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The phrase “emergency furnace repair” connotates a furnace breakdown that comes out of nowhere which needs repairing urgently. One half of that connotation is true: in certain situations, particularly during the winter months, a furnace breakdown is an issue that demands swift attention. The other half, though—that furnace breakdown “that come out of nowhere” is something of a misnomer. While a homeowner or business owner can certainly be blindsided by a breakdown, furnace problems are almost always presaged by events or warning signs. Noticing these warning signs and taking steps to address them is the best way to avoid a breakdown that calls for an emergency repair. Specifically, here are five events that commonly pre-date a furnace breakdown.

Deferred Maintenance

technician kneeling in front of heating system giving thumbs up Arguably the most common thing that happens before a furnace breaks down isn’t an actual event, but rather the absence of one. As a homeowner or business owner, you take on responsibility for your HVAC system. That means keeping an eye on the furnace, watching for warning signs, and keeping up with regular upkeep and care. Deferred maintenance on your furnace allows for minor problems to escalate into major ones, thereby paving the way for a breakdown and the ensuing emergency furnace repair.

The good news is that this issue is also straightforward to address. Simply by finding a reputed HVAC contractor and making an appointment for them to check your furnace can make all the difference. An HVAC contractor will check every component of your furnace and look for signs of damage or issues that call for attention and maintenance. When your contractor leaves, you should have a tuned-up furnace that is ready to run steadily and reliably for months to come. Ideally, you should be having your furnace checked at least once a year—usually in the fall before temperatures drop and wintertime sets in.

Improper Furnace Sizing

Some homes or businesses are set up for furnace failure from the beginning. Furnaces come in different sizes and power levels (measured in BTUs). When buying a new furnace, it is essential to make sure the furnace is the right size to heat the space effectively. A furnace that is too small won’t be able to do the job and will work way too hard to try to reach the set thermostat temperature. A furnace that is too big will work in fits and starts. It will switch on, blast too much hot air out into the house, and then turn off. Since the furnace isn’t running for long enough to heat the whole house, this system creates pockets of very hot air and pockets of cold air. As the hot air diffuses and spreads out, the furnace needs to activate again, starting the cycle over again. Over time, the furnace will switch on and off way more frequently than it should—not only an inefficient use of energy but also something that leads to quick wear and tear on the furnace and its components. As such, making sure your furnace is appropriately sized for your space can go a long way toward preventing premature system failure.

A Crack in the Heat Exchanger

Perhaps the most severe furnace failure that a gas-powered furnace can encounter is the cracked heat exchanger. The heat exchanger is a core component of the furnace, responsible for absorbing heat energy from the gas burner flame. Air then flows over the heat exchanger and delivers it throughout your home or business. It is important to have the heat exchanger as a “middle man” of sorts between the burner and the air circulation, as it allows for heated air without transferring any gaseous fumes into the airflow. If the heat exchanger is cracked, then poisonous gases (namely, carbon monoxide) can circulate throughout the building, causing a serious health hazard.

The good news is that the heat exchanger won’t crack for no reason. Instead, heat exchanger cracks usually form over time, which means they are far more common for older furnaces. The heat exchanger is made of metal that expands and contracts repeatedly to allow for proper heat transfer. Over time, that expansion and contraction can cause cracks to form in the heat exchanger.

Dust Mites in your HVAC Ducts

Neglected Filters

Furnace filters should be changed every 3-12 months, depending on the size and type of filter. Failure to change the filter not only affects air quality in your building but can also lead your furnace to work harder to maintain proper airflow and heat the space. The extra effort, in turn, can wear down key parts or components, leading to premature furnace breakdowns. The lesson? Get in the habit of replacing your furnace filters regularly.

Obvious Warning Signs

While nobody wants to acknowledge that their furnace is failing, it’s at least comforting to know that your furnace will give you some warning signs if it’s in dire need of maintenance or repair. Some of the symptoms that might precede a furnace failure could include inexplicable increases in your monthly heating bills. They could consist of weird sounds issuing from the furnace, such as banging or scraping (indicative of loose or damaged parts) or high-pitched squealing (indicative of a slipped or damaged blower belt. They could be electrical issues, such as frequent breaker trips or flickering lights when your furnace switches on. If you’ve noticed any of these warning signs, you’re on borrowed time before your furnace fails.

Calling for Emergency Furnace Repair

Most HVAC companies will have a number you can call for an emergency furnace repair. Better yet, though, don’t wait until your situation reaches emergency levels to make a call or contact us online. Instead, watch for warning signs and keep up with the recommend furnace maintenance schedule. These steps will hopefully save you from ever experiencing an emergency furnace problem firsthand, while also helping to keep your furnace more effective and more efficient.