Everything Homeowners Need to Know About Overheating Furnaces and Preventing Them
Halloween is almost here, and there’s no better way to celebrate than embracing the season of fright with plenty of scary movies, spooky decorations, and - of course - lots of candy to hand out on the big night. But as the trick-or-treaters prepare to roam the streets for candy, the autumn chill will start to creep in, forcing homeowners to fire up their furnaces.
But with the furnace roaring to combat the cold, homeowners need to beware of something scarier than any Halloween costume – an overheating furnace. This article will explain the dangers of an overheating furnace, how to spot the warning signs, and how to help prevent overheating.
Why Is an Overheating Furnace So Dangerous?
First, it’s vital to understand the dangers of an overheating furnace – and how they arise. Overheating typically occurs when the heat exchanger, heating coils, or blower motor gets too hot during operation. This can happen for various reasons, such as a dirty air filter impeding airflow, dirt and dust inside the unit, or issues with mechanical or electrical components.
Naturally, overheating can cause damage to internal components such as the heat exchanger or blower motor, which can cause the system to break down, requiring costly repairs or even a furnace replacement. However, a furnace overheating can present much more serious risks. For one, it may result in a furnace fire that can spread to the rest of the house. Secondly, even if no fire is ignited, a damaged heat exchanger can leak carbon monoxide and other dangerous fumes into the home rather than going out of the exhaust vent. Leaky furnaces and other gas appliances are a common cause of carbon monoxide poisoning.
How to Tell If a Furnace Is Overheating
Considering the risks that an overheating furnace presents, homeowners must be able to recognize the warning signs as early as possible. Some common symptoms of an overheating furnace include:
- Burning smell: A slight burning smell may be normal when the heating system is first turned on for the season, as dust is burned off of the internal components, but if the odor persists or smells of burning plastic, metal, or exhaust, it may indicate overheating.
- Unusual humming sound: Loud humming or excessive vibration from the unit may indicate that the blower motor is struggling, which often causes it to overheat.
- Furnace shuts off frequently or unexpectedly: Short-cycling is when the system repeatedly runs for a short time and then turns off. This may be due to a limit switch or other safety device detecting high internal temperatures and shutting off the unit to protect system components. Or the furnace may shut down completely.
If homeowners notice any of these signs of a furnace overheating, they should turn off the heating system and call a professional immediately to diagnose and fix the issue.
How to Avoid an Overheating Furnace
As scary as an overheating furnace is, preventing overheating is easier than it may seem. One simple thing homeowners can do is replace air filters on time. Restricted airflow caused by a dirty air filter is a common cause of overheating, as it prevents the heat generated by the burners or heating elements from being carried off by the blower fan. Staying on top of air filter replacements will help ensure the unit has sufficient airflow and can properly distribute heat. Replacing furnace filters every one to three months should do the trick for most homes, but different filters have different recommendations.
Another easy way to help prevent overheating is to schedule annual furnace maintenance with a qualified professional. During a maintenance visit, technicians will thoroughly clean the necessary furnace components so no dust can block the blower motor’s ventilation ports or accumulate on the heating coils, which can lead to overheating. Professionals will also inspect the heating system for any other issues that can cause the system to overheat or perform poorly so homeowners can enjoy a safe, cozy home this Halloween!
About Master Plumbing, Heating, & Cooling
Master Plumbing, Heating, & Cooling has more than 35 years of expertise serving Cedar Rapids and the surrounding areas. They offer 24/7 emergency response, same-day service, and upfront pricing. Call them today for furnace repair or maintenance in Cedar Rapids, IA.