Busy with work and family, most homeowners pay little attention to their heating system when it seems to be working as it should. When a problem arises that leaves the home with unsatisfactory heat or none at all, determining the cause and how to address it can be difficult.
If you are one of these harried homeowners, the following information can help you learn to diagnose a couple of relatively major heating repair issues and understand your options for addressing them.
Cracked heat exchangers
While gas- and oil-burning furnaces are often preferred for their ability to produce high-quality, efficient heat, their use of petroleum fuels requires a design that includes a heat exchanger. In basic terms, the furnace's heat exchanger is responsible for ensuring that any harmful flue gases produced by the burning process are sent safely out through the flue, instead of being allowed out into the living spaces of the home.
The metal design of the heat exchanger allows it to more easily distribute the heated air to the duct system, but it does make it more subject to metal fatigue, stress cracking, and corrosion. If a leak occurs, dangerous flue gases, including carbon monoxide can leak into the home's interior air supply and endanger the humans and animals who live there.
While homeowners may not notice any immediate signs of trouble when a heat exchanger begins to leak, they can do two things to protect their families. The first step is to install and monitor high-quality carbon monoxide detectors throughout the home. Since there are many types available, seeking advice from a heating repair contractor will help ensure you purchase the right ones and install them correctly.
Next, homeowners need to perform three steps:
- Determine the age of your current furnace's heat exchanger (most manufacturers offer warranty coverage of some type so tracking the age is important).
- Schedule regular inspections to determine if damage or deterioration is occurring.
- Schedule replacement of the existing heat exchanger well before the end of its estimated lifespan or before warranty coverage expires, whichever occurs first.
Those who do not have an owner's manual for their furnace can get helpful information about its expected lifespan and the inspection process from the manufacturer's website or from a trusted heating repair contractor in their area.
Blowing too much or not at all
Even busy homeowners will soon notice when their furnace fans are working much more than they normally do, as well as when the fans have stopped working at all. Furnaces that cycle too frequently are often signaling a developing repair or maintenance issue, such as:
- clogged or very dirty filters
- clogged, damaged, or collapsed ducts that inhibit airflow
- faulty or improperly set thermostat
Homeowners who note that their furnace is cycling too frequently should first attempt to cure the problem by installing a fresh filter and resetting the thermostat. If these measures are not helpful and frequent cycling continues, contacting a heating repair contractor to diagnose and repair the problem should be the next step.
When furnace blowers run constantly without shutting off, the inner parts and components are subjected to extreme wear and their lifespan is shortened. While this problem can also be related to dirty or clogged filters, it can also occur when the furnace's limit switch fails.
The limit switch is a component that works with the thermostat to tell the furnace to stop producing heat when the desired temperature has been achieved. Damage to belts, pulleys, and fan blades, as well as to electrical components, from overheating can occur quickly when constant cycling issues are occurring.
Homeowners who are experiencing a possible limit switch failure should consider turning their furnace off and calling a heating repair contractor who offers emergency repair appointments to restore their heating system as quickly as possible.