3 Ways To Prevent Catastrophic Furnace Failures

During this winter season, you'll use your gas furnace almost every hour of the day. However, if your furnace hasn't been well maintained, then heavily relying upon your furnace may put you and your family in danger. Poorly-maintained furnaces are notorious for causing carbon monoxide poisoning, residential fires, and gas buildup. Instead of allowing your furnace to pose a threat to your safety, perform or arrange for these necessary safety tasks:

Have Your Heat Exchangers Inspected

During normal operation, your furnace produces carbon monoxide and other combustion gases. To prevent these combustion gases from filling your home, your furnace uses heat exchangers. Heat exchangers warm the air that blows through your furnace and ventilate combustion gases through a flue or exhaust pipe.

Heat exchangers are made of metal. Due to this, they'll naturally expand and contracted as they're heated and cooled, respectively. Over the course of a few years, your heat exchangers will expand and contract hundreds or even thousands of times. These movements weaken fragile sections of your heat exchangers and create cracks through which carbon monoxide can leak. This is problematic because carbon monoxide above a certain concentration (70 parts per million) can cause a loss of consciousness, dizziness, vomiting, and even death.

If your furnace is more than a few years old, then it's time to have your heat exchangers inspected for potential cracks. Inspecting your heat exchangers is a difficult task since it requires your heat exchangers to be completely removed from your furnace. Instead of attempting to perform this task by yourself, it's best to leave the inspection of your heat exchangers to a professional HVAC technician.

Clean Your Combustion Chamber

Although your air filter traps and holds a majority of the airborne debris throughout your home, small amounts of debris will still manage to slip through your air filter and settle in your furnace. When debris settles in your combustion chamber, it presents a serious safety risk to you and your home.

Debris such as pet fur, dust, and lint can be ignited by your furnace's burners. If a significant amount of these materials buildup inside your combustion chamber, then they're likely to start a furnace fire when they're finally ignited. Furnace fires are a leading cause of residential fires and can easily cause thousands of dollars worth of smoke and fire damage to your home.

Luckily, you can remove these materials from your furnace's combustion chamber by yourself. To perform a combustion chamber cleaning, shut off your furnace's power and gas supply and let it cool. Once your furnace's combustion chamber is cool, open your access panel and use a water-dampened rag to wipe away any debris from the area around your burners, burner tubes, and pilot flame.

Never use cleaning agents to remove debris from your combustion chamber—cleaning agents that contain chemicals can leave behind a flammable residue. Even if this residue doesn't start a furnace fire in your home, it will still release toxic chemicals into your indoor air when it's burned.

Inspect Your Burner Assembly

In addition to airborne debris, your burner assembly and combustion chamber can also become covered in soot and other natural by-products of gas combustion. When these byproducts collect on your pilot flame, burner tubes, and other burner assembly components, they can restrict the flow of air and gas to your furnace—which can prevent your burner assembly from igniting the gas that's delivered to your furnace. If unspent gas fills your home, it can cause an explosion when it's finally ignited by your pilot flame, stove, or any other ignition source present in your home.

If you see a buildup of soot or carbon on your burner assembly, then it's time to arrange for a professional furnace cleaning. If you attempt to disassemble and clean your burner assembly on your own, you risk permanently damaging the most important components of your furnace. For this reason, your burner assembly should only be cleaned by a certified professional.

By performing or arranging for these three maintenance tasks, you can click here for more info and ensure that your furnace operates safely (and efficiently) all winter long. Continue to perform or arrange for these maintenance tasks before every winter season to minimize the risk of a catastrophic furnace failure in your home.