Summer officially ends tomorrow and temperatures are starting to look like they will be declining. That’s great for everyone looking to save money on their energy bills since we can cut off the A/C and open up some windows. Man I love Fall! Or Autumn depending on which you prefer. The leaves will soon be changing colors, the temperatures will be cooler and more manageable, football is back in full swing, world series is just around the corner and anyone who was worried about the heat is now back outside enjoying the fresh air. Now my love for fall is based on my experience with it here in Ohio and the surrounding area so it may not be as glamorous in other areas of the world. However, along with many others, I find myself forgetting about my furnace until that one cold night when we need it. This approach hasn’t worked so well for me the second and third winter seasons (out of only 4 that we have lived in the home) even though the system was put in, brand new, before we purchased. I can’t be the only person who has run into issues with their furnace, but here is a quick story of my troubles and how the situations could have been better had I been more proactive. Getting you furnace tuned-up and inspected isn’t just for your furnace, it is about keeping your sanity on those cold nights when you need it most.
The first year we were in the home it worked well, obviously. But that second season we found ourselves in a predicament. The nightly temperatures were beginning to drop and while we could handle the 50s, when it began getting into the high 40s we decided it was time to call upon our furnace. To our surprise, the furnace wouldn’t kick on. So for a night we were essentially without heat because we could still handle the misery of sleeping through a cold night with extra blankets, plus we didn’t want to pay the extra fee that comes with after hour service calls. So it turned out one of my pressure sensors was faulty and it couldn’t register the necessary performance so I received an error code which wouldn’t allow the system to turn on. Oh yeah, equipment is pretty sophisticated these days and the slightest variances may be enough to put your system into a safety protocol. Just like a check engine light now a days which has the capability of depowering your vehicle so it runs but not at full power, therefore limiting the amount of damage it could take. Only difference, my gas furnace wasn’t going to run at half strength with the code; it wouldn’t run at all. The new sensor was put in and no problems with it since.
Now for the next season… Certainly this would be a better year for the furnace start up since we left on a good note, right? Same situation, cool nights started to creep in and we decided it was time for the furnace. NOPE! The furnace again would turn on but only for a couple minutes at a time which isn’t nearly enough to warm up the house. Well you’ll never believe what the issue was this time, or maybe you will. Any guessers?… Alright so hear me out. I didn’t think anything of this but, my flue pipe exiting the house wasn’t capped and two birds had made it all the way back to where the pipe enters the system and blower. It’s a good 20’ run of pipe with 3-90 degree turns and they made it all the way to my furnace. The next part will forever be a memory of mine. The internal pieces were taken apart and a live bird flew out of the pipe, don’t worry we caught it with a fishing net and released the little guy but his/her partner was not so lucky as it had been stuck in the system for lord knows how long and that’s what was causing the issue. The system would turn on for a minute or so and then shut back off since the gasses couldn’t escape through the flue and then the system began registering codes. These codes again shut down the system and put it into a safety mode. Once all the birds had been removed and the system was put back, (luckily we didn’t need any new parts this time) the system worked just fine and we were back to warmth.
Now last season went flawless and we were happy campers. The difference? We had our system checked prior to going into the winter and were proactive about ensuring smooth operation. If I recall correctly we had ours checked in mid-October and that will be the same case this year, if not sooner, especially with the newborn due in early November.
The point here is, even though we are leaving one season and turning our backs on our air conditioners for a few months, we shouldn’t forget what is just beyond the horizon (Winter). While the situations I have been through may seem out of the norm and never happen to you, there are plenty of other problems that could arise and leave you without heat. Nobody wants to be caught without heat, it’s just unpleasant. Plus if a situation comes up that renders your furnace inoperable while you are away, maybe a warm vacation spot for a week, you could run the risk of frozen pipes and if those burst then you are looking at additional expenses. So my recommendation based on my bad experiences is to either test your system yourself, maybe with a dry run in September or early October just to make sure it turns on and runs, or have a professional come out and properly inspect everything from the electric to the gas/flame if you are running a gas furnace. I am a big advocate of planning, preparing and being proactive; this was an area that I took for granted. Long story short, do yourself a favor, make sure your furnace is running properly before you actually need it by inspecting it early.
There are some links that I found from various sites that cover maintenance tips. Here are a few: