Winter always seems to come around quickly; one moment, you are enjoying the hot weather, and then you’re struggling to get your furnace working. When you have a problem with your heating system, it tends to let you know immediately. When you want to keep your home comfortable without breaking the bank, you need regular maintenance for your HVAC system. But, you can identify and even fix the simpler problems yourself if you know what to look for.
- Changing Furnace Filters
Let’s start with one of the most common furnace problems that you can fix yourself. Every furnace relies on an air filter to keep the circulating air clean, and this helps to maintain your ductwork too. The filter blocks contaminants, such as allergens, dirt, dust, pollutants, and other materials from your indoor air supply. If you can’t remember when you last change your furnace filter, it’s probably a good idea to do it now. A furnace filter should be replaced at least every couple of months, but you need to check your specific model to make sure. If you notice a lack of heated air or your furnace seems to be overworked, that can be caused by a clogged filter. The filter is full, the air cannot pass easily, and this is causing the entire system to struggle as it attempts to force the air through.
- Dirty Ductwork
This may seem like a simple fix because anyone can reach into a duct to perform some basic vacuuming. But, it’s important to realize that debris, dust, and other materials can find their way into your ducts. Some of this material can affect the indoor air quality (IAQ) and the heating or cooling efficiency. Reaching deeply into the ducts for comprehensive sanitation is simply not possible with regular cleaning tools. If you place your hand over the vent and you cannot feel much heat, there could be an obstruction lurking in your ductwork that is inhibiting the airflow. Duct cleaning can be arranged at any time, and it’s often included as part of an annual maintenance visit. After the ducts are cleaned, many people are surprised at how much fresher their home feels.
- A Malfunctioning Starting Mechanism
Every furnace has some kind of start mechanism to begin the heating cycle. The exact type of starter that you have will depend on the furnace that you use. An older gas furnace may have a pilot light, but a more modern unit will often have an electronic ignition system. Instead, no matter the system, you need that starting mechanism to work, or you won’t be getting any heat in your home. If you have a pilot light for your furnace, you can check if it’s lit and attempt a restart using the owner’s manual if it isn’t. But, if you have an electronic starting system or you cannot relight your pilot light, you need to contact your local HVAC specialist for help.
- Worn Blower Bearing
The furnace in your home has a blower system that blows the treated air into your ducts. From there, it is distributed throughout your home, and if the airflow is diminished, you will notice a drop in heating performance. The blower mechanism has a set of ball bearings that can wear over time, or they may be damaged during a poor installation. In either case, this may be accompanied by a grinding or scraping noise. If you notice this, contact your local HVAC specialist, and they can change the bearings for you. But, it’s important to act quickly, because if you run the furnace, you will cause further damage that can affect other components in the system. The best course of action is to turn the furnace off until the problem has been fixed.
- A Failing Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is one of the most vital components in your entire heating system. It’s comprised of a series of heated tubes that the furnace pushes air through to generate the heat for your home. To put it simply, this part is the source of all the heat that comes from the furnace. As you can imagine, the heat that is generated through those tubes places a considerable amount of strain on the heat exchanger. Over time thin cracks can form that allow carbon monoxide to escape, and eventually, even flames can develop there. This can be hard to see when the furnace is not in use because the cracks can actually seal back up! These cracks are extremely dangerous, and checking the heat exchanger is a crucial part of any HVAC maintenance visit. If the heat exchanger is damaged, it cannot be fixed a replacement will be required. A heat exchanger is an expensive component, but replacing it will be cheaper than installing a new furnace. If you notice that you cannot get hotter air from your vents, you may have a failing heat exchanger.
- A Worn or Broken Blower Belt
The aforementioned blower unit uses a fan to push the air through the ductwork. This is driven by a blower belt that operates much like the fan belt on your car. Over time it can become loose, and it will make a high pitched squeal that’s quite distinctive from other sounds you may hear in your furnace. In some cases, the belt may simply break, and a replacement will be needed. In both cases, you will notice that you don’t get the treated air that you need at your vents. The furnace will lose efficiency, and you will pay your energy bills without getting the performance you pay for.
- A Broken Limit Switch
This component is a safety system that detects the temperature in the furnace. It tells the blower unit when to turn on and off and if the furnace is getting too hot. If the limit switch detects too much heat, it will turn the furnace burners off to prevent a fire and damage to the furnace. But, if the limit switch is broken or failing, it may cause the furnace to run when it shouldn’t or turn it off for no reason. The only solution is to contact a local HVAC specialist, explain the problem, and they can fix or replace the limit switch to get the furnace working correctly again.