September is National Furnace Tune-Up Month, which is why we are focusing on getting your furnace fixed this month. Considering the fact that home heating is our most expensive energy cost for the year (around $1000), it’s well worth the effort to reduce this number. Schedule your annual furnace tune-up in the fall and watch your heating bills go down in the winter.
Most home fires occur during the winter months and many dangers can be attributed to the natural gas furnace or home heating system in your home.
Since most homes in the United States heat their home using natural gas (about 57%), we’re going to place our attention on natural gas furnaces. Some other heating systems include, ductless mini-splits, geothermal, boilers, solar heating, heat pumps, and portable electric heating.
If you are considering changing or upgrading your central heating system, consider investing in home insulation for your home in order to reduce the need for a larger unit. Click here for general HVAC maintenance tips and 5 Outdoor Home Maintenance Tasks.
Natural Gas Furnace Hazards
Despite being more energy-efficient than other fuels and releasing less combustion by-products, there are some safety concerns associated with natural gas furnaces that you should be aware of.
All fuel-burning appliances emit dangerous by-products such as carbon monoxide (CO). A faulty or leaking ventilation system can create a dangerous situation in your home by contaminating your indoor air with CO, methane, and other emissions.
- Periodically check air ducts, heating pipes, and ventilation system for proper functioning and make sure they are sealed.
- Go around your home looking for CO alarms in the following places: every floor of the home, near bedrooms, attached garages, and at least 15 feet away from the kitchen stove, furnace, and fireplace to avoid misreadings.
- Check your carbon monoxide detectors every 30 days by pressing the “test” button and waiting for the alarm.
- If your CO alarm goes off, turn off all gas burning appliances and leave the home. Call a qualified technician to get the issue repaired immediately! If you are experiencing CO poisoning symptoms, call the fire department and move to fresh air.
- Have the gas pressure in your furnace’s main line adjusted each year. Tuning up your system’s main line not only saves you money on future utility bills, but also prolongs your unit’s lifespan by keeping your heat exchanger from overheating which can cause premature stress points; consequently leading to cracks and CO leaks.
Indoor Air Quality
Besides potentially be exposed to carbon monoxide, your natural gas furnace could be emitting emissions, dust, and other contaminants into the air.
- Check your air filter every 30 days and clean or replace it no longer than 90 days.
- Vacuum and dust regularly.
- Keep your furnace components and area around your furnace clean.
- If you are experiencing severe headaches, nausea, or vomiting, leave your home and contact a medical professional.
- Afterwards, schedule a home indoor air quality consultation with a professional HVAC technician.
There are many wiring connections that work with your furnace’s control systems, thermostat, blower, and other parts.
- Never work on your furnace unless you know exactly what you are doing.
- If you do choose to proceed with DIY maintenance on your furnace, make sure to turn off all power to the furnace from your breaker/fuse box.
- Triple-check that the power is off before opening up your furnace.
- Call a qualified HVAC technician for furnace repairs.
Gas Leaks and Fires
Perhaps the largest concern for owners of natural gas furnaces is the danger of gas leaks and fires. Gas can leak in a variety of areas, not just around your furnace. Gas can leak from your oven, gas lines leading to your home, and your furnace.
Natural gas is mostly made up of methane. Naturally, methane gas has no odor, taste or color. In order to detect the highly flammable fuel, gas companies add mercaptan, a chemical which creates a “rotten egg” smell. Natural gas leaks that go undetected could lead to an explosion or fire.
- Watch this video to learn how to check for gas leaks in a furnace:
- If you smell gas, which has a garlic or rotten egg smell, get all the inhabitants of the home outside and call 1-800-458-4251 to report a gas leak.
- If you suspect a gas leak, do not turn any electrical components on or off, including your lights. This could spark ignition.
- Do not enter your home until it is declared safe to do so by an official.
- After you gas has been shut off, do not attempt to turn in back on – only a professional is allowed to do so.
- Schedule professional furnace maintenance every year, preferably in the fall before the first day you need to heat your home.
Correct Furnace Flame Color
Methane, the main substance of natural gas, gives off a blue flame when burned. The blue flame color indicates that your natural gas furnace is burning its fuel cleanly and efficiently.
The flame should look blue throughout with perhaps a little yellow tip. If your flame shows a lot of yellow, red, orange, purple, or green, this is indicative of an inefficient furnace since other things are burning in high amounts along with the methane.
Check your furnace’s flame color every month. The sooner you are aware of the problem, the sooner you can fix it.
If your flame is not blue, call a professional HVAC technician to service your furnace, so that your fuel is burning safely and efficiently. Do not try to fix your furnace’s flame color yourself.
Accidents happen, but the best way to maintain a safe natural gas furnace is to be proactive. Go around your home and check air filters, vents, ductwork, gas lines, pilot light, flame color to make sure everything looks good for winter.
Even if everything checks out, we highly recommend scheduling professional heating maintenance in the fall to make sure your natural gas furnace is safe for winter. This will ensure your manufacturer warranties remain valid and will undoubtedly save your money on your energy bill. The energy savings alone will pay for the service visit.
You’ll save even more money and energy by signing up for an Heating & Cooling Home Maintenance Plan.
Also, for energy efficiency’s sake, make sure all air vents and registers are unobstructed by checking underneath rugs, furniture, drapes, or any other objects that could be restricting airflow. It is a myth that you can save money by blocking air vents in low-traffic rooms. Read this article to learn why it is not OK to close vents in unused rooms to save money.
For more information on your HVAC system, give Interstate Heating & Air Conditioning a call at 405-794-8900.
Don’t forget to schedule your heating/furnace tune-up for winter! Schedule service online or give us a call!