery level in the thermostat. In some models, simply replacing the battery may do the trick.
When the blower fan doesn’t turn off or the furnace cycles too frequently, check the thermostat settings. The fan setting should be on “Auto.” In the “On,” “Low,” “Medium” or “High” modes, the fan will run continuously.
If the furnace doesn’t seem to produce enough heat, check the thermostat’s setting to make sure it’s on “Heat” mode. Then check the temperature to make sure it’s set to one that’s higher than the current room temperature.
If nothing seems to work, you may need to purchase a new furnace. Make sure the new thermostat matches your furnace in regards to capability and capacity, or you may encounter future problems. In addition to the below, here are residential heating tips.
- Check the circuit breaker and power supply: If the furnace stops working or the thermostat’s screen is blank, check if the circuit breaker tripped or blew a fuse. Also, make sure the power cord is plugged into an outlet.
- Reduce drafts: If a draft causes problems with the pilot light, you may need to close the windows or doors in the room.
- Maintenance: Every year, at the end of the summer or beginning of fall, hire a furnace repair specialist to inspect and maintain the furnace. The professional will get the unit ready for the upcoming cool weather and fix problems that could cause breakdowns or expensive repairs during busy winter months.
- Furnace installation: If you need to replace your furnace, use a furnace contractor’s expertise to determine the right type and size for your home or commercial space.
- Ignition control or pilot light problems: As problems may result from clogged components or faulty electrical components, leave ignition issues to the experts.
- Mechanical issues: Unless you received training to repair furnaces, let professionals handle problems related to mechanical wear and tear. Otherwise, you may void the warranty on the appliance or accidentally cause a larger problem.
- Natural gas or propane problems: When you suspect problems with the gas feed or valve because of a malfunction with the gas pressure regulator, call a professional for help.
Tasks to Leave to a Furnace Repair Expert
When troubleshooting your appliance doesn’t solve your furnace issues, never hesitate to contact a trained HVAC contractor. Any furnace, regardless of its age, may pose combustion- or gas-related safety hazards, so it’s always a good idea to have an expert examine the unit and suggest the best course of action.
Regular furnace maintenance is key to keeping it in tip top shape and keeping you warm! Learn the signs that your furnace may need a check up, whether your should repair or replace and how to tell if your furnace is energy efficient. All of this and more is explained in our latest infographic.
Click to view in full size