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Furnace FAQ’s: Frequently Asked Questions about Furnaces & Home Heating Systems

Have you found yourself turning up the dial on your thermostat because winter is on its way? It’s the perfect time of year to ensure all the components of your heating system are intact and working well. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most common questions we receive about furnaces to help you feel confident about staying cozy this winter.

1. How does a furnace work?

A furnace functions with five main components including a thermostat, burners, a blower motor, a heat exchange system, and ductwork. These parts work in unison to keep your home at an optimal temperature throughout the cold winter months.

The thermostat measures the temperature of the air and sends a signal to the furnace when to turn on or off. The furnace receives this signal and ignites the fuel to light the burners and begin the heating process. As the temperature in the heat exchange system rises, a blower circulates the air. Once the air has reached the desired temperature, it’s directed through the ducts and distributed throughout your home to warm your living space.

2. What types of furnaces are there?

There are four main types of furnaces, categorized based on the type of fuel they use.

  • Natural Gas – Typically the most energy efficient.
  • Electric – Generally smaller, appropriate for smaller homes, people on a budget, or rural communities where natural gas lines aren’t installed.
  • Oil – Typically less expensive than a natural gas furnace; but also, less efficient.
  • Propane – A good option if oil or natural gas aren’t accessible.

3. What kind of maintenance is needed to keep my furnace working well?

For optimal functioning, regular furnace maintenance should be part of your household routine. Your furnace has an air filter, which plays an essential role in blocking dirt, dust, and pathogens that could otherwise get into the system, ensuring the air circulating through your home is safe and clean. This needs to be changed regularly.

If you have pets, it’s recommended that you change the filter monthly, otherwise every three months. On top of changing the filter, check in monthly to ensure your furnace has adequate air flow and isn’t blowing cold air.

4. Is Servicing my furnace Important? How often does my furnace need to be serviced?

Yes, annual service checks are essential. Most manufacturers will ask for proof that you have been servicing your unit before they honour a warranty.

An annual furnace tune up can help identify and address any small problems before they become something bigger. Preventative maintenance keeps your equipment in good condition and ensures your heating system is operating safely and at its peak efficiency.

5. What should I do if my furnace stops working?

Most often, if the furnace stops working it’s a malfunction with the thermostat, so check that first and make sure the battery in the thermostat is in good working condition.

At Ashton, we’re here to help, so please give us a call anytime you need! If you feel inspired to troubleshoot yourself, please make sure the breaker to your furnace is turned off, and here are a few things to explore:

  • Check the filter: It may be clogged and need to be replaced.
  • Ensure the Door is Closed – When the door to the furnace is opened or removed, the safety switch engages, which prevents the furnace from turning on.
  • Check the Burners – If the flame is yellow or red, the burner may need to be cleaned.

For more information, have a look at our post: 7 Common Heating Problems and How to Fix Them.

6. How do I know when my furnace needs to be replaced?

With proper maintenance, the average lifespan of a furnace is 15 to 18 years. If your furnace is more than 10 years old, it’s a good idea to monitor it diligently and pay close attention to its functioning.

Here are some indications that your furnace may need to be replaced:

  • A noticeable drop in energy efficiency or unsatisfactory heat generation.
  • Sluggish ignition.
  • Strange smells (rotten eggs, sulphur, etc.).
  • The pilot light struggles to remain lit.
  • Rust build-up.

7. How can I save energy and reduce the heating bill?

To save energy and keep energy costs low this winter, stay on top of regular furnace maintenance. Replace your filters consistently and support your machine to function at its optimal level.

Use your thermostat to intentionally adjust the temperature to suit your schedule. If you know you’re leaving for long periods of time, it’s beneficial to turn the thermostat down. If you’re only going to be out for a short period of time, lowering it by just a few degrees is better than a drastic drop in temperature so your furnace doesn’t have to work twice as hard when you return to get the temperature back up.

If you have any questions that aren’t answered here, call the experts at Ashton Plumbing, Heating, and Air – we’re here to help!


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