Furnace Maintenance

10 Common Furnace Problems to Watch For

If you just turned on your furnace for the first time since last winter, there are some things you may want to watch for as the colder months roll in. We typically find that problems are likely to pop up right when we begin using our heating and cooling systems for the first time in a while.

Here are 10 common issues your furnace may face and what you’ll want to do about them.

1 – Air Filter Change

This is the bare minimum of furnace maintenance. We can’t stress highly enough how important it is to change your furnace’s air filter regularly. While it varies from home to home, we typically recommend checking your filter monthly and replacing it quarterly (at the least). Some homes can get away with more time on their filters, but many homes will actually require less.

Air filters are easy to diagnose and obtain. You can order them online or pick one up at the local hardware store. Not sure which size you need? Check the current filter to see if the size is listed or try searching for your furnace’s model number online to see what filter sizes are accepted by your system.

2 – Wear and Tear

Furnaces get old and need to be replaced. While many systems will last upwards of 15-20 years, there’s no guarantee that your furnace will perform well for that long. For instance, furnaces made just 10 or 15 years ago are noticeably less energy efficient than their present-day counterparts.

If your furnace requires regular repairs or is just getting up there in age, you may actually save a good deal on your monthly utilities by replacing the system before it goes out. Similarly, if you have an outage, it may be best to consider upgrading your system as opposed to a costly repair on an older model that may just go out soon anyhow.

3 – Thermostat Issues

Sometimes, the problem doesn’t lie with the furnace at all. We often get calls for furnaces not working properly, only to find the actual issue is that the thermostat was off. Ensure your thermostat is set correctly and has working batteries before attempting to diagnose your furnace.

Likewise, it could be that your thermostat just needs to be replaced. This is often a simple matter that can be a DIY job. If you’d like the team at Lion to help, we’d be happy to take care of it as well and check for other issues at the same time.

4 – Power Problems

Occasionally, clutter or activity around a furnace will lead to it getting unplugged. Many homeowners don’t actually even know their furnace plugs in at all, but they certainly do. 

Likewise, it is possible that you need to reset the breaker associated with your home’s furnace, which could especially be the issue after a power outage in your area. Before calling an HVAC specialist, it never hurts to check if your furnace is actually receiving power or not.

5 – Not Hot Enough

If you find that the air coming from the vents just doesn’t feel very warm or that you’re constantly adjusting the thermostat to get the house warm enough, there could be a few potential problems.

In most cases, it will require HVAC maintenance to ensure that there aren’t technical issues with the furnace. If you’re new to the home, it could just be that the furnace isn’t actually powerful enough to properly heat the entire home. Other common issues, such as a clogged air filter or blocked air intake vents, could also be the culprit.

6 – Not Hot At All

There’s a big difference between not very hot and not at all hot when it comes to your home’s heating system. If your furnace isn’t producing even warm air, you likely have an issue with the pilot light or ignition. This could be problematic, especially if the furnace is continually trying to create warm air and failing.

In this instance, we suggest you give our team a call right away to ensure that nothing dangerous is going on. It’s likely best to shut off the system while we work on troubleshooting or getting a service expert your way.

7 – Turning On & Off Frequently

If you’re noticing an on-again, off-again problem with your furnace, this likely has to do with improper air flow coming from or into the system. Since your furnace works on a forced air system that requires cycled air from within your home to push heated air through the vents, you should first check if air intake vents are blocked or otherwise obstructed.

It could be that you need to get your vents cleaned or a new thermostat, as well. The first place to check should be the thermostat, then air intake vents, and finally the furnace itself, likely with an HVAC service expert.

8 – Always Running

We occasionally get the call from folks that feel they have to manually control their furnace by turning the heat entirely off to get it to stop running. There are a couple of potential culprits here, but the root issue should not be left unaddressed any longer than necessary to avoid excess wear-and-tear on the other systems within your furnace.

For instance, if the limit switch is faulty, it could cause your heat exchangers to remain active longer than necessary, which can cause a far more expensive (and potentially dangerous) problem for your furnace.

9 – Heat Exchanger Issues

While not the most common issue to run into, problems with the heat exchanger are usually the end of a furnace’s life. There are a few reasons for this:

First of all, noticing something wrong with this system often comes after the problems have progressed to a serious level.

Next, a faulty heat exchanger system is the root cause of many carbon monoxide poisoning cases nationwide, so a DIY repair is certainly not recommended.

Finally, the heat exchanger system is built to last the life of your furnace. If it’s going out, your furnace may not be worth repairing anyway; this is doubly-true for the expensive heat exchanger system. For this reason alone, most serious heat exchanger issues lead to a furnace replacement being the best-case scenario.

10 – General Lack of Maintenance

It is no surprise to local homeowners that furnaces are not inexpensive purchases and should be taken care of as a future investment in the home. All too often, we meet homeowners who regret not having regular maintenance performed on their system over time, as a more costly repair or replacement looms over their head.

Nearly every issue listed here could be caught and prevented or repaired during a routine maintenance inspection of your furnace. Before the really chilly months hit Northern Colorado, it’s best to get your maintenance planned and scheduled to go into the winter with peace of mind.

Contact us today to get started!

Furnace Maintenance

First Time Turning On the Furnace? Here Are 5 Things to Do

This week, Northern Colorado saw a very early first freeze. We set a record for most snow on September 10th only two days after record-high temperatures around 100-degrees on September 8th. Whether you joined many Northern Colorado families in turning on their heat for the first time or not, here are some things to watch for as we begin flipping on the furnace for the colder months.

1 – Change the Air Filter

If you haven’t been using your AC recently, or do not have central air conditioning that utilizes your furnace, you’ll want to change your air filter before turning on your furnace for the first time. 

Even if your forced air conditioning system has been engaged, it’s a good idea to check the filter before switching over to heat to ensure there’s no extra build-up.

An old, used-up air filter isn’t going to start your system off right and it’s important that you have a good, working air filter in your furnace to keep peak performance and avoid damages to your system.

2 – Check Your Thermostat Settings

Ah, the wonders of technology. Many homes today have smart or digital thermostats that can perform a number of functions ranging from a heating or cooling schedule to detecting when someone is home and automatically changing the temperature in the home accordingly.

Regardless of the complexity of your thermostat, be sure to check the following:

  1. Determine if you have an existing schedule in the thermostat for heat and ensure that still matches with your current lifestyle. After all, if you’re no longer commuting to work during the day, you may not want the system barely running during those hours. The last thing you want is last year’s schedule to kick in and not provide what you’re hoping for.
  2. Double-check that the system is set to heat. We know, this is an obvious one, but many folks each year panic when their furnace pushes out cool or cold air, only to realize that the system is set to Fan or Cool. You could save yourself an unneeded emergency HVAC call by double-checking the thermostat.
  3. Check the humidifier on your furnace and engage the system if it’s off. Many homes in Northern Colorado feature a digital humidifier, often with a thermostat-esque device on the furnace itself. Since humid air retains heat better than the dry air we see in Colorado winters, this can be a money-saving device. Many families turn theirs off during the winter, so ensure yours is turned back on and set to somewhere around 30-40% (or whatever was recommended for your home at the time of installation).
  4. Know your “smart” features. As mentioned above, many families in Northern Colorado have different habits this year, with the challenges of the coronavirus, that were not present last year. If your home has a smart thermostat that relies on a cell phone, ensure you have the right devices connected and that any other enabled functions still make sense for you.

3 – Monitor Smells and Noises

It’s tough to describe exactly what is normal for a first-time firing of the furnace system in your home without actually being there. Still, if you notice a rattling, rumbling, or other bizarre noise that isn’t typical for your system, you may want to monitor the situation closely and call our office for advice right away.

As far as smells go, a dusty smell coming from the vents for the first hour or so is pretty normal. This comes from dust settling on the burners within your furnace during months of use and shouldn’t be worried about too much. 

However, a smell of natural gas or potent or lasting foul odor would not be typical and should be looked at by a certified HVAC service expert right away.

4 – Not Feeling Hot Air? Check These First

If you’ve flipped the switch and haven’t seen hot air blowing, here are the first things you should try:

  1. Give it a minute. Your system has been off, likely for months, and it could take a minute to engage. Some HVAC systems, such as heat pumps, have a defrost cycle to run through before you’ll actually see a temperature change. Be a little patient before worrying.
  2. Triple-check the thermostat. Yes, we know, saying it again is probably overdoing it, but we really do get calls from folks that just didn’t set the thermostat correctly every year.
  3. Check the breaker for a disabled switch. Rarely, we’ll see a breaker disabled on the furnace upon checking a system that is unresponsive. If your system isn’t doing anything, this is an easy one to check off the list.
  4. Secure the furnace access door. If you took our advice on changing the air filter, a likely solution for nothing happening with your furnace is that the door was not properly resecured after removing it to change your filter (or that it was bumped, etc.). 
  5. Contact our offices for help in troubleshooting. After you’ve done the 4 above, the best thing for the uninitiated is to call in a professional for help. Don’t wait! If you’re turning on your furnace for the first time today, imagine that many other local families are doing the same and could also encounter problems. Get an appointment quickly before the rush.

5 – Keep Your Furnace Maintained

If you didn’t get service for your furnace last year, it’s time to get in a professional to check for any needed maintenance or repairs. Even if your system is working, the first time you turn on the system is a great time to make a future appointment to ensure everything is working properly.

You should expect that you will eventually need to replace your furnace, and that could be sooner than later if you have an older model. If it isn’t working on the first heating of the season, it could be time to schedule a replacement instead of a repair or maintenance service. Modern furnaces offer incredible energy-saving benefits that can actually allow for the system to pay for itself over time compared to an older model you’ve been holding onto.

Contact Lion for Help

If you’re not getting the heat you hope for on the first cold days this year, give Lion Home Services a call. Whether you need emergency assistance or a future appointment for maintenance, repairs, or a replacement furnace, our team can help.

Give us a call today for advice or to schedule the appointment you need to enjoy your home as the temperature in Northern Colorado begins to drop!

Furnace Maintenance

Why Is My Furnace Filter Black?

What would the air quality in a home be like if a furnace didn’t have a filter? Truthfully, the interior air quality would come off as awful. A filter serves the vital purpose of trapping dirt and more. When a screen turns stark black, however, assume there may be something out of the ordinary occurring. Maybe a closer examination is warranted to determine why the filter is so black.

The Filter is Too Old

The same filter can’t stay inside a furnace forever. At some point, all the little holes in the screen will clog up. Worse, issues may soon take place if that old filter isn’t removed. Besides a reduction in air quality, you may find that your furnace shuts down again and again because it overheats. It is important to replace an old, clogged filter without delay. [company_name] can handle filter replacement and other services.

Too Much Soot in the Furnace

A filter could become darker faster than expected due to an increased amount of soot inside the furnace. Is it producing extra soot due to some defect? Or, have you neglected to clean the interior of the heater? Either way, excess dirt and soot could mean that the filter gets dirtier quicker. So, don’t ignore spot checks on the filter.

Mold Grows Inside the Furnace

The presence of mold may seem horrible, but it isn’t all that uncommon. Moisture causes spores to grow into black mold, and the mold can stick to the filter. Getting rid of the filter might not be enough, though. You may need a thorough heating system cleaning as well as mold testing and removal.

Carbon Monoxide Leaks

Carbon monoxide can turn filters black, and the presence of CM is incredibly dangerous. Have a pro check out the furnace to determine whether there’s a leak. And, do you have a CM detector in your home?

Call [company_name] to see what we can do for you. We specialize in heating repair and maintenance and want to address your concerns. Fort Collins residents can ask about heating, cooling, electrical and even roofing work.

Furnace Maintenance

Yearly furnace inspections prevent expensive repairs or early replacements

Auto mechanics usually advise changing the oil in your car every three months or 3,000 miles. You can always feel free to ignore those recommendations. But if you do, your engine will seize at some point and you’ll wind up paying much more for repairs than you would have for a simple oil change.

The same basic principle applies to your furnace as well. You don’t have to get an annual furnace inspection, but skipping this potentially time- and money-saving maintenance means taking a risk you might later regret. Having a professional furnace inspection once a year can help your system operate at peak efficiency, and it may even lower your energy bills.

Every major furnace manufacturer recommends routine maintenance and inspections to prolong the life of your system. Read the fine print — some manufacturers may even include language in their warranties that precludes coverage for repairs that stem from improper maintenance. Just ask anyone who’s ever had to foot the bill for a pricy furnace fix, it’s smart to take proactive steps now to keep your system in tip-top shape through the long winter months ahead.

 

What to expect during your inspection

 

The main goal of any furnace inspection is to make sure everything is working the way it should. A qualified heating contractor or maintenance service expert will make a house call to take a thorough look at your furnace, offer recommendations and feedback, and tune up or replace parts as needed.

Any device that burns natural gas or propane creates carbon monoxide that exits your home through a vent. It’s vitally important to make sure there are no leaks in the heat exchanger, burners and flue that could let this dangerous gas pool into your home. Gas pipes themselves usually don’t leak because they don’t have any moving parts, but it never hurts to check those as well.

Other elements the service expert will examine include the inducer and blower motor, the thermostat, pilot, safety switch, drain lines, filter, ductwork and general air flow. Depending on the age of your unit, the tech might lubricate some of the bearings and fans and tighten up any loose connections. If everything looks good, the service expert may not need to do much more than wipe down the unit to remove dust and debris.

Early fall is the ideal time to schedule your furnace inspection before cold weather sets in. The last thing you want to experience during a Colorado winter is the heat going off in your home, especially during a weekend or holiday when you’re likely to wind up paying higher rates for a service call.

How much to spend for your furnace inspection depends on the company and how much detail the service expert gets into. Prices for this service can range anywhere from $30 to up several hundred; $100 is a fair rate for a good annual inspection that covers all the bases. Ask for a detailed list of inspection items when making the appointment so you’ll know exactly what you’re getting for your money. And look at it this way — you’re likely to recoup whatever you spend on a furnace inspection in energy bill savings thanks to increased operating efficiency.

 

Do-it-yourself tips

 

In between inspections, there are a few DIY maintenance tasks homeowners can perform themselves to keep their furnaces running well. The best thing you can do to preserve the life of your system is to change out your furnace filter on a regular basis (usually every 30 to 90 days). Also, plan to have the air ducts in your home cleaned every two or three years to prevent excess dust from going into your furnace, prolonging its life and operation.

 

Furnace Maintenance

Tips Xcel Energy Wants to Keep Quiet

Summer is here and energy costs are rising. Between the warmer weather and children being out of school and using more electricity, the market for electricity expands. As it expands, electricity suppliers raise costs. While the average homeowner has no recourse but to pay their electric company the market rate, they can change some of their habits to reduce their use. Respected area heating and cooling service company, Lion Home Service wants to get the word out on how to save on energy costs during the dog days of summer. According to CEO and founder, Barton Palmer, there are several tiny steps that homeowners can take to save big on energy costs.

“A lot of service companies will try to tell people that need a new, energy-efficient cooling system for their home and while they can certainly lower a home’s energy use, not everyone can afford it,” says Palmer. “I usually tell people to look for tiny ways here and there that they can save on energy use because over the course of a few months those tiny changes in behavior will add up to big bucks.”

Lion Home Service recommends changing filters and performing routine maintenance on heating and cooling systems will make a huge difference. When a system doesn’t have to work hard to do its job, energy is reduced. Dirty air filters play a huge role in cooling costs, which is why Lion Home Service stresses changing filters regularly.

Other tips include purchasing UV shades to block out the suns more harmful rays and being sensible with the cooling dial. Instead of setting the temperature to 69 degrees, set it to 70 or 72. According to Palmer, the little things add up to big savings.

“If our customers have a little extra money,” he says,” installing solar powered attic fans, roof vents, or additional insulation may also help. You’d be surprised how much heat is stored in the attic of a home. If you can reduce that, it lowers the effort on the cooling system to regulate the temperature.”

For more information on how to adopt energy-saving polices or have a system serviced for summer contact us.

Furnace Maintenance

Signs You Need a Furnace Tune Up

It’s cold outside and you need your furnace to work. Whether you’ve just moved in or you’ve been in the same place for a while, it’s a good idea to get your furnace checked out every year. We offer a comprehensive furnace tune up that does just that. We’ll make sure everything is running smoothly, diagnose any problems before they cause your furnace to stop heating entirely, and make sure you stay warm all winter long.

Not sure if you need this service? Here are some signs that it’s time to call for your tune up today.

  1. It’s been at least a year since you had one. Most furnace manufacturers recommend getting your furnace tuned up at least once a year. Some actually want you to do it twice! Check out the manufacturer’s guidelines in your manual or online, and we’ll come out and do the work according to their specifications. If your furnace is under warranty, it’s even more important that you get this done. Some warranties are voided if you don’t have regular tune ups.
  2. Your furnace is old. Most furnaces last between 10 and 20 years. If yours is 10 years old or older, it’s a good idea to get it checked out more frequently. This can head off any problems before they affect the temperature of your home.
  3. Your energy bills are high. Do you pay more than you used to when you run your furnace? If so, then there’s a good chance that something isn’t working as well as it could. We’ll diagnose the problem, which is often solved simply by servicing the unit. If it needs more work, we’ll let you know that, too.
  4. Your furnace makes unusual noises. Most furnaces run almost silently. If yours is making banging noises or any other noises, it’s time to get it check out. We’ll perform routine maintenance and, in the process, determine what is making the unusual sound. Then, we’ll get it fixed before your house gets cold.
  5. Changing the temperature on the thermostat doesn’t help. If you feel like you’re constantly turning up the heat but your house isn’t getting any warmer, let us know. Part of our tune up involves checking your thermostat and making sure it’s still properly connected to your furnace and is correctly reflecting the temperature in your home. If there’s a problem, we’ll let you know.
  6. Your furnace turns off and on frequently. Your furnace should turn on, run until your home is warm, then turn off again. If it’s turning off and on more frequently than that, it’s time for a tune up. We’ll service the unit and see if that helps. If it doesn’t, we’ll figure out what else is going on and get it all working again.

 

When it’s time for a tune up, call us at Lion Home Service. We’ll send out a professional furnace service expert to perform standard maintenance on your unit according to the manufacturer’s specifications. We’ll also help you get any problems fixed, so you and your family aren’t left out in the cold.