Many of us rely on our furnace during the winter to keep our homes warm and comfortable. At this time of year, people often notice that there are problems to deal with before they can use their furnace as intended. Over the warmer months, the furnace isn’t used much, and a service is recommended to get it ready for use. One common issue that affects many users at this time of year is that their furnace regularly trips the circuit breaker.
Can This Happen to a Gas Furnace?
When you hear the term gas furnace and then don’t understand how they could trip an electrical circuit breaker, you’re not alone. It’s true that a gas furnace uses natural gas combustion in order to generate heat, but it still requires electrical power for other vital components. As an example: Many modern gas furnaces don’t use a pilot light, relying on an electronic ignition system instead. Also, the treated air is often circulated by a blower and fan, both of which are electronic components.
Why Does the Circuit Breaker Trip?
When the circuit breaker is tripped, there has to be a good reason. The circuit breaker is there to protect the electrical circuit in your home from large voltage surges. The breaker can easily be reset, but constantly resetting and ignoring the problem isn’t advisable. When a circuit breaker is tripped, treat it as a warning that something is wrong and you need to get the underlying problem fixed. Don’t attempt to diagnose serious electrical issues yourself, it can be dangerous, and it’s better to hire a professional. If you ignore the problem, it will only get worse, more damage may be caused, and the repair will be more costly in the end.
Why is the Furnace Tripping the Circuit Breaker?
There are five main reasons why the furnace could be tripping the circuit breaker.
1. A Clogged Furnace Filter: We have listed this first because it’s the most common cause of many gas furnace related problems including tripping the circuit breaker. Fortunately, this is also the most straightforward problem to fix and prevent with a little DIY maintenance. Over time, the furnace filter will be clogged up with dirt, dust, lint and other types of debris. After a few months, this accumulated material will choke the system and put the blower motor under additional strain. The blower motor is a vital electrical component in your heating system, and if it’s placed under too much strain, it can overload your electrical circuit. Always check your furnace filter first, replace the clogged filter and you may be able to fix the problem yourself.
2. Air Duct Issues: The blower motor can also be put under extra strain due to the air ducts connected to the gas furnace. A loss of air in the ductwork will lead to a loss of air pressure that can force the blower to work harder than it needs to. This could be caused by a damaged section of ductwork that is restricting the required airflow. Another common cause is a blocked or closed air vent when the vents are unable to blow air into your home the blower will work harder to compensate. Open vents, ensuring that they are not blocked and fixing leaks in the ductwork can solve these issues.
3. A Damaged Blower Motor: The blower motor itself may be damaged, and a repair or replacement may be needed. If the insulation on the motor has worn away, this can lead to electrical arcing, and this will trip your circuit breaker. The damage to the blower motor may have occurred due to some of the problems mentioned earlier or perhaps it’s just time for it to be replaced. A blower motor is a hard working electrical component, and it will need some occasional maintenance. For this reason, inspecting the blower motor is a crucial part of any comprehensive maintenance checkup.
4. An Overloaded or Shared Electrical Circuit: Experts advise that a gas furnace should always have its own electrical circuit. Many older homes were not built in this way, so the gas furnace could be sharing an electrical circuit with lighting or power outlets. If you have this type of electrical circuitry, you may encounter problems when you’re running your gas furnace and trying to use a power tool or other large drawing electrical appliance. Combined together, your furnace and the other device could be pulling more amp than your electrical system can handle. The easy fix is to remove larger appliances or not run them when the gas furnace is operating. The more complicated solution is to move the gas furnace onto its own electrical circuit.
5 The Furnace has a Ground Fault or Short Circuit: If the gas furnace starts up immediately and then just as quickly trips the circuit breaker, there could be a ground fault or short circuit in the furnace. A ground fault will occur if a hot bare wire is touching a grounding part or wiring in your furnace. A short circuit occurs if a worn hot bare wire is in contact with a neutral wire. Both of these issues will make your furnace draw higher amounts of electrical current, and this will trip the circuit breaker. Both of these issues can be caused by a variety of problems, such as an incorrectly repaired part, a malfunctioning part or an animal (usually a rodent) chewing through and exposing the wires. Fixing these problems is a job best left to a certified furnace repair specialist. They will need to find the source of the ground fault or short circuit and then repair or replace the wiring or parts as required.
As we mentioned earlier, it can be tempting just to reset the tripped circuit breaker and carry on as normal. This may not even be possible in many cases as the breaker will continue to trip until the underlying is problem is resolved. Every wire in your home is rated to handle a specific amount of electrical current. If too much passes current through the wires they could overheat, melt and even cause a fire. If your circuit breaker trips when you’re using your gas furnace call a certified furnace professional for expert help.