Cold house? Find out if your furnace is to blame! These six tips will help you do some furnace troubleshooting to see if it’s working properly.
Staying cozy in our homes in winter is crucial, but how do you know your furnace is working properly? Before you start cranking up the thermostat, take the time to do a little furnace troubleshooting. These six tips will help you discover problems that could be costing you heat and money!
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I live in Seattle, where winters are pretty moderate with temperatures hovering in the high 40’s (with rain. Lots of rain!) But every once in a while, our warm blanket of cloud cover disappears and the clear sky makes the temperatures downright brutal. I want to make sure our furnace is running in tip top shape, so our family stays nice and toasty.
Six Ways to Know Your Furnace is Working Properly
One modern convenience that we all tend to take for granted is our furnace. We set it and forget it, confident that the furnace is working to keep those freezing temperatures at bay on the other side of our door.
But, even the very best heating units have a finite lifespan. Knowing the clues to look for and doing a little furnace troubleshooting can ensure that you get a jump on possible problems before you and your family are left shivering under your blankets.
It Feels Colder
If you notice that temperatures in all areas of your home are steadily dropping, it may indicate a problem. It could simply indicate mean that you need to replace batteries in your thermostat, or the thermostat itself. Fancy new ones like the Nest can be easily programmed from your phone! It can learn your heating habits and adjust the temperature accordingly, saving you money.
However, if there are differences in temperature between rooms or areas of your home, it may indicate that there is a problem with your ductwork that needs to be addressed.
In our house, our second floor could get downright frigid at times. We learned that we were losing a lot of heat from the ducts that pass through the colder unfinished part of the basement. Wrapping them in duct insulation kept the hot air flowing to the upstairs rooms.
Whooshing Sounds and Other Auditory Clues
Has your furnace started making strange noises lately? An obvious whooshing sound when your heating unit fires up can indicate that it’s burning too rich and is in need of a tuneup. Not only does this create extra wear and tear, it also wastes gas. Getting this problem taken care of can often make a noticeable difference in your heating bill.
If you hear a high-pitched squealing sound when your heater starts up, it can be an indicator of a problem with the bearings in your blower motor. This is something that should be taken care of quickly, as it can cause your motor to freeze up. Frozen motor = frozen house! An overheated blower can also become a fire hazard if not dealt with promptly.
Visual Clues of Possible Problems
Visual clues can also offer evidence during furnace troubleshooting. If you check your burner and see anything other than a steady blue flame, it can indicate troubles ahead. This is definitely one of those times when you’ll want to consult a trained heating and cooling professional. At the very least, flames of other colors mean that your furnace isn’t operating as efficiently as it should.
Smelling Gas – Even a Little Bit
If you smell gas, even slightly, it’s very important to check it out. A gas leak will effect the efficient operation of your gas furnace. But more importantly, it can be a very serious health hazard to you and your family. Gas leak detecting equipment can help track down the location of gas leaks so they can be repaired quickly and efficiently.
As a preventative measure, you can install a combustible gas alarm in the area near your furnace. This will give you peace of mind that you will be alerted to gas leaks, even as you sleep.
Know the Age of Your Furnace
Furnaces are designed and built to last many years, but none of them keep running forever. If your particular heating unit has reached or passed the manufacturer’s warranty period, you may not be getting all of the heating productivity that you’re paying for. HVAC experts can do much to prolong the life of a furnace, but there will come a day when it’s more expedient to replace a unit than to keep pouring money into repairs.
Track and Compare Heating Bills Over Time
If you begin to notice a marked increase in annual heating costs over several heating seasons, your furnace has lost some of its efficiency. This is another one of those times when you should call a heating and cooling specialist and discuss your concerns.
No furnace lasts forever, but, just like your car, doing a little furnace troubleshooting can keep it running longer and more efficiently. When your furnace is working properly, it will keep you and your family warm and toasty all winter long.
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