Around 50% of the homes in the U.S. use a natural gas fired furnace for heating, and there are many good reasons for this. Gas is often a cheaper fuel for heating, and a gas furnace is a tough and durable appliance that can last many years. In recent years, the efficiency of gas furnaces has improved significantly, and the costs are competitive when compared to alternatives. But, gas furnaces do have certain common problems that can affect the performance, reliability, and efficiency of the unit. In this article, we will take a closer look at five common gas furnace problems and how to avoid them.
A Cautionary Note
Before we continue, it’s important to note that dealing with HVAC systems is not a good project for a DIY enthusiast. Some less critical tasks, such as changing an air filter or cleaning a thermostat, are simple. But, anything that’s related to the gas furnace, the gas supply, high temperatures, and the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning should be avoided. An HVAC specialist is a highly trained technician with the experience, knowledge, and specialized tools to fix the common problems listed here. If you are in any doubt about working on your gas furnace, contact your local HVAC specialist and ask them to take a look.
- A Lack of Regular Maintenance
Many of the problems that we will detail here can be detected earlier and prevented entirely with regular maintenance. Many people avoid maintenance for their gas furnaces and expect them to work at optimal efficiency with no attention. This seems strange because most of us would never consider avoiding maintenance for our cars. A gas furnace represents a significant investment, and if it isn’t working efficiently, it can cost us a lot of money in wasted energy.
Another important consideration is safety. If the system isn’t well maintained, it can lead to a carbon monoxide leak or a furnace fire. If you have a gas furnace that’s still under warranty, you will be required to have annual preventative maintenance by an HVAC contractor to meet the terms of the warranty. If your gas furnace is out of warranty, it still makes good sense to get it inspected each year before the start of the heating season.
The HVAC technician will find any smaller issues before they develop into larger problems that will cost more to fix. The improvements in performance and efficiency make a regular gas furnace inspection well worth the modest investment.
- Increased Gas Expenses
If you’ve noticed that your monthly gas expenses are gradually rising each year, your furnace is consuming too much fuel. This is a sure sign that your furnace is losing efficiency, which is typical as a furnace ages. A gas furnace facilitates the combustion of fuel. Although there are relatively few moving parts, there is significant wear and tear. Repeated cycles of heating and cooling will gradually affect components. It’s estimated that a typical gas furnace loses around 1% of the AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rating during each year of operation.
When you put this into perspective, you could have a gas furnace with a 80% AFUE rating, and after a decade of regular use, the AFUE rating would drop to around 70%. As the efficiency drops, the homeowner will notice that their gas consumption will increase along with higher and more regular repair needs. This process cannot be reversed, but it can be slowed significantly with regular gas furnace maintenance. At some point, the cost of repairs and the consumption of gas will mean that it makes better sense to replace your gas furnace. But, you can increase the useful lifespan of your equipment and save money if you schedule regular furnace maintenance.
- A Lack of Heating Performance
If you’ve noticed that you need to run the furnace for longer and it produces less heat, you may have a low airflow problem. The heating system relies on a correct supply and return of airflow to circulate the BTUs of heat needed to heat the square footage of your home. If you’re lucky, there may be a simple fix. If you can’t remember when you last changed the air filter, go ahead and change it now. The air filter should be changed every couple of months or more frequently if you have pets in the home. If this doesn’t correct the problem, it’s time to call your local HVAC contractor. The problem may be a failing blower unit that needs replacement or a leak in the ductwork that’s allowing the treated air to escape.
- Gas Furnace Ignition Issues
The thermostat sends a signal to the furnace burner when heat is required. But, if the burner doesn’t light, the problem may be caused by a faulty ignition system. Many older and some newer gas furnaces use a standing pilot light system that ignites the furnace burner when heat is needed. If this pilot light is prone to going out, the cause may be a defective thermocouple unit. Many modern gas furnaces use an electronic ignitor, which is more reliable, but it can still fail due to circuitry or wiring problems.
- Thermostat Problems
Older thermostats may use a mercury based system that relies on contact switches and metallic springs that weaken and fail over time. This can cause the thermostat to be unreliable. You may experience wrong temperatures, extended furnace running times, or even a complete lack of heating. A more modern electronic programmable thermostat has none of these reliability issues, and this kind of unit will save you money. When you install a programmable thermostat, you will have more consistent heating, and the lower operating costs will help you to recoup your investment with a year.
A gas furnace is a good investment for the indoor comfort of your home. This is a cost effective and energy efficient option for home heating if you take care of your equipment. So scheduling regular servicing and maintenance before each heating season makes good financial sense. This is a great way to detect smaller issues before they become more serious, maintain energy efficiency, and improve reliability. Contact your local HVAC specialist today to learn more.