5 Warning Signs That You May Need a New Furnace

As every Michigan homeowner knows, winter can bring unpredictable weather. From cold, rainy days to freezing temperatures and snowstorms, it’s important to ensure a comfortable, safe environment at home. However, if your furnace is struggling to provide the warmth you need, it may be time to replace it. Here are some signs that your current unit might be on its way out.

Your furnace is getting up there in age

Jacob Majeske with Majeske Home Inspection Services sees a lot of well-maintained furnaces lasting 25 years, give or take a little. 

“But around year 15 is when you’ll often see problems start to arise,” he said. “An annual furnace inspection is recommended regardless of your furnace’s age, but once you hit that 15-year mark, routine maintenance is critical to extending the life of your system and helping you head off major breakdowns.”

You notice frequent starts and stops

A furnace cycles on and off during its usual operation. When the temperature inside your home falls below the number set on the thermostat, the furnace kicks on to bring the temperature back up. Once the desired temperature is reached, the furnace shuts off.

If you notice your furnace is cycling on and off frequently, or if it seems to run all the time, it could be an indicator that the furnace isn’t functioning as it should.

You hear a lot of noise

Most furnaces will make some noise from time to time. But if yours is rattling, buzzing, humming, and making more noise than a big brass band, it’s time to check things out.

“There shouldn’t be any loud or strange sounds coming from your furnace, and if there are, it’s typically a sign that some of the mechanical elements are loose and need to be tightened,” said Majeske.

You notice skyrocketing utility bills

Because the furnace is one of a home’s biggest energy consumers, it’s efficiency directly affects your bottom line. Take a look at this winter’s energy bills. If you’re paying quite a bit more than last year — and rates haven’t risen — your furnace may need attention.

One easy task homeowners can do is check the furnace filter. Dirty filters can obstruct a furnace’s airflow and make it work overtime. That extra work is not only rough on your furnace, but it’s also rough on your energy bills.   

If changing your filter doesn’t solve the problem, it could be time to have your furnace serviced, or possibly replaced with a newer, energy efficient unit.

Your flame color has changed

Majeske says during a home inspection, he always checks the color of the furnace’s burner flames.

“The flames from a natural gas furnace should look blue or almost completely blue, which indicates safe and efficient combustion,” he said. “If one or more of the flames looks yellow or yellowish orange, it may indicate incomplete combustion or an issue with the heat exchanger.”

Majeske says yellow flames are also a sign of carbon monoxide production.

“They say that carbon monoxide is odorless, but if you notice a burnt rust type of smell, it can indicate a bad heat exchanger that may be pumping out unsafe levels of carbon monoxide.”

In addition to checking the color of the flames, keep an eye out for flames that are flickering, soot on the furnace filter, and excessive condensation — all signs of incomplete combustion that should be checked out.

While every furnace needs to be serviced and maintained over the course of its life, frequent and recurring service calls could mean you’re ready for a brand-new unit. If you’re fortunate to have not yet experienced these issues, and if your furnace is still relatively new, the best thing you can do to avoid problems in the future is take care of routine maintenance.

“Change your furnace filter every few months, have your ductwork cleaned every couple of years, schedule a ‘tune-up’ every spring or fall, and if any issues are found, don’t wait to take care of repairs,” said Majeske. “The more you maintain your furnace, the longer it will last.”

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