If your home inspector points out the need to have your furnace evaluated, serviced, or repaired, heed the advice and do it before the next time you crank up that heating unit. The inspector probably observed something that could indicate a bigger problem for you later on down the road, or maybe the inspector’s recommendation is because the unit has not been checked-out by a heating professional and it just needs updating to ensure it gets a clean bill of health. Then again, depending upon what the inspector saw, you may have a defective furnace. That can be a threat to your safety and to your home, because serious problems with furnaces can trigger potentially life-threatening outcomes.
What to Do Next
The first thing you should do is communicate with your home inspector. He or she will be able to clarify anything you may not be sure about in the inspection report while answering any specific questions you might have about the section of the report that addresses issues with the furnace. Highly professional inspectors typically provide their clients with reports that include pictures when that is appropriate to highlight exactly what they were looking at when they made their observations. The report will also offer a written description of the situation, either in checklist or narrative form – and some inspectors use a combination of those formats.
After you understand the problem it’s time to call a qualified furnace expert who can make a service call to the residence and evaluate the furnace. They’ll usually check all of its major systems, perform routine maintenance unless you have just recently had that done, and then start the furnace to see for themselves how it functions.
Problems You May Encounter
The furnace expert may find that the unit only needed to have its regular maintenance done to ensure its safety and performance. That may include tasks such as relighting the pilot light on the furnace and checking to make sure that the ductwork is properly installed, insulated, and clear of obstructions. If you have a furnace that is more than 10 or 15 years old, on the other hand, it may be reaching the end of its optimum life cycle. Older furnaces often begin to develop issues that can seem small at first, but they have the potential to become very serious.
A poorly functioning furnace will cost you a great deal because of higher utility bills, since its performance will be compromised. You’ll use it more often and turn the thermostat higher, but will still enjoy less heat inside your home. That translates into wasted energy – which is expensive – while it also impacts your comfort, health, and quality of life. Have it tuned-up or repaired and you’ll be glad you did.
More Serious Issues
One of the components on a furnace that is prone to deterioration is, for example, the heat exchanger. This is a type of barrier between the heat source (such as the flames in a gas furnace) and the fan that blows heated air up through the ducts into your living areas. What often happens over time is that this barrier or heat exchanger – which is made of metal – develops cracks from rust, stress, or age. The cracks can then allow carbon monoxide gas, a natural byproduct of fuel combustion , to escape over into the wrong side of the exchanger. Then it gets blow up into your home whenever you turn on the furnace.
But carbon monoxide or CO is a deadly gas that is both invisible and odorless. Mild exposure to it can cause lethargy and even headaches. Higher levels of the toxic contaminant can cause severe illness with symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, and cognitive confusion. If you are exposed to CO for too long it is deadly, and every year people die from this silent killer as a result of faulty furnaces. When your furnace gets too old have it repaired or replaced, for the safety and well being of you, your family, and your pets – which are also susceptible to CO poisoning.