If you're like many homeowners, you don't give your home heating system much thought until and unless something goes wrong — and that something is usually a complete breakdown of your furnace. Because these things have a way of happening during evening and weekend hours when it may be difficult, not to mention expensive, to have a service technician come to your home. In a worst-case scenario, you may have to wait until the next weekday to get an appointment with a repair service.
Keep in mind that furnaces often break down during the first serious cold snap of the year because they're suddenly having to work very hard to do their job after a long period of relative inactivity. The following are five signs that you should have your furnace serviced and inspected as soon as possible.
1. You're Experiencing Unexplained Temperature Fluctuations
If your home is cold sometimes and too warm at others, you might be blaming lack of proper insulation or drafty doors and windows, but it's also possible that your furnace is the culprit. It could be something as simple as a faulty thermostat or as serious as a heater that's run its course and is ready to be replaced with a newer model. The good news is is that today's furnaces are far more energy-efficient than those of the past, so chances are that you'll enjoy a more comfortable home as well as lower heating bills if you wind up replacing your furnace.
2. You've Been Feeling Ill for No Reason
If you and other household residents have been experiencing symptoms such as unexplained headaches, nausea, flu-like aches and pains, and burning in the eyes and nose, this could signify that your gas furnace has malfunctioned. This is nothing to fool around with—carbon monoxide poisoning can occur as the result of cracks and fissures in the system's heat exchanger, which will result in carbon monoxide emissions being released into your home interior. Don't take chances with your family's safety. Vacate the home immediately after turning off the gas and call your local service provider.
3. Your Furnace's Flame Is Off-Color
The flame in your furnace should be primarily blue and burning steadily. If it's yellow and flickering, that means that it's producing too much carbon. The usual explanation for this is that the burner itself is dirty. After turning the furnace off, clean the burner according to the system's owner's manual. If this doesn't alleviate the problem, it's time to call in an expert.
4. Your Utility Bills Are Rising
Another sign that your household heating system may be experiencing trouble is an unexplained spike in utility bills. If the price per unit has remained the same for your fuel and the weather hasn't been colder than usual, your furnace could probably benefit from a visit by a skilled technician.
5. Your Furnace Is Making Strange Sounds
Although strange sounds coming from your gas furnace are often caused by simple problems such as loose fans, this is one instance where it's better to err on the side of caution and schedule a heating service appointment.
The easiest way to minimize the risk of experiencing the above scenarios or any others that could result in you and your family being left in the cold is to be proactive about preventive maintenance. Because your furnace likely hasn't been used for several months during the summer season, the best time to have it serviced is in the fall before the seasonal cold sets in. This will help identify and circumvent any possible issues that could result in breakdowns later on in the season.