If your home has a gas furnace, it’s important that you keep the unit well maintained. A poorly maintained furnace won’t ever work as well and can also be a major safety hazard, which is why you should make sure to have your furnace serviced at least once a year. In this article, we’ll explain why furnace maintenance is so important and also some of the most important steps involved in servicing a gas furnace.
Why Annual Maintenance Is Essential for Your Gas Furnace
Having your furnace inspected and serviced every year by a certified HVAC technician is important for many reasons. An annual furnace tune-up will help to keep your heating system functioning more effectively, which will benefit both your comfort and your pocketbook. If your furnace isn’t working as effectively as it should, it will take longer to heat your home and cause your energy costs to increase.
If the heating cycles are longer than they really should be, your furnace components will undergo more wear and tear. This can lead to the components wearing out sooner, forcing you to spend more on furnace repairs or have the unit repaired more often. The increased wear and tear can also greatly shorten the lifespan of your furnace so that you end up having to replace it sooner than you’d expected.
Another reason annual maintenance is important is to ensure that the warranty on your furnace remains valid. Virtually all furnaces come with a manufacturer’s limited parts warranty. Most warranties cover the heat exchanger for 15 to 20 years and the rest of the parts for one to 10 years. If any of the parts are defective and fail, the warranty will cover the cost of the replacement parts. However, the terms of most furnace warranties specifically state that the unit has to be inspected and serviced by a certified, licensed HVAC company yearly or else the warranty will automatically become void.
Ideally, you should always have your furnace serviced sometime in the fall before the weather starts to change and it gets cold enough that you need to start running your heating system. The reason is simply to make sure that the furnace is heating effectively and is ready to go whenever the cold winter weather arrives. If your furnace isn’t heating effectively, it will be more likely to have issues or break down once it starts getting lots of use.
Cleaning the Furnace Burners
One essential maintenance task is cleaning out the gas ports on the furnace burners. The ports often become clogged with dust, cobwebs and debris during the warmer months when a furnace sits unused, and this can lead to several different issues. If the gas ports are clogged, the burners sometimes won’t light immediately when gas starts flowing out of them. This leads to gas beginning to build up inside the combustion chamber. When the gas finally ignites, it can produce a dangerous fireball that can cause serious damage to the furnace.
If the burners are dirty, the gas also typically won’t combust completely or burn as cleanly. This leads to the burners not producing nearly as much heat, which means your furnace will be less effective, run longer and consume more energy. Incomplete combustion also leads to the furnace producing more carbon monoxide.
Cleaning and Testing the Flame Sensor
All modern furnaces that use an electronic igniter to light the burners have a safety mechanism known as a flame sensor. The role of the flame sensor is to make sure the burners ignite properly and stay lit throughout the duration of each heating cycle. The sensor carries a small electrical current that interacts with the flames produced by the burners to ensure they are lit. Any time the sensor doesn’t detect the flames, the control board will instantly close the gas valve in the furnace. This is obviously important for ensuring gas never continues flowing if the burners don’t light or go out to prevent the risk of a fire or explosion.
The flame sensor is subjected to extreme heat whenever the furnace runs, which typically results in it having a much shorter lifespan than the other components. Most flame sensors will last for around five years before they start wearing out and need to be replaced. This is why having the flame sensor inspected and tested every year is important. The sensor also needs to be cleaned regularly, as it tends to become coated in soot and grime which can prevent it from working.
If the sensor does wear out or is too dirty to detect the flames, it will prevent your furnace from working. In these situations, the burners will only ever stay lit for a couple of seconds before the gas valve then closes and the furnace shuts off.
Cleaning and Testing the Blower
Another important part of servicing a furnace is to clean dust and debris off the blower housing and test it to make sure it is running at the right speed and moving the correct volume of air. A dirty or malfunctioning blower won’t move as much air, which means the furnace won’t produce as much heat or heat as quickly. If the blower isn’t pulling enough cooler air into the furnace, the heat exchanger will quickly get much hotter. This can lead to the furnace overheating and automatically shutting down before it has completed a full heating cycle. If your furnace shuts down due to overheating, it won’t run again for at least 30 minutes or however long it takes for it to sufficiently cool down.
Checking for Electrical Issues
The technician will also always inspect your furnace for electrical issues and make sure that none of the wires are frayed or damaged and that all electrical connections are fully tight. This is important for preventing the furnace from short circuiting and tripping the circuit breaker. If the furnace has any electrical issues, the insulation on the wires can also melt and possibly catch fire and do serious damage. Electrical issues can also prevent the furnace from running or cause it to frequently shut off in the middle of a heating cycle.
Inspecting the Heat Exchanger and Exhaust Flue
One of the most essential steps in servicing a furnace is for the technician to check that the heat exchanger isn’t cracked and that the exhaust flue isn’t clogged and is venting correctly. A clogged exhaust flue or a cracked heat exchanger are both serious safety hazards, as they will lead to carbon monoxide escaping or leaking out into your home.
Precision Heating & Air is a family-owned company with more than 30 years of experience providing expert HVAC services to customers in Dallas and the Atlanta Metro area. Our team of experienced, NATE-certified technicians can service and repair any make and model of furnace, and they also work on central air conditioners and heat pumps. We also offer professional HVAC installation services as well as a full range of indoor air quality services. Give us a call today to learn more about the importance of regular HVAC maintenance or to schedule an appointment to have your furnace serviced.