Maintaining your furnace isn’t just about keeping your energy bills low: it’s also an important annual safety measure to ensure that your gas, propane, or oil heating system isn’t putting your wellbeing at risk. Below, we’ll explain three essential safety issues that technicians check for during a furnace tune-up.
Gas furnaces are what most people with central heating have in their homes in the United States. While natural gas can be an affordable way to stay warm, this highly flammable mixture can be dangerous if it starts leaking.
The most common places for leaks are around fittings. However, pinhole leaks can also develop in gas pipes over time. You may be able to smell a gas leak or hear it softly hissing. However, you’ll probably need a professional’s tools to detect the leak if it’s small or you’re not sure where to look.
Carbon Monoxide Leaks
Furnaces that rely on gas, propane, or oil use a process called combustion to make heat. Byproducts are made during the combustion process, many of which are toxic to breathe, such as carbon monoxide.
Normally, your furnace’s heat exchanger prevents any toxic byproducts and flue gases from mixing with the air that circulates through your home. However, condensation can cause the heat exchanger (which is made of metal) to rust. Over time, as this metal piece expands and contracts with changing temperatures, it can develop cracks that allow bad things to start entering your “breathing air.”
During a furnace tune-up, a good technician will always check the heat exchanger for any sign of damage. Even if the heat exchanger hasn’t cracked yet, excessive rust can be a sign that the problem is going to happen relatively soon.
Do you hear a boom whenever your furnace starts up? Does your furnace often switch off before it can ignite? Is your furnace’s flame yellow or orange instead of bright blue? If so, your unit is definitely overdue for some maintenance.
Some typical problems that lead to ignition issues include:
- Extreme dust build-up on the burners or flame sensor. This can cause delayed ignition. Delayed ignition can result in small (or big) explosions in your furnace when it starts up because gas has had “extra time” to build up in the combustion chamber. This problem can also cause your furnace safety mechanism to trip and switch the equipment off because the gas is failing to ignite in the burners.
- An incorrect gas-to-air ratio. This can also lead to delayed ignition as well as excess pollution during combustion.