Sadly, not every home has access to a natural gas source to run a gas furnace heating system. There are other heating options available, such as electric, propane and heating oil, of these an electric heating system is the most common. An electric furnace is reliable, it needs less maintenance, and it can last longer than other options. But, even an electric furnace can have repair issues that need to be repaired to restore heating. In this article, we will look at nine common electric furnace problems that you may encounter during the lifespan of the system.
- A Broken Sequencer Component
The electric furnace works by turning on electrical heating elements in series and generating the required heat through heating coils. It’s helpful to visualize heating coils as similar to the heating elements that you would see in an electric oven or toaster, but on a larger scale. The heating elements cannot usually all turn on at the same time as this would overload the electrical circuit in your home. This is where the sequencer component is used to turn the heating element on and off without overloading the system. If the sequencer develops a fault, the circuit breaker can be tripped, or the furnace will not turn on enough to generate any heating.
- Faulty Heating Elements
As we mentioned above, each individual heating element in the electric furnace is needed to generate the required heating. Over time, these heating elements can stop working due to broken or worn wiring and the element can even burn out entirely. If this happens, you will notice an immediate decline in the heating performance for your home. The heating element can be replaced by a certified HVAC technician to get the electric furnace working again.
- The Blower Motor
The heat in the electric furnace is generated by the heating elements, but it’s distributed throughout the home by a fan. The treated air is blown through the ventilation system to deliver even heating where it’s needed. If the motor has lost lubrication or there is too much dust in the unit, it can overheat. Over time, this overheating issue could fuse the wires in the casing and cause the blower to burn out. If this occurs, you will notice that unheated air is being distributed through your home and the blower motor will need to be replaced.
- The Limit Control Switch
The limit control switch is a component that is used to prevent the electric furnace from overheating. This is a useful safety feature, but if the limit control switch fails the furnace will shut down immediately as soon as it attempts to turn on. It’s also possible that the furnace will not turn off if it begins to overheat. The only way to correct this issue is to contact an HVAC technician, and they will replace the limit control switch.
- General Electrical Wiring Issues
As an electric furnace, it should come as no surprise that most of the issues in this type of furnace are electrical in nature. In fact, electrical issues are a major cause of system failure in other types of heating systems too. Electrical wiring (especially on older systems) is prone to becoming loose, and a broken relay can cause a number of problems. A lack of power to an important component will affect how the entire heating system runs. As an example: a loose connection between the thermostat and the furnace could cause the furnace to turn on when not needed or it not be able to turn off at all.
- A Clogged Air Filter
If the air filter in your electric furnace hasn’t been changed in the last month, it may be clogged up with materials, such as debris, dust, and dirt. Ultimately, this dirty debris will end up in the blower motor, and as we mentioned earlier, this could cause the motor to overheat and burn out. In extreme cases, the blower motor could even become so hot that it could catch on fire. The solution here is simple; the air filter needs to be thoroughly cleaned regularly to work well.
- Water Contact
An electric furnace is often located in an out of the way location, and this could be near other equipment. If you have your furnace tucked into a crawl space somewhere in your home, it could cause some issues. If you’re experiencing a short in the heating system, there could be a water leak nearby that’s causing the problem. In this case, the leak will need to be located, and then the heating system will need to be checked.
- Electrical Fuse Problems
If your heating system was installed by a less than competent person, there could be some unpleasant surprises waiting to be discovered. If the system was installed with a fuse that is unable to handle the capacity of your home heating system it will cause problems. Another fuse related issue is caused if your heating system hasn’t been serviced for a few years. Over time, the components will get dusty and dirty, and if a fuse is covered in grime, its associated connections may fail. Luckily, both of these fuse related issues can be easily detected and fixed by a certified HVAC technician.
- A Faulty Capacitor
The electric furnace has a starting capacitor that is needed to get the system going when it’s turned on. If this capacitor starts to fail it’s likely that you will start to experience some intermittent electrical issues. This is not an expensive problem to fix, a new capacitor is inexpensive, and a qualified professional can fit it quickly.
As you can see, there are a number of common electric furnace problems that you need to be aware of. They can be frustrating, but most problems can be easily fixed by a certified HVAC professional. They will be able to quickly diagnose your issue and suggest a repair. Many of these problems can be avoided with an annual maintenance check up.