Your furnace happily works away out of sight heating your home. Sometimes it can be years before any problems start even if you completely ignore it. But it isn’t wise to do so as the risk of failure increases with every small defect. The last thing you need is no heat at 2 AM on the coldest night of the year! Below are five common problems that happen in your heating system and how you can prevent or reduce the risk of experiencing them.
1. Failed Blower Motor
Blower motors have an expected lifespan, so they will fail eventually, but they often fail early because of dirty air filters. The air filter in your furnace needs to be replaced frequently as dirt build up closes the openings in the filter making it harder for the blower motor to move air through the system. If a dirty filter is not changed the blower motor will work harder, shortening its life.
2. Humidifier Leaks
Most forced-air furnaces have an attached humidifier. This device is one of the most neglected, and when it fails, it can damage your furnace as well. Prevent damage through regular inspection and maintenance. Open the case on the humidifier regularly and inspect the filter and inside of the cabinet. Make sure the supply valve is not encrusted and that the drain line is properly draining. Change or clean the filter to keep the unit operating. If your humidifier is not working, turn off the water supply (follow the hose back to a valve) until you can have it serviced or replaced.
3. Dirt Around Heat Registers
That ring of dirt found around heat registers is often mistakenly attributed to dirty heating ducts. While the ducts are transporting particles, it isn’t because dirt has built up in the ductwork. Rather, it is being drawn up into the ducts through leaks in the system. Your ductwork travels in the space between floor and ceiling where dust builds up and cannot be easily cleaned out. Where joins are not properly sealed, airflow through the ducts creates a sucking action that pulls this dust into the system and deposits it near the registers.
To reduce this condition, find and seal leaks in your ductwork. This may be difficult in an older home or where the basement is completely developed but every joint you can seal is a joint that won’t bring more dust into your home. Newer homes shouldn’t have this problem as sealed ductwork has been a requirement in code for several years.
4. Rusty Furnace Cabinet
High efficiency furnaces remove more heat from the combustion stream than older devices. The cooler air can’t hold as much moisture and so condensation forms and is drawn off by the condensate drain line. If there are any leaks in this system condensate is released and will rust your furnace. Condensate is not just water, but water mixed with what’s in the exhaust; it is corrosive.
5. Unreliable Operation
There are a number of little things that can go wrong with your furnace without an immediate failure. As things begin to fail, operation is less efficient, and the risk of other failures, including no heat, increases. Sensors and limit switches, the inducer motor and event the thermostat can cause problems and mean you have unreliable heat even though the furnace appears to be working. Simply having a furnace service professional inspect and service the furnace once per year will have a huge impact on your risk of bigger problems further down the road.