The colder weather is now with us, and most of us are going to rely on our furnaces to keep us comfortable and warm. A warmer home is also less prone to winter related problems such as burst pipes. A typical furnace will only be used for less than half of the year, and while it’s not being used, it can become damaged. This is often only noticed when the gas furnace is fired up for the first time in months, and it may not work as intended. In this article, we will look at nine warning signs that your gas furnace may need some expert attention from a certified HVAC professional.
- Strange Furnace Odors
A gas furnace may smell like the fuel that it uses, and this would be especially true when the furnace is fired up for the first time in months. Despite this, the majority of furnace fuel odors should dissipate as the system runs for a short while. If you notice a strong fuel odor around the furnace that appears quickly or a persistent fuel smell that will not dissipate over time, there could be a problem that needs to be investigated further. This fuel odor could be caused by a number of issues, but excessive dust or a gas leak in the furnace could be the cause. A gas leak is extremely dangerous, and it should be fixed as soon as possible.
- A Change in the Pilot Light Color
A pilot light that’s healthy should be blue, and the color can reflect some problems. If the pilot light changes to a different color, particularly yellow, there could be a ventilation problem. This happens because the carbon monoxide cannot dissipate as it should do. This is a significant problem; the presence of toxic carbon monoxide can cause a number of health issues for the occupants of the home.
- It’s Hard to Start the Furnace
When a gas furnace gets older, you may notice that it’s harder to turn it on and keep it running throughout the day. If you notice that you have to try to start the system multiple times or even restart your gas furnace throughout the day, you may need a repair. The likely cause here could be a disconnected wiring issue or a damaged thermostat. A certified HVAC specialist will be able to identify the exact issue, replace the affected parts and in most cases, this will solve the problem.
- A Loss in Heating Performance
This is possibly the most obvious sign that your gas furnace needs some expert attention. If the gas furnace isn’t producing adequate levels of heat that are not matched to the thermostat, it’s time to call a professional HVAC engineer. A common reason for inadequate heat is leaks in the ductwork where the treated air can escape causing a loss in heating performance. Another possible cause could be a faulty thermostat that cannot communicate with the furnace.
- A Reduction in Air Quality
A gas furnace heating system will have a direct impact on the air quality in any home. If the system is poorly maintained it could be moving contaminants, such as bacteria, dirt, mold and other harmful particulates, along with the treated air throughout your home. If you look closely you may even notice motes of dust floating in the indoor air, poor air quality is often a cause of health related issues, such as colds, coughing and breathing problems. If someone living in the home has allergy problems or a respiratory condition they may be the first to feel the effects with symptoms including watering eyes, headaches and itchiness. This problem could be solved by just replacing the air filter, but if the problem is more severe, the furnace and ductwork may need to be cleaned professionally.
- A Carbon Monoxide Warning
The gas furnace should be equipped with a carbon monoxide detector unit. This detector is designed to alert you to the presence of toxic gases in the home. When the carbon monoxide detector is tripped, it’s crucial to immediately turn off the gas furnace and open up the window to allow fresh air in. Then the gas company and a certified HVAC specialist should be contacted to determine to the source of the gas leak. Once the cause has been identified, it must be fixed before the gas furnace can be used again.
- Higher Than Normal Bills
If your energy bills are higher than you anticipated, you will have already experienced at least a month of using your heating system. So, it will be easier to compare the heating bill for this season compared to the same period last year. If the latest bills are more costly than last year, there may be a problem. Of course, the energy prices may have risen, and this will have to be factored into your calculations. But, if this doesn’t explain the rise in your heating bill, there may be a problem with your gas furnace. A well maintained heating system will be more energy efficient and servicing should be carried out annually.
- Cold Spots in the Home
One of the first signs of a problem with any type of forced air heating system is the appearance of cold spots. These colder areas will often appear in the rooms that are the furthest away from the center of the home. This is a sign that the heating system is losing its efficiency, but there could be other causes too. Cold spots could be caused by air leaks in the ductwork or the insulation in those areas could be poor compared to the rest of the home. The heating system may need some essential maintenance, any ductwork leaks should be sealed, and the insulation may need to be improved.
- Unusual Furnace Noises
Strange noises from your gas furnace could be a sign that there is a problem. The most common are shrieking or grinding noises that could be caused by a damage blower motor. A rattling or clanging noise could be caused by a damaged air handler, and booming noise could be produced by dirty burners. If there is a clicking sound, it may indicate that the heat exchanger is cracked and an immediate repair is needed. It can take years of experience to interpret these audible warning signs, and a certified HVAC engineer will be able to diagnose the issue and fix it.