7 Signs That Your Furnace Needs Repairs

Although California luckily has mild winter weather, many homes still rely on gas or electric furnaces for heating. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to know if your furnace is working properly. Having your furnace fail to turn on or produce heat is an obvious sign that it needs repairs, but many other issues aren’t as easy to spot. With this in mind, here are some of the most obvious signs that your furnace needs repairs and what issues can cause them.

1. Lack of Sufficient Heat

The most obvious sign that you need to have your furnace repaired is if it suddenly stops producing sufficient heat. If you ever find that your furnace can no longer keep your home properly warm, it is a sure sign that there is some issue interfering with its ability to function properly.

One of the more common causes of this issue is dirt and dust clogging the furnace burners. If the burners are overly dirty, they will typically not be able to fully combust the natural gas or propane that flows out of them. If the gas doesn’t fully combust, the flames will be much cooler, and the furnace will produce much less heat.

However, insufficient heat can also be caused by a clogged air filter or leaks in the ductwork, both of which will restrict the airflow and result in far less heat coming out of your vents. For this reason, we always recommend checking your air filter to see if it is overly dirty before scheduling a repair service. Simply replacing the air filter is often all it takes to overcome this issue.

2. Furnace Runs Constantly

In warmer climates like California, your furnace should really only ever run once or twice an hour for around 15 minutes at a time. If you find that your furnace runs for long periods without ever shutting off, it indicates that it isn’t producing enough heat for some reason. Again, this is typically because the burners are dirty or due to an airflow issue. However, it may also mean that your furnace is nearing the end of its life as its effectiveness will always tend to decrease the older the unit gets.

3. Sudden, Drastic Increase in Your Energy Bills

It is always a good idea to keep track of your monthly energy costs as this can help you to determine if your furnace is still working efficiently and effectively. A sudden spike in your gas bill from one month to the next is often an obvious sign that your furnace is either not burning gas efficiently or needs to run for much longer and more frequently for some reason.

This cost increase can be slightly more difficult to detect if you have an electric furnace since far more of your appliances and devices run off electricity. Nonetheless, if your electricity bill suddenly skyrockets for no apparent reason, you will definitely want to have your furnace inspected to determine if it is the culprit.

4. Loud Noises When Heating

Gas furnaces always produce some noise when running. However, any loud whistling, knocking, banging or squealing noises are a definite sign that there is some issue with your heating system. A knocking noise can indicate that the burners are dirty, the unit’s gas valve is malfunctioning or the bearings in the blower fan motor are worn out. Squealing or screeching noises typically mean that either the bearings or belt that drive the blower motor are worn out and need to be replaced.

Whistling or wheezing noises are typically a less serious issue but can still be quite annoying. In most cases, these sounds indicate that either the air filter is clogged and the system is struggling to draw in enough air or that your ductwork is damaged and leaking air.

A loud banging noise whenever your furnace first ignites is a much more serious issue. In many cases, you will end up hearing what sounds like a small explosion whenever the furnace lights, and this indicates that the burners are dirty and leading to a delay before the gas flowing through them ignites. When this happens, it essentially creates a mini fireball once the gas does finally light, and this has the potential to cause serious damage if not taken care of promptly.

5. Furnace Is Short Cycling

Short cycling is when the furnace turns on and only runs for a short time before it automatically shuts back down. One of the most common reasons this happens is because the furnace or blower fan starts overheating due to a lack of sufficient airflow or some other issue. Another possible cause is that the exhaust flue is clogged and causing the combustion fumes to get trapped inside the unit instead of being vented outside. Short cycling can also indicate that your furnace is too large for the building, and unfortunately, the only real solution to this issue is to replace the unit with one that is properly sized.

The typical heating cycle for most furnaces should last for somewhere around 10 to 15 minutes. If your furnace ever shuts down in under 10 minutes, you want to have it inspected and repaired as soon as possible. Short cycling puts a huge amount of strain on the unit and can quickly lead to other, more major issues while also shortening the life of the furnace.

6. Burning Smells or Other Unusual Odors

It is completely normal for your furnace to produce a burning smell when you turn it on for the first time each winter or if it ever sits unused for more than a week or two. Whenever a furnace sits idle, dust and debris will collect on the burners and other components. Once you turn the unit on, this debris will quickly burn away and produce a burning smell that should go away within an hour or so. If the burning smell persists or you notice it any other time, you will want to shut the furnace off immediately and leave it off until you can have it inspected as it usually indicates that the unit is overheating or experiencing an electrical issue.

A chemical smell coming from your furnace or vents is a potentially much more serious issue. This smell usually means that the furnace’s heat exchanger is cracked and allowing carbon monoxide and other dangerous combustion fumes to leak out. Although carbon monoxide is odorless, some of the other fumes have a strong smell that is similar to formaldehyde. Due to the risk of potentially fatal carbon monoxide poisoning, this is another issue that you will want to have taken care of immediately, and you shouldn’t run your furnace again until it has been inspected.

7. Yellow or Orange Flames

When your furnace is working properly, the flames produced by the burners should be strong, steady and blue. If the flames are weak, flickering or any color other than blue, it indicates that the gas isn’t fully combusting, and thus the furnace is producing less heat. Yellow or orange flames are a fairly obvious sign that the burners are dirty, leading to incomplete combustion. While this issue isn’t as serious as others, it is still something that you should get taken care of soon as it means that your furnace is working less efficiently and using more energy than it should.

If you suspect that your furnace needs any repairs, Cozy Home Services is ready to help. Our certified technicians repair all makes and models of furnaces, and we can also assist with preventive maintenance and furnace replacement. We also install and repair air conditioners, indoor air quality equipment, water heaters, electrical panels and solar systems. To schedule a furnace inspection or any other service in the Vacaville area, give Cozy Home Services a call today.