Most of the time, a furnace will work well if it’s correctly installed, well maintained, and tested regularly. But, there is a world of difference between a routine furnace repair and an emergency furnace repair. Understanding this difference is crucial to keep your family safe and avoid a loss of heating when you need it most. In this article, we will look at four furnace emergencies in more detail to help you make an informed decision on when to call a local HVAC professional for expert help.
- Serious Electrical Problems
We rely on our supply of power for many systems in our homes, and this includes heating and cooling systems. If you understand how your electrical system works, you will have a better idea about any potential hazards that may arise. Working on electrical systems can be dangerous, so if you don’t have formal training, consult a professional and don’t take unnecessary risks. If you have problems with tripped breakers or flickering lights when you use your furnace, it’s time to contact an HVAC technician. Around 43,000 home fires are caused by electrical failures each year, and these result in over 400 deaths and over 1,600 injuries and $1.5 billion in property damage.
- The HVAC System Turns On and Off Quickly
This phenomenon is known as short or rapid cycling, and it can affect the furnace and air conditioning systems. The usual cause is a clogged or damaged air filter that is restricting the airflow to the HVAC system. When the air filter is not working as intended, additional stress is placed on the compressor. This can lead to overheating and mechanical failures that will shorten the lifespan of the equipment. Another possible cause is a failing blower unit that cannot circulate sufficient volumes of treated air throughout the HVAC system. Both of these repairs can be expensive, and they are easy to avoid if you simply replace the air filters regularly. If you cannot remember when you last changed the air filter, it’s a great idea to do it now. There are apps to help you remember when to change the air filter, or you can make a date and stick to it each month.
- Strange Loud Noises
There may be times when the furnace seems to be running normally, but there are loud or strange noises when the heating system is running. There are a few different types of noises, and they can originate in different parts of the heating systems. The first noise is caused by air traveling through the ductwork, so it can often be heard all over the home. The only real way to fix this problem is to check the ductwork for gaps and seal them. If the problem persists, it may be necessary to insulate the ductwork. Another source of strange noises could be the furnace itself, and this can happen if the pilot light needs adjustment or the lubrication ports on the blower motor need oil. Two other possible causes could be issues with the burner unit or a loose belt.
There are four main types of unusual furnace noises to listen out for, and each noise can mean something different.
- Rattling: This noise could be caused by loose screws or panels that need to be located and tightened.
- Grinding: The usual cause of grinding noises is motor bearings that need to be repaired by a certified HVAC technician.
- Squealing: This is typically the belt that connects the fan to the motor. The belt may have slipped out of position, or it could be failing, and it needs to be replaced.
- Popping: This is often the result of thermal expansion, the ductwork will expand and contract as the material heats and then cools down again.
Strange noises emanating from any system that uses electrical and mechanical components is always a sign that something is wrong. Even though it may seem mundane and the furnace appears to be working fine, this situation should be a priority. These types of problems never fix themselves, and they always get worse if they are ignored. When a furnace problem is detected earlier and fixed, you can prevent additional damage and lower the repair bill significantly.
- A “Rotten Egg” Odor
In its natural state, gas doesn’t have any discernible odor, and yet it’s extremely dangerous. To make escaping gas easier to detect, the gas company adds a substance called Mercaptan that has a strong sulfur or “rotten egg” odor. This helps the occupants of the home to detect the odor of gas easily, giving them more time to escape the home. The odor of Mercaptan is extremely distinctive, if natural gas is escaping, you will recognize the source, and there will be no confusion.
If you smell natural gas in your home, there is no time to waste, and you must act quickly to keep yourself and your family safe. Here are ten steps that you must take to avoid causing an explosion that could have devastating consequences.
- Clear the Building: It’s important to get everyone out of the home as quickly as possible.
- Electrical Arcs: Don’t turn on any lights or other electrical systems. Any small electrical arc caused when a system closes can cause a sufficient spark to ignite the gas and cause an explosion.
- Opening Windows: Dissipating the gas by opening windows is a great idea, but it should only be done if the risk is minimal. If you can quickly open up windows and the doors on the way out of the home do so. But don’t return later to open more windows to vent more gas.
- The Stove: Don’t use the stove if you can smell gas, if the stove is turned on, turn it off quickly.
- Using Phones: Avoid using smartphones or regular phones in the home.
- The Car: It may be tempting to move the car out of the garage, but starting the car could cause the spark that results in an explosion. Even opening a garage or car door could cause an unwanted spark, and it’s a better idea to leave the car behind.
- Get Clear: Get out of the home, go to a neighbor for help, and call for service there.
- Do Not Return: If the service call is delayed for any reason, don’t return to the house before the gas leak is fixed.
- Turn Off the Gas: If you can turn off the gas safely, do so, but don’t put yourself at risk and don’t go searching for the gas meter if you don’t know where it is.
- Call for Help: Contact an emergency team as soon as possible.