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Common Winter Furnace Problems

furnace problems heating maintenance repairOne might argue that if you’ve lived or worked in Oswego, Yorkville, Naperville, Aurora and Plainfield (IL), you can probably do the same just about anywhere within the global compass points. Our summers often help define the word hot and our winters definitely have their own entry in cold.

As we’re making our way through the Illinois winter, our furnace becomes vital to our comfort and safety. (Think of even one day without it deep into January!) Our system use typically skyrockets. For that reason, it’s also vital that we be attentive to some of the issues that can arise during times of peak usage.

The following are some of the common furnace problems that can surface in winter.

Winter Furnace Problem: No or Little Warm Air

The furnace is on, and air is blowing, but it’s either lukewarm or cool. The issue can stem from different sources, such as:

  • dirty air filter
  • leaking ducts
  • incorrectly designed or insulated ducts
  • wrong size of furnace for the home
  • issues with natural-gas supply
  • faulty thermostat
  • damaged or dirty pilot light
  • defective electrical wiring

Winter Furnace Problem: Cycling

If you notice the furnace is shutting on and off with greater frequency, the system is doing what’s known as cycling. A furnace will short-cycle when it is burning through the heat quicker than the heat can be renewed. Until the system can fully cycle, the house will become colder.

The cause of short-cycling can often be a dirty filter, blocked airflow, a faulty thermostat or even just a bad safety switch.

Winter Furnace Problem: Strange Noises

A properly functioning furnace should not bang, clang, rattle or squeak, nor should it hum, chirp or grind. If you hear such a noise while the system is running, it could be an issue with the motor.

An audible noise outside of the furnace can suggest a problem with the blower fan. If you hear it coming from inside the duct, and it’s a little less noisy and frequent, it could be the gas valve or flame sensor, both of which indicate a motor issue as well.

Beyond a complication with the motor, a noisy furnace may be caused by a clogged burner or very low airflow.

Winter Furnace Problem: Frozen Coils and Pipes

Sometimes water or condensation will gather in pipes and coils, such as from a leaky burner or a failed pump. If it is then exposed to the extreme cold such as that we often get in Oswego, Yorkville, Naperville, Aurora and Plainfield, it can freeze.

Frozen water can interfere with the heating system and make temperatures drop in our living spaces. Because frozen water expands, it can also cause the pipe or coil to swell and then burst.

Frozen water in coils and pipes further can create more excess water as it melts. If the water leaks from the furnace, it can damage floors or prompt the unit’s internal circuit board to shut down.

Winter Furnace Problem: Carbon Monoxide

Perhaps the gravest issue that can arise from a furnace in winter is the release of carbon monoxide produced by the combustion process in the unit’s heat exchanger.

Carbon monoxide can leak into living spaces when it escapes from the system because of an issue such as a broken heat exchanger or a cracked or corroded flue pipe.

Because of this possible hazard, it’s important to ensure that the home has properly functioning CO sensors. Scheduling annual furnace maintenance can help to detect and prevent a problem with carbon monoxide as well.

Winter Furnace Problem: Blower Always Running

When the air temperature reaches your setting on the thermostat, the furnace blower should shut off. If it continues to run, the unit’s limit switch may be malfunctioning and should be inspected very soon.

Winter Furnace Problem: Pilot Light Out or Flickering

Systems that use oil or propane for heating require a pilot light for proper ignition. Older heating units will often have a pilot light that runs steadily, while newer furnaces will use a pilot light only when turned on.

If your system’s pilot light isn’t functioning, it might be caused by cogs in the unit, thermocoupling issues, a draft in the furnace area or a simple electrical problem such as a tripped circuit breaker.

A dirty or damaged flame sensor can be another reason for a failing pilot light. In any event, a pilot light should be re-lit only by a trained professional.

Winter Furnace Problem: The Usual Suspects

We’ve covered several issues that can arise with a furnace in winter, but there are still two that often lead the pack of causation when we’re inspecting a system during a service visit: the thermostat and the air filter.

Always make sure the thermostat has sufficient battery life and that is has the proper settings (e.g. being set to “heat” instead of “cool”). It should also be communicating properly with the heating system.

An air filter that hasn’t been changed in a while can create a host of problems as well. Check the filter once a month and replace it as needed. It should be switched out at every 90 days but may need more-frequent changing in winter.

Local Furnace Repair, Replacement and Maintenance: Contact Us Today

As your community heating specialists, Air Dynamics understands what can go wrong with a furnace while it’s working hard in winter. We also know how to diagnose and fix the issue so you can remain comfortable, safe and warm. If you have a heating question or problem in Oswego, Yorkville, Naperville, Aurora or Plainfield (IL), we will be glad to assist you. Just give us a call at (630) 731-1550!

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