Forced air furnaces heat most single-family homes in the United States (around 35 million). So if you have a furnace in your home, you're far from alone.
Each of these furnaces has an average lifespan they're expected to last before needing to be replaced. For most modern furnaces, this lifespan can be anywhere between twenty and thirty years if the furnace is well cared for. However, sixteen years is about the average.
During this appliance's lifetime, a furnace tune-up will become necessary more than once. A tune-up can be preventative (such as an annual or bi-annual inspection) or for maintenance.
But how do you know when your furnace needs a maintenance tune-up? Continue reading to learn a few of the most common signs you need a furnace tune-up.
1. You Can't Keep a Comfortable Home Temperature
Your furnace should be able to heat the home to a comfortable temperature. It's true there's a brief period after the furnace is turned on to when the home reaches the temperature set on the thermostat. However, once this period has passed, the whole house should feel comfortable to you, with no exceptions.
Does your furnace have problems bringing your home up to the temperature set on your thermostat? Are there one or more rooms that are noticeably hotter or colder than the rest of the house?
If you answered yes to either of these questions, it's time to call for a professional furnace tune-up.
An inability to heat the entire home evenly could signal several different problems.
A professional will be able to look at your furnace and vent system to diagnose the issue.
Examples of the problem may be blocked vents, a furnace not getting enough power, and a system that's not sized right for your home.
2. There's A Lot of Dust Buildup
If your house seems dustier than usual, or you see visible dust particles falling from your vents, your system likely needs to be cleaned. You may also notice that those with allergies in your home are having more flare-ups than usual.
HVAC systems need to be cleaned every so often. The frequency of cleaning depends on numerous factors. A few of these factors include:
- How large is the venting system?
- How old is the furnace and venting system?
- Do you have pets?
- Is anyone in your home sensitive to allergens, especially dirt, pet dander, or pollen?
- Do you routinely leave the windows open?
- Is anyone smoking inside?
These are only a few examples of how to determine the necessary frequency of your furnace's vent system. Additionally, there are several reasons your system may be accumulating dust and debris faster. For example, there may be a crack or blockage in your system.
3. You Notice a Bad Smell
Under no circumstances should your furnace produce a bad smell when heating your home.
However, if it does, this signals a problem that needs to be fixed immediately.
The foul smell may be noticed anytime the furnace is turned on. Or, there may be a bad odor even when the furnace is off.
The key to this second scenario is that it will be a smell you can't figure out the source for.
There are several reasons your furnace may smell badly. The furnace itself or the vents may be dirty, cracked, or have a blockage.
In some situations, rodents or bugs may even have found a way into your venting system and died, which will leave behind a particularly nasty smell.
4. You Hear Unusual Noises
You know your furnace system better than anyone else. You're familiar with what it sounds like when the system turns on, off, or is running. If you're suddenly hearing strange noises coming from your system, it's time to get a furnace tune-up.
What types of strange noises might your system make? While anything that isn't normal for your system should be considered a warning sign, you may notice a few common "bad" noises. These include:
- Hissing (softer like a snake or louder like a boiler)
- Groaning (a machine-type of groaning and not human-sounding)
- Humming (loud, like a kettle about to release steam)
Any of these noises are indicative of a problem with your unit. It's essential to schedule a professional furnace repair of your system before the problem gets any worse. If some of these noises are let go, it could result in explosions or system failure.
5. Your Utility Bills Have Increased
At specific points of the year, your utility bills are naturally a little higher. For some, running the air conditioner during warm summer months causes a slight but noticeable spike in your bills. For others, running the heater during harsh winters costs a little more.
However, you likely expect these small spikes and shifts in utilities if you've lived in your area for more than a few years. When those utility bills are suddenly increasing for no apparent reason (particularly in the winter months), it's likely your furnace's fault.
A furnace is meant to run efficiently by using a predetermined amount of power. As a furnace gets older, it may require slightly more power because it no longer runs as efficiently as it once did. In this scenario, you'd notice a prolonged but steady increase.
When something breaks inside your furnace, it can't heat your home efficiently anymore. In this scenario, there would be a sudden spike or a short-term, steady increase in how much your utility bills are. In either scenario, you'll want to get a furnace tune-up as soon as possible so you don't end up spending a small fortune on your utilities.
6. The Air Isn't Getting Hot Enough
Common sense tells us that the air coming from our furnace's vent system should be hot. The purpose of a furnace is to keep the house warm during the coldest months of the year. It's normal for the air released by the furnace to cool slightly once the home is comfortably warm.
But what about when the air is lukewarm or even cool from the moment you switch the furnace on? This signals a serious issue that needs immediate furnace repair... especially if you're currently amid bitterly cold temperatures.
When the air from your furnace isn't getting hot enough, one or more parts may have become damaged, worn out, or broken. Replacing the responsible part(s) should fix the problem.
In other cases, your entire system may have gone into failure, and you may be better off replacing the unit. This is particularly true if your unit is nearing the end of its estimated lifespan. A furnace maintenance technician can help you determine which solution is the best choice.
7. The Pilot Light Is Yellow
A normal pilot light should be blue. If yours is yellow or orange, it means one of two things.
The best-case scenario is that your furnace isn't burning efficiently for a non-hazardous reason.
The worst-case scenario is that the yellow pilot light means your furnace is leaking carbon monoxide.
If your carbon monoxide detector goes off, leave the house immediately. Call the authorities and a professional furnace repairman as soon as you get outside.
If anyone is exhibiting signs of carbon monoxide poison, call 9-1-1, so they can send an ambulance.
A few common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include fainting, lightheadedness, confusion, headache, blurred vision, and vomiting.
8. Your Furnace Keeps Short Cycling
Short cycling means your system keeps turning on and off without finishing a complete heating cycle. Several issues could cause this. However, keep in mind that the short cycling itself can cause more problems.
Your unit may start short cycling because of problems with the furnace itself, such as a broken part. A faulty thermostat may also cause it. If a newly installed unit is short cycling, the unit may be too large for your living space and require replacement with an appropriately sized one.
The process of short cycling can cause further damage to the unit because it doesn't get an adequate amount of rest between cycles. This produces further wear and tear on the unit, which can shorten the furnace's overall lifespan.
Need a Furnace Tune-up for Your Home?
There are many reasons your furnace may stop working properly. The signs above aren't all-inclusive. If your furnace isn't running properly for any reason, it's also best to get a professional opinion on the matter.
Do you need a furnace tune-up for your home?
Schedule service today! One of our friendly customer service associates would be happy to help you set up an appointment.
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