No one expects their furnace to quit in the middle of winter, but it happens. Even when nothing is noticeably wrong with your unit, hidden issues could be waiting to catch you off guard when you need reliable heating the most. One of the best ways to avoid potential mid-winter disasters is by scheduling a furnace tune-up every fall.

When a furnace unexpectedly quits working, it can be frustrating, uncomfortable, and worrisome. When temperatures are extremely cold outside, your indoor climate can shift dramatically from moderate to freezing within a few hours. Without a heat source for long enough, your pipes and appliances may begin to experience damaging effects from the cold as well. You can avoid these realities by calling a reliable furnace repair company for emergency service right away.

Besides preventing untimely break-downs, furnace tune-ups include many benefits for homeowners. Learn more about how to keep your current furnace in top condition and how to tell when it’s time to replace your furnace with a new unit below.

What to Expect When You Call for a Furnace Tune-up

Some people may live under the false assumption that a furnace should run for its full lifespan with minimal maintenance. However, this could be further from the truth. Much like a car, a furnace must be regularly serviced in order to run well year after year.

If you have never had a service check performed on your furnace before or you just moved into a new home and are unsure of its furnace history, a tune-up could greatly benefit your unit. During a typical tune-up, a technician will inspect parts for common issues, test the overall function of the unit, and clean spots that are prone to an accumulation of dust and grime. Often, this fairly quick appointment helps keep a furnace running at maximum efficiency all season long.

If your furnace is already experiencing issues, you may need to call for furnace repair rather than a tune-up. While minimal repairs can be completed during a tune-up, major repairs often require a separate appointment. During a tune-up, a technician may perform the following:

  • Inspect for cracks or other wear and tear on internal parts.
  • Clean blower, fan blades, coils, and drain line.
  • Test gas burners, pilot light, airflow, thermostat, and more.
  • Lubricate various motor parts. 
  • Replace the air filter or clean a re-usable filter.
  • Tighten wires and make sure connections are secure.
  • Perform minor repairs on worn out parts. 

Completing the steps above each year will help a furnace lasts as long as possible. While a technician is performing the tune-up, they will also make sure all the parts are working safely. Carbon monoxide leaks are a threat to furnace use, especially with gas-powered units. Installing a carbon monoxide detector near the furnace and testing it periodically can greatly reduce the risk of you or your family experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning if a leak were to develop.

Benefits of a Tune-Up

As mentioned above, there are many benefits to scheduling a yearly tune-up with a professional technician. While there are a handful of actions homeowners can do to keep their furnace working well throughout the season, a full inspection is best performed by an expert.

A furnace includes several fragile internal parts that could get accidentally broken if someone inexperienced attempts to clean a furnace on their own. Instead of risking an unnecessary and potentially expensive repair, it is recommended that most homeowners call a professional for their furnace’s annual tune-up.

Even if a furnace had no problems last year and seems to be working fine when you turn it on again the next year, regular tune-ups can greatly benefit any furnace. Learn more about these benefits below.

Increased Efficiency

Dirty coils, clogged drain lines, poor functioning wires, and diminished fuel power can all affect the efficiency of your furnace. If the internal parts of your furnace can’t work to their full capacity, it will take longer to heat your home. Depending on how often you run your furnace and how warm you like your home in the winter, this can translate to hundreds of dollars wasted throughout the season.

Each year your furnace accumulates dust, the machinery loses its lubrication, and electrical parts slowly wear out even more. A tune-up helps homeowners stay on top of these maintenance requirements so their furnace can keep functioning as best as possible.

Frequent Repairs Avoided

If a furnace doesn’t receive yearly maintenance, parts will wear out much faster and the furnace will be more at risk of a total breakdown. Sometimes internal part failures can occur in a chain reaction. Once one starts to malfunction, it can affect more parts down the line. You may find yourself calling for emergency repair several times in a season when a tune-up could have prevented these failures.

Lifespan Protected

Not only will maintenance neglect lead to more frequent repair calls, but you may also need to replace your unit much sooner than the average lifespan of a furnace if it isn’t regularly serviced. Some parts, such as the motor, are costly to repair and may not be worth performing on an older unit. Instead, an experienced technician may suggest replacing rather than repairing at this point.

A yearly tune-up can keep the motor and other parts running well year after year. If something does appear worn or broken, the technician will spot it right away and remedy the issue before emergency repair becomes necessary.

Warranty Sustained

Most furnace manufacturers only uphold their warranties when a homeowner stays up-to-date on their furnace inspections. While it may be tempting to forgo a tune-up for the first couple of years when everything seems to be working fine, it can cost you big time if an issue does arise.

Some homeowners may have the skills necessary to complete a tune-up on their own, but manufacturers usually require written proof of professional service to maintain a warranty claim. It is recommended that homeowners read and understand the fine print on their furnace’s warranty so they don’t accidentally void it when they may need it after all.

Troubleshooting a Malfunctioning Furnace

An annual tune-up is essential for your furnace to perform at maximum efficiency and gives it the best shot for avoiding potential heating issues. However, malfunctions can still occur even with the best care and attention. When your furnace is acting up or not acting at all, you can follow the below steps to troubleshoot a solution before calling the professionals.

1. Change the air filter

A dirty air filter will not allow for proper airflow throughout your HVAC system. This can strain your furnace, making it work harder than it needs to heat your home to your desired temperature. Sometimes air filters don’t look dirty to the naked eye, but dust and fine particles can dramatically reduce the airflow through the filter. If you notice that your furnace isn’t supplying enough heat, it’s taking longer than normal to heat your home, or there is a sudden spike in your heating bill, check the air filter first.

The higher the MERV rating on an air filter, the smaller the particles it will filter out of the air. Those who suffer from allergies may want to use higher MERV ratings, such as 12 or 13. These filters may require more frequent changes, however. Most air filters will need to be replaced every three months. If there are pets in the home or allergies are a concern, homeowners can expect to change out their air filter once per month for maximum benefit. Remember to check the size of your air filter before purchasing a replacement.

2. Inspect the thermostat

A simple solution to a malfunctioning furnace is to check the thermostat. Sometimes it is in the wrong setting or isn’t set high enough to kick on the furnace. If it looks like the thermostat is dead, install new batteries and see if this remedies the issue. If new batteries don’t work or your thermostat is directly connected to your home’s electrical system, then you may have to call an electrician for repair.

3. Flip the switches

Other than the thermostat, other signals could be blocked as well. If your furnace is not coming on at all, first check the breaker box to ensure none of the breakers were flipped. If this was indeed the cause and it keeps flipping when you turn on the furnace, you may need to call an electrician to permanently fix the issue.

Another switch you can check is the furnace power switch. This is usually located on or near the furnace and looks like a light switch. Once you turn it back on, wait a few minutes for it to activate your furnace. Make sure the thermostat is turned on to see if this fixes the lack of power issue.

4. Double-check the air vents

Are all of your air vents open? If not, this could be the reason why your home isn’t efficiently heating. Some homeowners try closing vents to redirect heat to only the rooms they are using so save on heating costs. In the long run, however, this could cost a homeowner even more by straining the unit and causing parts to wear out faster. A blown motor, cracked heat exchanger, broken compressor, and moldy ducts aren’t worth the short-term savings that closed vents may provide.

5. Clear clogged condensate drain line

Every furnace will include a condensate drain line to clear condensate from the reactions of the heat exchanger. Multiple gallons of condensate may be produced every day in your furnace. If the condensate line is blocked, this can greatly reduce the function and efficiency of your furnace. If you notice a pool of water near the base of your unit, check the condensate drain line and clear it out of any blockages. If the line has a leak, you may need to call a technician to replace it for you.

If you have worked your way through this troubleshooting list and your furnace is still malfunctioning, call a professional for expert assistance. There may be something wrong with a more complicated internal part at this point and would be best handled by an experienced technician.

Signs That It’s Time to Replace Your Furnace

While regular tune-ups can help your furnace last 15 to 20 years, eventually it will get to the point where a furnace replacement is necessary. Expensive repairs may not be worth performing for a unit that will only last a year or two longer, and running an inefficient furnace may be costing you more than you realize in the long run. If you are on the fence about replacing your unit, listed below are a few signs that replacement may be a good idea.

Age of Furnace

Homeowners should expect to replace their furnace every 15-20 years depending on the brand, how often they have it serviced, and how much use it sees in the winter months. When you schedule a yearly tune-up, your technician can alert you when your unit is nearing the end of its life so you can prepare for a replacement before it totally gives out. While small repairs over time can help a furnace live longer, eventually repair costs may stop making fiscal sense over replacement.

Instead of getting caught off-guard with an emergency replacement, start researching for your replacement furnace once you hit the 15-year mark. There are many energy-efficient units on the market, as well as supplemental heating options you can pair with your furnace to help decrease your energy bills and put less strain on your next unit. A professional can help you get started with ones that match the existing fuel source installed in your home.

Energy Costs

An older or less efficient furnace can exponentially increase your energy bill over time. If heating costs are becoming too much for your budget, you may be better off in the long-run upgrading to a more efficient furnace. Not only will your wallet be happier, but you will also enjoy the benefits of quicker heating times and better overall comfort in your home.

Corrosion, Wear and Tear

If your unit is nearing the end of its lifespan, chances are it has developed spots of corrosion, wear, and tear. Some of these are easily fixed with a replacement piece. However, some rust spots and cracks could be difficult to affordably remedy. Worn out parts will affect the efficiency of the furnace, and it may be cheaper, in the long run, to replace rather than repair the wear and tear.

Frequent Repairs

If your unit is needing frequent repairs and it is nearing the end of its life anyway, it may be better to replace rather than waste money fixing part after part. If your unit is still under warranty, check with the manufacturer about any defects before shelling out money for a replacement. Older units will eventually need repairs to keep running. Some repairs are just not worth performing if you know it will need another high-cost repair in a year or two.

Uneven or No Heat Airflow

If your furnace is taking too long to heat your home, heats your home unevenly, or you are unhappy with its ability to heat your home overall, then you may benefit from a new furnace installation. It may be that your current unit does not match the square footage of your home and will never adequately heat your home. Have a professional measure your home to make sure it is the right type of unit for space. If not, then they can point you in the right direction for a replacement unit.

Carbon Monoxide Leak

For gas-powered furnaces, carbon monoxide leaks are always a risk while running your furnace. Luckily, this is something a technician will check when they perform a tune-up on your unit. However, you will want to make sure you have a detection system in place to alert you in case a leak develops. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be deadly for occupants of a home.

Your unit may have a carbon monoxide problem if:

  • The burner flames are yellow rather than blue. 
  • There are streaks of soot around your unit.
  • There is excess condensation on the windows, walls, or other cold surfaces in your home.
  • Rust has formed on pipe connections to and from the furnace.

If you suspect that your unit has developed a carbon monoxide leak, turn off your heat, leave your home, and call a professional immediately. They will inspect the unit and make sure it safe for you to return home. If your furnace does have a leak, many times it is better to replace it with a new unit rather than try to repair these parts.

Again, scheduling a yearly tune-up with a qualified professional will give your furnace the best shot at living a long life and supplying you with adequate heat year after year. Your technician will also help you stay ahead of necessary repairs and replacements so you aren’t left without heat in the middle of winter. Schedule a tune-up today to experience the full potential of your furnace.