As temperatures in Kansas City begin to drop, furnaces across the area kick in and begin warming residences and businesses alike. However, when a furnace does not work as intended, occupants of the building or home can be left cold and unhappy. What are some common furnace issues during winter that owners need to be aware of and watching for?
Dirty or Clogged Air Filters
Certain rooms in the home or building may never seem to get warm. In certain cases, it might feel as if the air is failing to circulate throughout the structure properly. When either of these problems is detected, the first place one should look to diagnose the problem is the air filters.
A filter that is dirty or clogged blocks the flow of air and can interfere with the building or home’s ability to reach the maximum heating potential. This is an easy fix, fortunately. Simply replace or clean the existing filter to see if the problem is resolved. Doing so only takes a few minutes and can significantly improve the heating power of the unit while increasing the energy efficiency of the system.
The filter works to remove airborne particles so they cannot circulate through the system. Owners typically notice their unit is cycling on and off more frequently in addition to poor airflow. These are only two signs the filter may need to be changed, and owners should be aware of any change in the way their system operates and take action immediately when an alteration is noticed.
As the system must work harder to move air through a dirty or clogged system, mechanical breakdowns may occur more frequently, or the lifespan of the unit could be reduced. Change the filter according to the manufacturer’s recommended schedule or speak to an experienced furnace repair technician to learn how often this maintenance should be carried out.
Frozen Pipes and/or Coils
When pipes freeze, the furnace typically stops working. Pipes tend to freeze as a result of a drop in outdoor temperatures, and ice begins to form over hydronic systems. This ice prevents hot water and steam from moving through the system like they should.
As the ice forms, pressure begins to build up within the pipes and coils. This is the result of air not being able to move properly through the system due to the ice buildup. This air cannot make its way into the interior of the home or building.
In the event, pressure appears to be building up in the pipes and coils, immediately shut off the water supply to the home. Remove any ice from the pipes before turning it back on. If help is needed to do this, call on a reputable furnace repair provider for assistance. Doing so can save a great deal of time and money while protecting the system and the home or building from additional damage.
The thermostat is used to set the desired temperature in the home or building. When this device begins to act up, the system will have a harder time reaching the desired temperature. As a result, it may shut off too soon.
On the other hand, the thermostat may tell the system that the desired temperature hasn’t been reached. To help bring the home up to this comfort level, the system continues to run. The occupants will find they keep getting warmer and warmer, although the system says the set temperature hasn’t been reached.
Often the problem is the thermostat isn’t properly calibrated. When this is the case, the unit tends to cycle on and off more frequently. A repair technician can calibrate the thermostat and have the system working again in very little time when this is where the problem lies.
Other things may also go wrong with the thermostat. Does it run off of batteries, or is it hard-wired into the home? Simply replacing the batteries is enough to fix the problem in many cases.
A person might find the thermostat has tripped the circuit breaker. Fixing this takes very little time. Simply turn the breaker back on to have the thermostat working again.
If the breaker shuts off again, however, call in a repair professional. There may be something wrong within the system that is causing the breaker to trip repeatedly. It needs to be determined what the problem is and how best to fix it.
Bad Safety Switch
The furnace door comes with a safety switch. If this switch is not operational, the fan and burner cannot come on. The system is designed this way to ensure the fan and burner won’t become operational when the access panel is not in place.
When the door is removed, the safety switch disengages, and the furnace won’t work. This switch may disengage when it is failing, as well. A repair technician can install a new switch and wire it into the furnace so the system operates correctly once again.
Furnaces make noise during operation. However, any new noise is cause for concern because it may mean something is breaking down within the unit. It’s a matter of determining where the problem lies and how best to fix it.
Fan belts wear down with time and can make noises when they are failing. However, they may simply have come loose with time, and an adjustment will be enough to resolve the issue. This is only one of several reasons why the furnace might begin making a new noise.
Clicking noises often mean the ignition system is going bad. The spark ignitor is trying to start the pilot light but is unable to do so. This is why the clicking noise occurs more than once, and the furnace needs to be fixed right away so it doesn’t stop running completely.
Rattling noises are a sign that something has come loose within the system. The goal is to repair the item before it breaks or disconnects completely. When this happens, loud banging noises will usually be heard.
A banging noise that is not accompanied by hot, dry air suggests the furnace burners are dirty. When dirt builds up on the burners, gas accumulates in the unit before it ignites. This leads to a delayed ignition and the buildup could actually crack the heat exchanger. If this happens, a new furnace will be needed so this is one noise that can never be ignored.
Another reason a loud bang may be heard is a problem within the ductwork. Air blows out through supply ducts connected to the furnace. As the ducts expand and contract, a loud noise could mean one or more vents are closed, the ducts aren’t properly sized, or an air filter is clogged.
Scraping noises are a symptom of worn ball bearings. If this noise is heard, the unit immediately needs to be turned off. Do not operate it again until a trained professional has replaced the bearings in the unit. Doing so could lead to the need for additional repairs or a furnace replacement.
Determine which is the case and call in a repair technician if needed. The owner can open vents or change a dirty air filter. Anything more and professional help should be sought.
Carbon Monoxide Leaks
Incomplete combustion is the main cause of carbon monoxide gas leaks. This gas is odorless, tasteless, and extremely dangerous. In fact, some individuals have lost their lives as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.
As this type of leak is hard to detect, homes need to have a carbon monoxide sensor in place. The sensor sends out an alarm if the levels of this gas in a home or building exceed a certain amount. The occupants can then take steps to remove everyone from the building and determine the reason for the leak.
A technician should be called in at this time to diagnose the issue. He or she looks for cracks, leaks, and other problems within the unit. Furthermore, the technician checks for adequate ventilation in the home to help reduce the risk of similar problems in the future. The furnace should not be used until all repairs are complete.
While this is not an issue directly within the furnace, it does affect the occupants of the building. Heat removes moisture from the air, and this can lead to health issues for those living or working in the environment. Fortunately, there are steps one can take to put moisture back into the air and prevent these types of health issues.
One recommendation is to install a humidifier in the home. Manufacturers now make whole-house versions to ensure dry air isn’t a problem at any time, not simply during the winter months. Keep this in mind and discuss it with the technician to determine if the purchase of a whole-house humidifier would be of benefit to you.
Pilot Light Malfunctions
A working pilot light is essential to proper furnace operation. When the pilot fails to stay lit or doesn’t maintain a strong, steady flame, the furnace won’t work as it should. Often, the problem lies in the sensor.
When the sensor becomes dirty or damaged, the pilot light isn’t able to continue operating or may do so with weak flame. Turn the furnace off and clean this sensor. In the event that doesn’t help, contact an experienced technician to replace it.
Drafts can also lead to problems with the pilot light. Pay attention to the location of the furnace and determine if airflow outside of the unit could be an issue. When this is the case, doors or windows in the area may need to be closed to prevent problems from developing. Thankfully, this is an easy and inexpensive fix.
Bad Limit Switch
What happens when the system continuously runs? First, the owner notices a rise in utility bills. However, this is only one thing that is concerning about having a system that never shuts off.
When the system runs nonstop, the limit switch is likely causing the issue. The furnace blows without interruption and puts wear and tear on the system, which can lead to other components failing. Call for a repair when this is the case to save money and ensure the system remains up and running.
No Power to the Furnace
In the event, the system fails to turn on or the thermostat screen goes blank, the power supply or circuit breaker could be at fault. Check to see if the breaker tripped or a fuse has blown. If this isn’t the issue, the power cord may no longer be plugged in at the outlet.
Check these three areas first before calling for a heating repair. However, if the breaker has tripped or the fuse blows and does so once again after being reset, a technician will need to come out. He or she can then determine where the problem lies and why the system keeps shutting off.
The occasion will come when repairs will no longer resolve system issues. In many cases, it is a matter of repairs costing more than it would to purchase a new furnace. When this time comes, the owner needs to ensure he or she chooses a reputable company for furnace installation.
While saving money at this time would be nice, a discount provider might cut corners. This could lead to early system failure, insufficient heat in the building, or health problems for the occupants. As many people learn, the cost of a new system is offset by the energy savings, so this is one time when it is best to spend more at the time of purchase. The savings over the life of the unit will help to make up the difference.