Gas Furnace Maintenance: What's Involved?

Gas Furnace Maintenance: What's Involved?
Regular furnace service is always a good idea — it improves efficiency, ensures safety, conserves energy and maximizes savings. Neglecting furnace maintenance can shorten the unit's lifespan and cause safety hazards. You might be wondering what goes into gas furnace maintenance and how to tell when you need it. Use this guide to answer those questions. Learn about furnace inspection and maintenance — what it involves, when to seek it and why it matters.

Why Does Preventive Furnace Service Matter?

If you want a safe, effective and quiet furnace, you'll have to plan for its upkeep. You might wonder why you'd need to call in a technician if your furnace doesn't have any apparent issues. However, you'll find regular, preventive maintenance has several advantages, including the following.

Preventive Maintenance Saves You Money

Waiting until there's a noticeable issue can rack up expenses. Preventive furnace service reduces the risk of severe breakdowns and extends the life of the furnace. In most cases, simple upkeep is much less expensive than emergency repairs. It also ensures your furnace is running at peak efficiency, which can help keep your energy bills lower.

It Boosts Your Air Quality

On average, Americans spend 90% of their time indoors, but air pollutants can be two to five times more concentrated indoors. Substandard indoor air quality is a grave health concern — those with asthma, respiratory problems or immunodeficiencies are the most vulnerable. Dust, pet dander, mold, smoke, bacteria and viruses can enter our homes and circulate through the air ducts, where we breathe them in. That's another reason preventive maintenance is so crucial. An HVAC professional will make sure your air filters are working and your indoor air is as clean as possible.

It Keeps You Cozy All Year

Gas furnace maintenance ensures an even, steady air distribution. An effective furnace and clean ductwork will secure an even spread of warm and cool air. That way, every room will be comfortable, despite extreme temperatures outside.

It Protects Your Home and Family

A malfunctioning furnace can mean disaster for your home in the form of frozen or burst pipes, flooding and even structural damage. It's best to catch possible issues before they turn into emergencies. Preventive maintenance will also help reduce the risk of carbon monoxide, keeping your family safe.

It's Beneficial for the Environment

Preventive maintenance ensures your furnace's and HVAC system's efficiency. Operating on as little fuel and electricity as possible lessens your furnace's impact on the environment. An inefficient system gorges on fuel and releases more fumes into the air. On the other hand, the more efficient your furnace is, the less fuel it has to consume. Improved efficiency is also better for your wallet. You need routine furnace service.

How Often Should Furnaces Get Maintenance Checks?

If you have a gas furnace, you need routine checkups — more often than you might realize. As a rule of thumb, it's best to seek maintenance once a year, in the fall. As the leaves change and the temperature starts to drop, your furnace could be in for a shock. You may not have used it for months, and you're about to start putting it through its paces every day. If you let a car sit unused in a garage all winter, you'd want to get an inspection before taking it across the country on a summer road trip. The same principle applies to your furnace. A professional should ensure everything is in top shape before winter approaches.

What Gas Furnace Parts Need Regular Inspections and Maintenance?

During a furnace inspection, some components require extra attention. Here are the parts of your furnace you may need to have tuned up or replaced.

Heat Exchanger

The heat exchanger is an essential element of your furnace that keeps combustion gases separate from breathing air. It releases warm air inside and sends fumes outside. Continuous heating and cooling expands and contracts this component's metal walls. Over time, the metal can wear thin. Imagine bending a paper clip back and forth until it snaps — the same happens to your heat exchanger over several years. A worn heat exchanger can mean combustion gases, including carbon monoxide, released into the home. Breathing these fumes can be fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control. To keep you and your family safe, you need a professional to check for invisible gas leaks, cracks or deterioration in the heat exchanger.

Burner

Gas combustion takes place in the burner, which produces heat for the heat exchanger. An unclean burner can result in inefficient combustion, soot buildup or condensation. These issues can drive up your energy bills and shorten your furnace's life. At least once a year, a professional should remove and clean your furnace's burner. They'll also test the quality of the burner flames and make adjustments as needed.

Pilot Light or Ignition

Older furnaces have pilot lights, whereas modern furnaces have automatic ignition systems. A pilot light is always burning, providing a flame when the temperature dips below the thermostat setting. An automated ignition system uses either an electrical spark or a resistance heating element to ignite the fire when needed. Since it only burns on command, it conserves fuel. Several issues can arise with the ignition. A weak flame can quickly extinguish, shutting down the furnace. A faulty or dirty flame sensor will fail to detect a flame. The gas valve or pilot opening can clog. In any of these instances, a professional will need to clean elements and make adjustments.

Gas Line

As their name suggests, gas lines transport gases in and out of the furnace system. These gases are flammable and dangerous, so it's essential to check for leaks often. Since these gases are undetectable with the naked eye, a technician will use an electronic leak detector.

Flue Pipe

The flue pipe directs exhaust gases to release outdoors, thus ensuring your indoor air is clean and safe to breathe. Corrosion on the metal flue pipe can result in hazardous gas leaks. During maintenance, it's vital to check the flue pipe for signs of potential leaks. The professional will keep an eye out for possible corrosion.

Fan and Blower

The fan or blower on your furnace moves hot air where it's needed. The low-power motor that runs the fan can malfunction, connecting belts can slip or built-up dirt can reduce efficiency. It's crucial to have your furnace's fan and fan motor serviced during the routine check.

Combustion Air

Combustion air, as you might assume, is the air supply for combustion. The furnace needs a steady air supply to function. Any blockages in the intake vents or pipes can cause the furnace to stop working. These areas need regular cleaning and unclogging to ensure efficiency.

Air Filter

Filter blockages force your furnace to work a lot harder and decrease its lifespan. You'll need to clean or replace your filters about once every three months. A clean filter makes for an efficient system, conserving energy and saving money. One filter cleaning during an annual checkup is often insufficient — you can replace the air filter yourself, or schedule professional filter checks for each season.

Bearings and Motors

Motors and bearings are central to any mechanical system. Bearings reduce friction and motors power essential elements, such as the fan. Your technician will ensure all furnace components are ready to work. They might apply lubricating oil to smooth its operation and check that all connecting belts are securely in place.

Electrical Connections

An electrical shortage can cause failure in your furnace. When a fuse blows, your furnace cannot produce heat — affecting your comfort and risking freeze damage to your home. A professional will check for faulty wiring, overloaded circuits, nearby water leaks, an unclean fuse and any other possible causes of electrical failure.

List of checks that a furnace technician will make when administering furnace service.

 

Other Checks a Furnace Technician Will Do

In addition to checking all of the parts listed above, your furnace technician will perform a few other tasks.
  • Calibrating the thermostat: A professional will ensure your thermostat is accurate. If the reading is off by more than a couple of degrees, they'll recalibrate the thermostat for improved accuracy. The thermostat determines how much heat your furnace pumps, so an inaccurate reading can lead to too little or too much heating.
  • Checking the safety controls: Your thermostat has several safety controls. These protect you by shutting the system down when there's a dangerous concern. The limit switch turns off the furnace when it detects excessive high temperatures. If your furnace has a pilot light, it also has a thermocouple, which shuts off the gas supply if the pilot light goes out. Your furnace should also have a mercury flame sensor, an air pressure switch and a carbon monoxide detector. All these must work in concert to ensure the safe use of your furnace.
  • Testing the heating performance: The technician will perform tests to analyze the furnace's heating performance. They'll determine how efficient the system is and make adjustments to improve efficiency.
  • Testing the unit's airflow: If specific rooms are not heating up, there may be an airflow problem, caused by leaking or clogging. It's vital to check for these issues and address them as soon as possible.

How Long Do Furnaces Usually Last?

Routine furnace tune-ups can extend your unit's lifespan by several years. According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, a furnace should last about 15 to 20 years. Depending on how long you live in your home, you might only need to replace your furnace once. Its longevity depends on several factors.
  • Proper maintenance: With regular furnace maintenance and cleaning, you can extend your furnace's life expectancy. Neglecting maintenance requirements has the opposite effect.
  • Climate: Extreme temperatures or the salty air of a coastal region can increase the wear and tear on your furnace. In a milder climate, a furnace can last longer.
Once you begin to approach your furnace's average endurance, a few signs might indicate the need for replacement. If you notice an unexplained spike in your utility bills, it could be because your aging furnace requires more energy than it used to. You might also feel uneven heating, despite clean ducts, or insufficient air quality, even if you've recently replaced your filters. Frequent symptoms and issues can also signify your furnace needs to retire. Before you replace your furnace, contact an HVAC professional. They'll help you determine the right piece of equipment for your home and perform the installation. An improperly or incorrectly installed furnace can cause problems.  

When should you request furnace service?

When Should You Request Furnace Maintenance?

In addition to routine maintenance checks, your furnace may require extra attention. Some symptoms can alert you to a problem that requires professional attention. Be on the lookout for any of the following warning signs.

Strange Noises

If you notice any strange noises coming from your furnace, contact a professional. Here are some of the noises you might hear and their possible causes.
  • Scraping noises: If you hear a sound that could be metal scraping against metal, or a "nails-on-a-chalkboard" sound, this might mean a piece of the blower is out of alignment. A sound like this is unpleasant and can indicate damaging wear and tear, so it's essential to address it right away.
  • Screeching noises: A screeching sound can signify your furnace needs new lubrication. You'll want to let a professional do this, as store-bought lubricants are not powerful enough.
  • Thumping or thwapping noises: A sound like this can mean something is stuck between the blades or inside the furnace.

Get Yourself a Furnace Today at Ingrams Water and Air Equipment

If your furnace is on the fritz and you know there's no helping it, we can find you the right gas furnace! Give us a call at 270-575-9595 or check out the gas furnaces we have here!
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