4 Common Furnace Repair Or Replacement Triggers

Posted on: 24 March 2015

Does your cranky, noisy, weak furnace need minor fixes, major repairs, or outright retirement? While these major appliances can work well for years or even decades, every mechanical part or system has its limits. Here are four sound reasons to consult a service professional about possible furnace repair or replacement.

1. High Energy Bills

Do your energy bills seem unnaturally high lately? If so, then you may be dealing with a furnace that's lost some of its operational efficiency and needs servicing. Your furnace may be suffering from nothing more serious than a dirty air filter, in which case checking and changing the filter every three months may lower your utility costs. Leaky air ducts may also be to blame, allowing treated air to escape and forcing you to work your furnace harder.

What if your furnace was never that efficient to begin with? If it's more than a decade old, there's a good chance that it doesn't meet modern Energy STAR requirements for energy efficiency. Have your service provider examine it and advise you as to whether you could do better with a state-of-the-art furnace replacement.

2. Strange Noises

Like most people, you probably value a good night's sleep, but you'll find that goal elusive if your furnace turns into a bad neighbor every night. A variety of furnace problems can cause loud banging, popping, squealing, or scraping noises at any time of operation, night or day. Here are some possible explanations for what you're hearing:

  • Banging or popping - This noise occurs when pent-up gas ignites and explodes shortly after the furnace comes on, usually because of dirty burners, clogged filters, or inadequate duct work. These components should be checked, repaired, or replaced as needed.
  • Squealing - High-pitched squeals are often caused by a loose or fraying belt in need of tightening or replacement. In some cases, the blower motor may be failing. If you're in luck, however, your furnace repair tech may just need to squirt a bit of oil onto dry bearings.
  • Scraping - This metal-on-metal noise usually indicates an issue with your furnace's blower motor. If it's simply loose, your service technician can adjust it -- but if either the blower wheel or motor mount has broken, then those parts must be replaced.

3. Home Buyer Objections

Your furnace might be running perfectly well after decades of use -- but don't be surprised if its sheer age turns out to be an obstacle when selling your home for your desired asking price. Even if the home inspector gives your furnace a clean bill of health, prospective buyers may feel uncomfortable taking on an ancient piece of machinery that could start or fail on them at any time. They could use the aging furnace as an excuse to make a substantially lower counter-offer, force you to replace the unit before closing, or simply walk away from the deal altogether.

If your furnace is several decades old, ask your real estate agent whether it makes sense to replace it before putting the home up for sale. It may not matter in a seller's market or a distressed neighborhood, but in some cases it could make all the difference in securing a great price within a short period of time.

4. Health Issues

Furnaces produce a deadly gas known as carbon monoxide as an unavoidable byproduct of their operation. If this gas begins to leak out of the furnace, you or other occupants may experience chronic headaches, a runny nose, eye irritation, nausea and/or dizziness. This is a dangerous situation that requires you to open your windows (to vent the gas), call a service tech for immediate aid, and stay out of the house until the problem has been resolved. A cracked heat exchanger is the usual culprit. Replacing this part doesn't cost much more than repairing it, and you'll get more years of service out of a new one.

Some of the symptoms noted above can also be caused by an older furnace's inability to help moderate your home's air quality. In addition to cold or allergy symptoms, look for other signs around the house such as cracked wood, unhealthy plants, and thick layers of dust and dander on flat surfaces. Cleaning the ducts and pressing a dehumidifier into service should help you breathe easier -- but if the problem persists, you may want to replace the furnace with a radiant heating system.

Look after your furnace and it will look after you -- by giving you a safer, more comfortable home. Contact a company like HomeSmart From Xcel Energy to learn about how to identify and address these and other furnace problems!