As your home’s furnace or heat pump works 24 hours a day and seven days a week, it is common for some issues to occur. These heating units are made up of motors, relays, switches and circuitry. As they cycle on and off, some things will fail. In this article, we will discuss the most common problems in your heating system.
Without a doubt, the most common problem is lack of maintenance. The dust that you clean off your tables, pictures, and bookcases will concentrate inside your home’s heating system. As the blower fan circulates your homes air, the dust in the air collects on every part of the ductwork and system components. The picture below is a blower unit that is typically found during a heat tune-up. Empire HVAC sees units that are much worse, but we wanted to save you from the “gross” effect.
As this dust collects, it dries out the lubricating oil in all your system bearings. Lack of lubrication causes motor bearings to overheat and seize. The dust also acts as an insulator, which causes excessive heat build up on every mechanical part while the unit is operating. Lack of maintenance and cleaning is the most common cause for premature equipment failure. It also increases the workload of the unit and subsequently increases the electrical power needed to run the unit. If your energy bills have slowly crept up over the years, a good thorough system cleaning and tune-up can help remedy the problem. Using a good high efficiency filter with regular filter changes can also help prevent dust build up in the unit.
The next most common problem is that of pilot, ignition or burn problems with your furnace. Your furnace uses a system of gas piping and circuitry to ensure that the gas lights and burns each time the system calls for heat. This system makes up the “combustion chain”. If anything fails in the combustion chain, the system shuts down and will not operate until it is repaired. The pilot system, gas valve, draft inducer and burners should be checked every year during a heating tune-up. Many times we discover a failing pilot light or hot surface igniter during a heating tune-up. Catching these failures early means a worry free heating season and no loss of heat on the coldest night of the year.
Another common problem with older furnaces is the cracking of the system’s heat exchanger. The heat exchanger works by separating the products of combustion from your indoor air. As your furnace burns natural gas or propane, the exhaust is passed through a curved system of tubes. The heat exchanger becomes very hot and as your home’s indoor air is passed over the heat exchanger, it warms the air. This provides heat while exhausting carbon monoxide safely out of your home. As the metal heat exchanger warms and cools, over time the metal becomes weak and can begin to fail.
When the heat exchanger fails, it is critical that your unit be replaced. A cracked heat exchanger can release carbon monoxide in your home. Signs of carbon monoxide include flu like symptoms, headaches, dizziness, tiredness and nausea. CO is an odorless gas and we recommend a high quality CO detector in each living area level of your home. If you or a family member experiences any of these symptoms or you suspect carbon monoxide in your home, turn off your furnace and all gas burning appliances, evacuate your home and immediately call for service.
The last most common furnace issues are related to the thermostat and control systems. If the thermostat malfunctions it can cause no heat, fan running continuously or temperature problems. When the control systems fail, most likely the unit will shut down and stop operating all together.
The best way to prevent these common furnace issues from occurring is through a heating tune-up every year. Our full service heat tune-up includes a thorough inspection of the unit, testing of all the electrical controls, lubricating all motor bearings, adjusting the burn rate, inspection of the heat exchanger*, reading of all motor amps and replacing the filter.
To prevent these common problems from occurring with your home’s heating system, call Empire HVAC today at 404-294-0900 to schedule your full service heat tune-up.
* Empire HVAC performs a thorough heat exchanger inspection on every heating tune-up. Some heat exchanger cracks are not visible due to the shape of the heat exchanger. For this reason, we recommend every home install a working carbon monoxide detector.