There is no sure fire way to predict when a heater will give you problems. But, if you know what to look for, there are some clues that something may go wrong in the near future. Regular inspections and maintenance can certainly help, but even a person with no professional HVAC training can spot some potential problems. Here are seven common heater problems warning signs to look out for.
1. Strange Noises
During normal operations your heater will make a little noise and over time, you will become used to this. So, when you hear an unusual noise, it’s usually pretty noticeable and hard to ignore. Strange noises are a sure sign that something is wrong and the type of sound can give you some further clues. As an example: a squeaking or popping noise usually indicates a loose component and a grinding sound may mean a failed part. Making a more accurate diagnosis without HVAC training is difficult, and it’s a good idea to contact your local technician and get them to check it out for you.
2. Rising Energy Bills
The costs of energy can rise, but if they are rising at a faster rate than normal with no change in your habits, there is a problem. Many people don’t pay close attention to their bills and this comes as a surprise to them. But, if you monitor your energy bills, it’s easier to track how much you’re spending. A common cause of rising bills is a duct work leak that allows the treated air to be lost. This is a hard problem to locate because ductwork can be located behind ceilings and in other hard to reach places. Even if you can locate a leak, it’s hard to make a permanent repair without professional assistance. Simply placing duct tape over the air leak or crack will not be sufficient to solve the problem.
3. Thermostat Issues
The best way to think of your thermostat is as the brain of your entire HVAC system. If you observe your thermostat closely, you may notice that it’s working inefficiently. Perhaps the unit is turning on and off without your intervention or the incorrect temperature is displayed. The thermostat contains sensors that can get dirty and this may fix the problems. Some thermostats are powered with a battery, if it fails you can get uneven performance, so changing the battery may help. If the unit is located in a location that gets too much sun, it can become confused as the sensor monitors the local temperatures. Other more complex problems can include: loose wires, blown fuses, tripped circuit breakers and even a failing unit that needs replacement. If you’re in the market for a new thermostat, consider an upgrade to a smart model that can improve energy efficiency.
4. Dusty and Dirty Air
If you’ve noticed that your indoor air contains a large volume of dust and dirt, this may indicate a problem in your furnace. Most people see a buildup of dust on the surface or they may see more dust floating in the air when the sunlight hits it. If the furnace cannot clean the indoor air, this can cause high volumes of dust to enter the home via the vents. In many cases, this is a pretty easy fix, simply replace the furnace filter and your home may return to normal. The full instructions to change the filter are detailed in your owner’s manual and if you’re not sure when it was last changed, it’s a good idea to change it now. If the problem persists after the filter change, contact your local HVAC specialist and get them to inspect your furnace.
5. A Yellow Pilot Light
If your furnace has a pilot light, it should be located at the front panel of the unit. You can check the pilot light at any time and it should burn blue when the furnace is running. But, if the flame turns yellow, this can mean that you have a carbon monoxide leak in the furnace. This is extremely dangerous. Carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer and it claims the lives of many people every year. Initially, carbon monoxide poisoning can manifest as flu-like symptoms, but it can cause a lot of damage in a short period of time. It’s very important to have a carbon monoxide detector with an audible alarm located within a few feet of the furnace. If the alarm battery has failed, change it now and make a reminder to check it every month to make sure it’s still working correctly. If you have a carbon monoxide leak, it’s important to contact your local HVAC specialist without delay.
6. An Aging Heater
Every heater has a finite lifespan of around 10-12 years and it will lose energy efficiency for every year of operation. A heater can last for up to 20 years if it has been regularly inspected and maintained by an HVAC technician. But, eventually, all heaters will wear out and fail and this can be observed. If you notice that the frequency of repairs has increased and the cost of those repairs is rising, this is a sure sign that your old heater is ready for replacement. On the upside, this is an opportunity to switch to a modern heater with improved energy efficiency that can save you money.
7. Pools of Water
Under normal circumstances, you should never encounter water pooling under or around the heater. The usual cause is a clog in the condensate line caused by dirt, dust, and debris in the collected water. The drain pan can overflow under these circumstances and the water drips onto the floor underneath. Your local HVAC specialist can fix this problem for you and they can install an upgraded drain line that can help to prevent future clogs.
As you can see, there are a number of clues that your heater is experiencing problems and you don’t need to have professional training to recognize them. But, when it comes to repairs, a DIY approach is not recommended to protect your heating system and to promote safety. If you’re worried about your heater, contact your local certified HVAC specialist today.