Gas furnaces require regular care and maintenance to stay in peak condition, and it’s up to savvy homeowners to schedule the proper visits. Get a quick look at how your furnace works and brush up on the things you should look for to ensure proper operation throughout the heating season.
How it Works
Understanding how your gas furnace operates will not only help you grasp the importance of regular care and maintenance, it will help you identify potential problems with your system before they escalate. A gas furnace, as you can infer from the name, is powered by gas rather than electricity.
When your home’s temperature falls below the set point, your thermostat sends an electrical signal to your furnace. This tells the furnace to open the appropriate valve and send natural gas to the burners. The furnace’s pilot light or electronic ignition will then ignite the burner housed within the combustion chamber. Combustion gases are vented through a flue in the roof or wall, which sends them out of the house.
Once lit, the burner generates heat inside the metal chamber known as the heat exchanger. The furnace uses an electric fan to pull fresh air into the system. Then the air passes through a filter that removes dust and debris. The filtered air passes through a hot air plenum and circulates air around the heat exchanger where it’s warmed. The warm air is then pushed out into the ductwork. From there, it circulates throughout your home to provide efficient heating.
Professional Furnace Maintenance
You should schedule annual furnace maintenance to keep your system at peak performance. The best time to schedule this visit is in early fall before you turn the system on for the first time. However, if you haven’t had your furnace serviced within the last year, you should schedule your maintenance visit as soon as possible.
During this annual tune-up, your HVAC technician will thoroughly inspect your furnace for proper performance. This includes checking the thermostat, starting cycle, operation, and shut off. The technician will also tighten electrical connections, lubricate motors and other moving parts, and inspect the condensate drain.
One of the most important things your HVAC technician will do during this visit is to check the gas connection, gas pressure, heat exchanger, and burner combustion. Improper operation can pose a fire hazard or leak carbon monoxide into the home.
Perks of Annual Maintenance
Annual maintenance may seem like an unnecessary expense when your system is operating properly, but this visit offers a host of great benefits. Systems that are serviced once a year operate more efficiently, lowering your heating costs throughout the season. Regular tune-ups extend the life of your system as well. If your furnace is still under warranty, an annual tune-up is probably one of the terms for keeping the warranty intact.
If you commit to annual tune-ups, you can enroll in a maintenance agreement that offers additional benefits. A Bronze Service Plan offers priority service and a 15 percent discount on parts and labor for any repairs needed throughout the year. With a Gold Service Plan, repairs are included for most major parts. Each year you participate in the plan, you accumulate loyalty credits up to a maximum amount of $500. Over time, your maintenance plan can essentially pay for itself.
DIY Furnace Care
Annual tune-ups are only one part of keeping your gas furnace in top condition. There are a few monthly and seasonal tasks you should do yourself to ensure proper performance. Each month, change the filter in your furnace to maintain peak efficiency. If the filter becomes clogged with dust and dirt, your furnace will have to work much harder to pull air through it. A clean furnace will improve your indoor air quality as well.
You should also go through the home and make sure all furnace vents are open and unobstructed before you begin the heating season. Blocked vents will decrease efficiency and create hot and cold spots around your home. Contrary to popular belief, closing off vents to unused rooms will make your system work harder. Isolated rooms disrupt the pressure in your home, so it’s better to leave them open even in spaces you don’t use often.
If you have a gas furnace, you should keep a carbon monoxide detector in your home. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include a dull headache, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, dizziness, and weakness. Unfortunately, these are easily mistaken for the flu. This odorless, colorless gas can be lethal, so you should check the batteries in your carbon monoxide detector twice a year.
Signs of Trouble
Keep an eye on your furnace operation throughout the year so you can catch potential problems early before they do too much damage to your home, system, or energy bills. The burner flame in your furnace should always burn blue. If you see a yellow or flickering flame, it’s not getting enough oxygen. This will cause the furnace to release carbon monoxide and must be addressed immediately.
Your furnace should operate quietly. Any rattling, knocking, or squealing sound indicates a problem that you should address with your HVAC technician. The one sound you can often resolve on your own is a quiet wheezing. This is typically the result of a dirty filter.
Unusual smells associated with your furnace are another sign of trouble. There’s one time when your furnace will give off a predictable and completely normal smell. This occurs at the beginning of the heating season when you turn your furnace on for the first time. Accumulated dust from months of disuse will burn off during this first cycle, creating a brief burning smell. This will dissipate after a few hours. Any other odors indicate a problem.
Other signs of furnace trouble are less obvious. If your allergies seem worse than usual or your family feels consistently under the weather, you could be suffering from poor indoor air quality. If your furnace filter is clean, the problem could be in your ducts.
When You Need a Replacement
Proper care and maintenance can keep your furnace humming happily along for 15 to 20 years. However, even the best-maintained furnace will eventually meet its end. You don’t want to find yourself rushing through a replacement because your system stopped working in the dead of winter. Instead, keep a watchful eye out for common indicators that a new furnace is on the horizon.
Here are some signs that it’s time to consider a new furnace:
- Your current system is more than 15 years old
- Your energy bills are steadily increasing despite regular maintenance
- The home has distinct hot and cold spots
- You face a constant battle against dusty air
- Your family members suffer symptoms of poor air quality such as dry nose and throat
- You repair your furnace once or more each heating season
If you decide it’s time to invest in a new furnace, you can cash in on some benefits almost immediately. An energy-efficient furnace will cut back on your utility bills right away, and your new installation will heat the home more evenly, offering higher levels of comfort. It’s important to contact a professional for your furnace replacement. You must properly size your system to avoid serious problems with efficiency and operation.
Picking the Right Professional
Whether you’re looking for a qualified service professional for your seasonal maintenance visit, or you’re in the market for a whole new system, it’s important to work with a company you trust for your heating and cooling needs. Look for technicians who have a history of reliable service in your area. It’s also smart to choose an HVAC provider who offers 24/7 emergency services in case you find yourself in a pinch.
If you’re in need of furnace repair or maintenance, contact Griffith Energy Services at 888-474-3391. All repairs are guaranteed for one year, so you know you can rely on quality and longevity.
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