The gas furnace lies at the core of many home heating systems and as the weather grows colder, we rely on it more than ever. It’s very important to keep the furnace at optimal efficiency to save money on your energy bills. If the furnace is failing or inefficient, it can lead to serious problems, such as carbon monoxide or a cracked heat exchanger. In this article, we will highlight the importance of preventative maintenance for a gas furnace and seven steps that you can take to diagnose problems.
The Importance of Preventative Maintenance
Many people believe that a gas furnace and other heating and cooling systems fail overnight. This is very rare, in the majority of failures, there are some warning signs that can help you to identify a potential problem. In fact, preventative maintenance can even fix minor issues before they develop into more extensive problems that cost more to fix. Certain actions can be taken by anyone that’s willing to learn about their gas furnace. But, a gas furnace is complex, it can be dangerous to work on it without training and experience. For this reason, it’s a good idea to schedule an annual inspection and tune-up before the start of each heating season.
Developing a working relationship with a local licensed and certified heating specialist now makes sense. The last thing that you want in an emergency situation is to search for a good HVAC specialist to fix a problem for you. When you find a professional that you want to work with, make sure they have an emergency number and save it. If you get regular preventative maintenance on your heating and cooling systems, they will work more efficiently. Well maintained equipment is less likely to fail when you need it and it tends to last longer. Check with your local HVAC company and ask about a maintenance plan to cover the heating and cooling systems in your home. When you consider the costs of emergency repairs and earlier replacements, maintenance starts to look like a bargain.
7 Gas Furnace Diagnosis Steps
Let’s take a look at seven gas diagnosis tips in more detail, they are:
1. Inspect and Change the Furnace Filter
The air filter needs to be inspected and cleaned or changed regularly. The entire heating and cooling system relies on the circulation of air and this will circulate multiple times each day. The furnace filters are prone to clogging as dirty, soot and ash from gas and other fuels accumulate on the filter surface. When the furnace filter is clogged, it makes the unit work harder as it tries to force the air through the debris. A dirty filter will also degrade the air quality and excessive volumes of dust and dirt may be circulated. When the furnace is overworked, it’s more prone to failure and it will be inefficient leading to higher energy bills. The exact location of the furnace filter can vary a little depending on the make and model. But, the full instructions on this process are detailed in the owner’s manual.
2. Inspecting the Thermostat
Now that the furnace filter is clean, it’s time to inspect the thermostat to see how well these two essential units are communicating. Check the temperature settings on the furnace and thermostat and set the system to heat. Start with a temperature setting around 5º higher than the room temperature. If the thermostat is installed in a sunny area near a window, it is possible to get a false reading. If the temperatures match, then you know that the system is performing as intended.
3. Check the Pilot Light
If your gas furnace has a pilot light, it can be sensitive to airflow changes leading to intermittent lighting issues. Check the thermostat for faulting readings to confirm this diagnosis and then return to the furnace. The flames should be blue with yellow at the tips and if they look dirty, it’s likely that cleaning is required. Contact your local heating specialist and ask them to inspect and clean the furnace.
4. Relighting the Pilot Light
If the pilot light is out, it must be relighted before any combustion can take place. Extra care needs to be taken at this stage because an accidental fire is possible if there is some gas leftover from a leak. Shut-off the gas for at least 15 minutes before you make the attempt and the risks are minimized. Consider a replacement with a hot surface ignitor because this is a safer and more efficient way to light a gas furnace.
5. Check and Secure the Front Panel
The front panel is designed to protect the inner components of the furnace from external damage and contamination. This may seem like a mundane part of the furnace, but it’s critically important and it can be a sign of other issues. If some recent work has taken place or you recently purchased the home and the panel is missing, there could be an existing problem. If the front panel is loose or it looks like it’s fallen on the ground, it could indicate that the wire connections or screws are corroded.
6. Inspect the Furnace Switch and the Electrical Panel
Shut off the power before you begin any testing in this area because checking for voltage loss can be caused by internal equipment issues. Using a voltmeter will deliver more accurate results or switch the breaker on to take measurements. This type of inspection is not recommended if you don’t have relevant experience. If you’re nervous about working with the electrical panel, contact your local heating specialist.
7. Keep Vents and Registers Clear
Blocked vents and registers inhibit the airflow which can cause the equipment to overwork. This will increase the chance of a failure and it can lower the energy efficiency. Keep registers partially open in unused rooms and remove any obstructions to keep the air flowing.
If you want to get the most out of your gas furnace, contact your local heating specialist and ask about a tune-up.