We need our heating systems to keep our homes comfortable during the colder months, and when they stop working, it can create a great deal of discomfort. For this reason, it’s important to schedule annual maintenance before each heating season to boost performance and energy efficient. Regularly servicing is vital, but there will be times when a problem arises between service visits, and they need to be fixed quickly. In this article, we will look at five of the most common heater problems and how to deal with them.
- A Clogged Air Filter
Although they look like a relatively insignificant part, air filters are vitally important for your HVAC system. An air filter keeps particulates out of the system to protect sensitive components from damage. As the air is circulated throughout the home, dust and dirt that’s stirred up can be drawn into the system. Over time this debris will build-up on the surface of the filter, and the airflow will be gradually reduced.
If the airflow is compromised, this will make the HVAC system work harder to compensate. The additional strain can cause parts such as the compressor to malfunction, and eventually, the system will fail. This will lead to an expensive repair that could be avoided by cleaning the air filter regularly.
If you can’t remember when to change your air filter, set a designated day each month and stick to it. Alternatively, there are apps available that will warn you when you need to clean or change the air filter in your HVAC system. Finally, if you have a smart thermostat, it may even send an alert to warn you when the air filter needs some attention.
- General Wear and Tear
Like any piece of complex equipment, an HVAC system has a finite lifespan. The exact useful lifespan can vary a great deal depending on the make and model of your HVAC system. Most HVAC systems manufactured in the last few decades tend to last for 15-20 years. A well maintained system is more likely to operate at the upper end of that range, and it will have better energy efficiency than a comparable system that has not been well cared for.
It’s also worth noting that an electric furnace will not last as long as a gas or oil model, and homeowners should be thinking about a new furnace at the 15 year mark. As the furnace ages, the performance will degrade, and it will become less energy efficient. Some of the problems associated with general wear and tear are noisy operations, overheating, and airflow regulation issues.
It may seem unnecessary to replace an HVAC system that seems to be working well, but in most cases, it’s the best option. The costs of fixing the more frequent problems on an aging system make it less economically viable than installing a new system.
- Rising Energy Bills
It’s important to find a balance between having a comfortable home without driving up the energy bills. This is why energy efficiency is so vital, we all want to do our best for the environment, but we also want to pay as little as possible for our heating and cooling. Every HVAC system loses a certain amount of efficiency each year, and the energy bills will gradually rise as a result.
The best way to maintain energy efficiency is to schedule regular annual maintenance for your HVAC system. But, there are other possible causes that must be investigated if you want the best performance at a price that you can afford. As we mentioned earlier, a dirty filter can cause the system to work harder, and this will use more energy. If you have leaks in your ductwork, treated air can escape, and this is a waste of money. If there are leaks around the windows and doors in your home, the outdoor air can get in, and the treated air can escape. If there isn’t enough insulation in the attic, walls and crawl spaces, this will allow the cooled or warmed air to dissipate to the outdoors. The best way to evaluate these areas is to schedule an energy audit and follow the advice carefully.
- A Noisy HVAC System
The HVAC system in your home should not be causing a lot of excessive noise that disturbs the occupants. If there are loud or strange noises, this is typically a sign that something is wrong, and the source of the disturbance needs to be identified and fixed. The noise could be caused by a worn out part or a clogged heater, and it’s important to act quickly to get the problem fixed.
Like any complex piece of equipment that’s starting to fail, the problem will not correct itself, and it will only get worse as time goes on. If an HVAC problem is detected and fixed early, it’s likely to be easier and cheaper to repair. If fixing the problem is put off until later, the repair is likely to cost much more, and it could even lead to a full system replacement.
In some cases, the sounds could be a kind of death rattle for your system because it’s worn out. A repair may be possible, but in most cases, it’s best to replace the system with a modern unit that has more features and better energy efficiency.
- Carbon Monoxide Output
Any furnace that burns fuel can potentially release carbon monoxide or CO into the home. This is an odorless and colorless gas that’s dangerous and very hard to detect without a dedicated CO detector. Carbon monoxide poisoning can lead to health problems, such as dizziness, muscle fatigue, headaches, nausea, blurred eyesight, confusion, shortness of breath, and even death. Older furnaces are more likely to release CO at dangerous levels, and this should be treated seriously.
The flame inside your furnace must be blue and steady; if it’s flickering or yellow, the fuel isn’t being burned efficiently, and CO is produced. Another sign is a build-up of excessive levels of soot inside the heater and chimney. Finally, look out for rusty flue pipes, water leaks at the base of heating vents or chimneys, and excessive condensation on cold surfaces. These are all signs that the heating system isn’t performing as intended, and excessive levels of CO are present in the home.
Installing a carbon monoxide detector and checking the batteries each month is the best warning for CO poisoning. If your heater is producing carbon monoxide, contact your local certified HVAC technician for expert help and advice. The issue may be repairable, or if you have an older heater, it may be time to retire it and get an upgrade that’s safer and more energy efficient.