The Most Common Home Heating Equipment Problems
While Houston may not be known for its cold winters, it certainly gets cold enough that a furnace or other heating equipment is essential to keeping you and your family warm. It is a terrible feeling to need the warmth only to have your furnace malfunction or not turn on at all. This can be a particularly common issue in an area where furnaces go unused for long periods and then are suddenly needed. With this in mind, let us consider the most common issues you are likely to experience with your furnace.
Wear and Tear Due to Inadequate Maintenance
Wear and tear is a catchall term that encompasses many of the subsequent problems listed, but it is an important consideration because it can be reduced with seasonal maintenance. The biggest mistake we see homeowners mistake is not scheduling an inspection and maintenance of their furnace in autumn. Such service is very affordable, and during the process, we will identify and correct the small issues before they become large and expensive problems. Many homeowners opt for a break-fix approach instead, but this strategy generally results in more out-of-pocket expenses.
Although not really a furnace problem per se, malfunctioning thermostats are one of the most common causes of furnace-related troubles. We have had customers expect big troubles only to be relieved and find out all they needed was a thermostat replacement, and it is not uncommon for such issues to crop up when transitioning from one season to the next. A bad thermostat can cause the fan not to turn on at all or can lead to in-home temperatures that are not reflective of the temperature setting. If you do need a new thermostat, we recommend a smart model that can help you save money year-round.
Dirty Air Filters
Clogged air filters restrict airflow and cause a furnace to work harder. It may seem like a simple thing, but it can manifest into some big issues. These include slow heating, a furnace running too much, a furnace struggling to achieve the desired temperature, cold spots, and so forth. Check your air filters, and if you can see dirt, replace them. This may eliminate your troubles. As a rule of thumb, filters should be replaced every three months, but it really does vary from home to home.
Faulty Ignition or Pilot Light
If you have an electric furnace, then you have an ignition control system. If you have a gas furnace, then you have a pilot control system. In either case, control problems are very common. Sometimes, the electric system just goes bad and needs to be replaced. With pilot issues, you could have troubles due to a draft or a clogged pilot, but sometimes, the pilot control system needs to be replaced as well.
Yellow or Flickering Pilot Light
This pertains specifically to gas furnaces but is important to mention due to the prevalence of the issue. When a pilot light flickers or is not the blue color it should be, this is often an indication of carbon monoxide. You should have a carbon monoxide detector, but be mindful that there can be a certain amount present but not enough to set off the detector and alert you to a health risk. Sometimes, the fix for this issue is as simple as cleaning the pilot assembly and removing the buildup.
Bad Blower Belt
The furnace blower belt experiences wear and tear over time. These belts are designed to last for years but how long yours actually lasts will depend on a number of factors, including how often you use your furnace. Generally, a frayed or broken belt is a rather simple repair. But it is also worth noting that this is an issue that can be caught during a seasonal checkup, and it will usually save you money to go ahead and replace it in advance of impending failure.
Cracked Heat Exchanger
This is the big one. Heat exchangers are expected to last 15 years. They can last 20 years if you invest in annual maintenance. Replacing a cracked heat exchanger is an expensive repair. At this point, the homeowner generally has to make a choice between replacing the exchanger and replacing the furnace. The right answer depends, but if you are at or beyond the 15-year mark, replacing the furnace may be the best move.
Furnaces can short-cycle, which is when they turn off and then on again too often. They can also over-cycle, which is when they run for too long a period. Neither situation is ideal. This can actually be an indication of an incorrectly sized furnace. But assuming the furnace is sized correctly and the problem is sudden, it could be indicative of a bad thermostat, a clogged filter, or another airflow issue.
Blower Continues to Run
Another common problem is the blower continuing to run even when the furnace is not operating. It could be that the thermostat is set to manual override. In that case, just switch the blower to auto. It could also be that the thermostat has a short, which means that it needs to be replaced. Thirdly, it could be a faulty limit switch, which is a relatively minor repair.
Blower Not Blowing
The most common reason that a blower is not blowing or not blowing hard enough is that it is clogged with dust and debris. You can perform a visual inspection, and if this is the case, you may even be able to correct the issue by cleaning the blockage itself. There are numerous other reasons a blower may not be blowing as well, and most will require an assessment by an HVAC technician.
If this is the first time you have used your furnace in a while, it is not unusual for there to be some mildly unpleasant odors. This can happen as accumulated dirt and mold burns up. If it happens often when the furnace turns on, it can be an indication that the ducts are in need of cleaning. Any other smells warrant scheduling an inspection with an HVAC technician.
Generally, a new furnace should be very quiet. But an older furnace in an older home can certainly make some noises. You have to get to know your furnace. Some noises, however, are cause for concern. A scraping sound, for instance, can indicate a blower problem. Screeching often indicates bad bearings. Thwapping may indicate a blower fan issue. Banging and popping are generally due to expansion and contraction and are usually not cause for concern unless persistent and/or very loud.
Your Furnace Pros in Houston
Custom Comfort Air has been installing, maintaining, and repairing furnaces and other heating equipment in Houston and throughout the surrounding areas since 1969! That means that we have more than 50 years of experience helping homeowners like you diagnose their heating troubles and fix them in an affordable manner. You can also count on us for the installation, maintenance, and repair of cooling and air quality equipment. Call or contact us online to schedule an appointment or have us address any questions you may have.