Gas Furnace Working Overtime? Keep it From Failing With These Tips

When winter hits full swing and temperatures drop below freezing, your gas furnace works overtime to meet your home's heating needs. But if your furnace struggles to stay on or loses its ability to maintain comfortable temperatures, it's time to clean and maintenance it. A number of people in the United States experience critical problems with their furnaces during excessively cold weather. In many of those cases, the homeowners' furnaces break down and stop working. You may keep your gas furnace from quitting with the information and steps below.

Reasons to Check Your Furnace's Burners

Your furnace relies on clean burners to heat your home properly. If the long, tubes crossover parts that connect the burners together clog up with debris, they can fail to ignite one or more of your furnace's burners. Your furnace might come on for a little while, then shut down. Or, the furnace may start up but struggle to produce enough heat to warm up the house. As a result, your home will feel cold and drafty inside.

If the temperatures lower too much in the home, the furnace may quit altogether from its efforts. This may create another issue in the home. If the pilot light isn't all the way out, it may try ignite the burners. By doing so, the pilot light produces a dangerous odor called carbon monoxide problems. Carbon monoxide doesn't have an odor and can thus silently travel through the basement's air vents to the rest of the home.

The most important thing you can do to avoid the problems above is clean and unclog the burners and their ignitors. 

Steps to Check the Furnace's Burners

You'll need a with a soft-bristled toothbrush and small bucket of warm water to clean the burners and ignitors. The brush and water gently break down and remove debris without damaging the parts.

  1. Turn off the furnace's gas line or power and open up a window in the room to keep gas fumes at bay. Fill a bucket with plain warm water. Soap and other cleansers may stick to the burners' metal and form a sticky residue.
  2. Locate the top portion of the furnace and remove the paneling that covers the burners. Don't tug on or move the plastic or metal vent pipe that extends from the paneling to avoid damaging it. 
  3. Examine the burners and crossover pieces for rust and physical damage, such as warping and fraying. If you notice problems with the parts, stop and contact a furnace repair tech to replace them. If the burners and crossover pieces don't have structural problems, proceed to step three.
  4. Wet a toothbrush with water, then gently clean out the insides of the burners. Use light pressure to scrub down the outsides of the burners and around the crossover pieces.
  5. Look at the igniter or pilot light. If it appears soiled or blocked, use the tip of the toothbrush to carefully clean it. 
  6. Dry the burners with a soft cloth, or you can place a fan in front of the burners to evaporate the moisture and water.
  7. Use the cloth to wipe down the surfaces around the burners, then replace the paneling over the burners.

Turn on the appliance's gas and power supplies, then test the pilot light to see if it produces a healthy blue or blue-green flame with yellow tip. Look for a blue flame if you use natural gas or a bluish-green flame if you use propane. If the pilot flame looks okay, wait 20 minutes to see if the furnace operates correctly or still struggles. If the furnace does stay on properly without any signs of struggle, you solved the issue. 

If the furnace continues to strain, shut off, or struggle, you should turn off the appliance and contact a heating contractor for assistance. You can also click here for info about your options.