Furnace Soot and Other Issues? Signs You Might Need to Call a Professional Technician
Annual furnace maintenance is a necessary task. It keeps the furnace in good working condition and helps it run as efficiently as possible. Maintenance also allows a professional to find and repair minor issues before they become expensive problems. As a homeowner, reporting irregularities that you notice to an HVAC professional also goes a long way toward keeping your home safe, lowers energy bills, and keeps your family more comfortable.
Furnace Maintenance Issues and Common Causes
The following furnace issues require professional expertise:
- Excessive soot: Soot is a problem that can occur with gas-fired and oil furnaces. Excessive furnace soot causes the heat that the appliance produces to go up into the chimney instead of into the home. Excessive soot also poses a fire hazard and increases the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Seeing debris, soot or rust flakes in the flue vent connector or on the horizontal surfaces near the furnace is a sign that it needs any of the following: cleaning and servicing, a replacement heat exchanger, or burner adjustment. A little oil burner soot (no more than 1/8 inch) after the appliance receives maintenance services is normal. There is a problem, however, if the soot quickly reappears after a professional cleans it.
- Irregular flame: The furnace’s pilot light should be blue, not yellow. A yellow, faint, or irregular flame can be a sign that the burner is dirty,clogged, has a faulty ignition, a thermocouple problem, a cracked heat exchanger, or may be located in a drafty room. A yellow flame may also indicate that there is a non-ideal balance of gases surrounding the pilot light.
- Short or frequent cycling: Short cycling is when the furnace runs for a short period and turns off. Frequent cycling may be due to bad thermostat settings, a faulty thermostat, poor airflow, an exchanger issue or a clogged filter.
- Problems starting and staying on: This is an indication that you may need a new thermostat. Such a problem might also result from bad wiring, a broken pilot light, or a broken fan motor.
- Insufficient heat: When a furnace doesn’t heat a space properly, it might be the wrong size, have a clogged filter, or have a problem with the pilot light. It is also an indication that the thermostat might be faulty.
- Excessive noise: While furnaces aren’t exactly quiet, they should not make strange noises. Noises generally mean there is an airflow problem, a clogged burner, an ignition issue, or a mechanical problem.
- Blower continuously runs: A blower that’s always on may be the result of a faulty limit switch.
DIY Furnace Maintenance
- Check the thermostat: A dead battery in a thermostat may cause the furnace to not produce heat. Make sure the thermostat is on “Heat” mode and that the temperature setting is higher than the room’s temperature. The fan should be on “Auto” so the blower doesn’t run continuously. If the thermostat doesn’t match the furnace’s capacity and capabilities, you’ll need a replacement.
- Change the air filters regularly: Dirty air filters lead to several preventable furnace problems. Replace or clean the air filters according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Stop drafts: If you have problems with the pilot light going out, the furnace is located in a room that might be too drafty. Try closing the windows or the door to the respective room.
While there are simple tasks that help keep a furnace working properly, it’s important to leave furnace installations, maintenance, mechanical repairs and issues with any of the gas components to a licensed HVAC expert. Failing to do so may lead to further damage, safety risks, or voiding the appliance’s warranty. Schedule furnace maintenance before the winter weather arrives to ensure your home feels cozy throughout the winter without interruption.