Maintaining a gas furnace is a difficult task—especially when you haven't received any formal HVAC training. Although you've learned how to replace your air filter, there are several other components of your furnace that will either reduce your furnace's efficiency or pose a threat to your well-being if they aren't properly maintained. To prevent these problems from occurring, hire your local HVAC technician to inspect these components of your furnace before the start of every winter season:
Your blower motor is a centrifugal fan that generates the airflow throughout your HVAC system. While your furnace is active, your blower's fan wheel will spin rapidly. While spinning, the blades of your fan wheel will pull air into the manifold of your blower and send it through your furnace.
However, when dirt and debris manage to slip through your filter or unsealed gaps in your blower housing, your fan wheel's blades will become dirty. Since there's only a limited amount of space between each blade, a thick coating of debris will severely limit the amount of airflow your blower can produce.
The rate at which debris collects on your fan wheel will depend on your indoor air quality. If your home has a large amount of pet fur, dust, or other particulates, then you can expect your fan wheel to become dirty in a matter of months.
For this reason, your blower motor should be inspected and (if necessary) cleaned before every winter season. By arranging for annual cleanings, you can reduce the amount of time you must keep your furnace active to heat your home—which will minimize your heating costs throughout the winter season.
Your metal heat exchanger serves two purposes. The primary purpose of your heat exchanger is to heat the air that's blown through your furnace's combustion chamber. The secondary purpose of your heat exchanger is to ventilate the combustion fumes produced by your burner assembly through a flue and out of your home.
However, your heat exchanger is extremely prone to metal fatigue. When your furnace is active, your heat exchanger will slightly expand due to the rise in temperature. Once your furnace cools, your exchanger will slightly contract. The constant expanding and contracting your heat exchanger experiences throughout the winter season can cause the fragile sections of your exchanger (such as welds or bends) to crack—which will allow carbon monoxide to contaminate your home's indoor air.
Additionally, the amount of expansion and contraction your heat exchanger experiences will increase with the internal temperature of your furnace. Airflow restrictions, such as a dirty filter or fan wheel, will increase the rate at which cracks form throughout your heat exchanger.
Using your furnace while your heat exchanger is cracked will result in carbon monoxide poisoning. Once carbon monoxide reaches a concentration of 70 ppm inside your home, it's capable of causing headaches, nausea, vomiting, and even death. The severity of your carbon monoxide poisoning will depend on both concentration and duration of exposure.
In addition to testing your carbon monoxide detectors, you should have your heat exchanger inspected for cracks before you need to use your furnace. By doing so, you can protect you and your household members from exposure to carbon monoxide inhalation.
If your HVAC technician determines that either of these components requires maintenance, then don't attempt to perform the necessary repairs yourself.
Cleaning your fan wheel requires in-depth knowledge of your furnace's electrical wiring and your blower assembly. Additionally, locating small cracks in your heat exchanger will be nearly impossible without prior training. Although it will cost you a small service fee, leaving these furnace repairs to your technician will guarantee that your furnace operates safely and efficiently throughout the winter season.
Although cleaning your fan wheel will only take a couple hours, repairing a cracked heat exchanger will take a significant amount of time—especially if your technician needs to order replacement parts. For this reason, schedule an inspection with your HVAC technician at least a week before the winter temperatures drastically affect your home's temperature.
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