Be Good to Your Furnace

December 21, 2017



Winter is upon us and now is the time to make sure your furnace is going to be reliable and serve you well.

Furnaces are typically out of sight and out of mind but are one of the most important and expensive components of your home. Aside from obviously keeping you comfortable, your furnace must provide non-poisonous air circulation. Unless you have Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors installed in your home per state law guidelines, the risk of life-threatening CO gas being circulated throughout your home is likely without warning if you have a cracked heat exchanger.

Homebuyers (unless buying a new-build) always request that a furnace inspection be done by an HVAC Pro, yet few homeowners ever pro-actively inspect theirs or have them professionally inspected until there’s a problem. When it goes down it usually happens at the worst possible time when it’s freezing out and there’s no help to be found. (Murphy’s Law)

Maintenance is the Key

Periodic maintenance/cleaning (regardless of the unit’s age) is the key to getting the most reliability and safety from your furnace. Good maintenance is not rocket science and even if nothing else, you should check the filter at least every 6 months and replace them when dirty. Dirty filters affect more than just the air distribution in your home. Clogged filters can cause early mechanical and electronic failures within the unit. I’ve seen it!

There are a number of other maintenance and inspections you can do yourself without spending hundreds for an HVAC Technician. Here’s a great website with lots of pictures and simple to follow directions. the inside of the unit 

Here’s a great video which shows you how to perform a good inspection yourself.  At about the 24 minute mark he talks about cleaning and also inspecting your heat exchanger for cracks.

I found this video shot by a Canadian HVAC company to be very insightful.  Here you will see what a professional inspection that you will pay anywhere from $100-$200 for entails.

What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

Pretty much the worst thing that can happen to your furnace is a cracked heat exchanger.  Not only because it’s normally not worth replacing in lieu of a brand new furnace for several thousand dollars, but because deadly CO (Carbon Monoxide) gas can get blown through your home. CO gas is odorless and invisible so it’s imperative (state law) that you have a CO detector within 15 feet of any bedroom. Simple to install plug-in types are available for about $30 at Home Depot, Lowes, online, etc. As a matter of fact,  compliance with the state law is required when we list a home.

Unscrupulous HVAC Technicians

Getting an honest diagnosis is not always easy. Here’s where unscrupulous HVAC Techs take advantage and rip people off. Most people know little or nothing about furnaces and it is very easy for an HVAC Technician to give you an intentionally wrong diagnosis and subsequently charge you for things either not actually done or not actually needed.   I’ve personally had a few experiences where I had a good idea of what the problem was and knew that the technician was trying to pull a fast one.  The best thing you can do is get references before you hire a technician.  Keep in mind that at the time your furnace goes down you may be desperate to get it up and running quickly and may not be in a position to be too picky about who does the work. Avoid this by having the names of a couple of trustworthy contractors ready to go when you need them.

Final Word

With all of the great info and videos we have at our disposal these days, it takes little effort to learn the basics about our home’s systems. A little knowledge can go a long way towards saving you money, time, aggravation and needless to say your health and safety.

I’ve had experience with just about every component found in a home and am always happy be of help.  If you need advice, recommendations or even some guidance over the phone, get in touch with me.