As the colder weather arrives, many homeowners turn on their furnaces for the first time, and they quickly encounter some common problems. At this time, the furnace blower motor may be identified as one of those problems, and this is understandable. Unlike some components in the HVAC system, the blower motor is used throughout the year. During the summer months, the blower unit will push the cool treated air through the ducts to make the home more comfortable. Then we rely on the same motor in the winter to push the warmer air throughout the home. So, it should come as no surprise that this component needs regular maintenance before the start of the heating and cooling season.

In this article, we will answer four common furnace blower motor questions.

1.  What is the Furnace Blower Motor?

The furnace blower motor is an electric component that powers a belt that turns the fan blades to move the air through the air ducts. The blower motor works with the HVAC system to distribute warm and cool air as needed. For this reason, the blower motor is one of the most used components, and this makes it a vulnerable part if the system is poorly maintained.

2.  What is the Purpose of the Blower Motor?

A furnace blower motor will determine how quickly your furnace heats up. If the heating system takes too long to reach the desired temperature, this will raise the energy bills. This is because the unit is running for longer than it should, which degrades the efficiency. The blower motor powers the fan that circulates the treated air (cold or hot) throughout the home via the ducts and vents.

3.  What is the Furnace Blower Motor Location?

Older furnaces had a squirrel cage blower where the blower had a motor mounted on the side. The motor spindle transmitted the spinning to the fan with a belt. The motor, blower, and fan are all separate components in these older furnace systems. This makes repairs and replacements a viable choice for the blower, the motor, or both at the same time.

Modern furnaces have a direct-drive design where the motor spindle drives the blower wheel. There is no fan belt to adjust, and the blower and motor are linked together. The blower fan wheel can be driven by a chain or belt, or it may be linked to a gearbox. The motor may be integrated into the blower wheel, or it could be mounted at the end of the component.

The modern design has a blower assembly that can be replaced and removed separately. But, certain models have them installed as a single component that can be connected, disconnected, and reconnected together as needed.

4.  How Long Will a Blower Motor Last?

A modern blower motor is designed to last for the entire lifespan of the furnace. This can be 10-20 years, depending on the make and model of your furnace. More expensive models tend to maintain performance and energy efficiency for longer, but this is not a hard and fast rule. The more important consideration is that the maintenance requirements are met. Over the useful lifespan of the furnace, regular maintenance will reduce the frequency and severity of repairs.

As you can see, the furnace blower motor is an important component, and when it’s not working properly, it will affect the entire HVAC system. But, how can you recognize if you have a problem with your blower motor?

4 Signs That the Furnace Blower Motor is Failing

Like any complex component in the HVAC system, the blower motor can wear out over time. When this component is failing, it will prevent the heating and cooling equipment from performing at optimal efficiency. Let’s take a look at four common signs that the blower motor is failing and that you should call your local HVAC specialist to investigate.

1.   A Screeching or Grinding Noise

The lubrication within a furnace blower should keep the unit running smoothly for years. But, if the blower motor starts to make screeching or grinding noises, it’s likely that the motor bearings have worn down the gears.

2.   Burning Smells or Strange Odors

If you can smell burning or strange odors from the furnace, it can permeate throughout the entire home. The source of this problem is usually that the motor is failing or that another connected component in the blower assembly has gone bad. A cursory check of the case may reveal signs of damage that should be checked out by an HVAC technician. Regular air filter changes and maintenance can prevent these issues and extend the lifespan of the furnace motor blower unit.

3.   Intermittent Operations

If the furnace blower runs and then stops running unexpectedly, there is probably a problem with the blower unit or a component that controls it. Some common problems include poor voltage, a faulty limit switch, a failing capacitor, a loose or broken wire, and dirty air filters. Cleaning the blower motor wire coils may help, and the limit switch can be tested with a multimeter. If the problem cannot be fixed, it may be necessary to replace the furnace blower motor entirely.

4.   The Furnace Stops Running After a Few Hours

If a capacitor is overworked or a limit switch overheats, this will place a temporary stop on the furnace blower motor after a few hours of operation. The common cause is a buildup of dust in the blower assembly unit that causes overheating due to a lack of airflow. In most cases, these problems can be fixed if you clean out the blower assembly with a can of compressed air.

Should I Replace the Blower Motor?

When the blower motor fails on an older furnace, many homeowners need to make a choice between a new blower motor unit or a new furnace. It can be difficult to make a value judgment between a replacement or repair. If the furnace is older, it’s far more likely that you will save money with a new heating system. Paying for ongoing and frequent repairs will cost more in the medium to long term. Plus, a new furnace will be more energy efficient, which will reduce your annual energy bills.

If you have a problem with your furnace blower motor or you’re considering a furnace replacement, contact your local HVAC specialist today.