What you need to know about furnace safety

9:01 AM, Nov 08, 2018
What you need to know about furnace safety

Keeping your home warm is an essential part of preserving a comfortable living environment, but it can also represent many hazards such as fire, carbon monoxide poisoning and indoor air pollution.

The  National Fire Protection Association  reported a total of 54,030 home structure fires involving heating equipment between 2011 and 2015. Central heating units and water heaters accounted for 21 percent of those fires.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that over 150 Americans die every year from accidental carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning that is not caused by fires. Known as a silent killer, CO has no smell or taste, so neither people nor animals can tell when they are breathing it.

Get your furnace checked for safety by a highly-trained heating specialist

It’s a smart idea to have a highly-trained heating specialist like Anthony Plumbing, Heating & Cooling perform a safety inspection on your furnace. Their technicians will do the following:

  • Inspect the heat exchanger for cracks with a state of the art inspector camera.

  • Test for any dangerous gas leaks such as CO.

  • Test the ignition system for safe and proper operation.

  • Test the safety and control circuits.

  • Ensure the exhaust is venting properly.

Watch for signs of a cracked or non-functioning heat exchanger

A gas furnace’s heat exchanger is the furnace component that actually heats the air. A cracked heat exchanger is a serious safety issue, as the gases being burned off, such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrous oxide, could leak into your home, causing illness or, in extreme cases, death.  Getting an annual furnace safety inspection will help spot cracks in heat exchangers.  But homeowners should always keep an eye out for these warning signs of an improperly working heat exchanger:

  • black carbon buildup (soot) inside or outside the furnace cabinet, a sign of incomplete combustion

  • Excessive moisture in the space and on the windows (water is a byproduct of combustion)

  • unpleasant odor similar to formaldehyde

  • water on the floor at the base of the furnace

  • flu-like symptoms experienced by family members

Clean your furnace

Like other appliances around the home, a furnace will function more safely and efficiently if it's clean. Check the pilot light and main burners on your natural gas furnace to ensure they are burning blue. If they burn orange or yellow, contact a heating specialist to have it serviced.

You can also call a highly-trained heating specialist like Anthony Plumbing, Heating & Cooling to have your furnace thoroughly cleaned before the winter months when you'll be using it regularly.

 

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Install and/or check carbon monoxide detectors

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a "silent killer" because you can't see, taste or smell it in its natural form. If it is inhaled in high concentrations or slowly over time, it can cause drowsiness, dizziness, loss of consciousness, brain damage and death.

If you have natural gas heating in your home, it's important to install CO detectors on each floor to ensure your family's safety. Since CO doesn't rise like smoke does, safety experts recommend installing CO alarms at knee level, which is about the height of a sleeping person's nose and mouth.

Also consider installing “smart” detectors that will send alerts to your phone when you are away, so your pets and elderly family members stay safe when you're not at home.

Change your furnace filter

Clean filters allow your furnace to run more efficiently and help prevent dust from circulating through your home. If you don't know how to change your filter, schedule a visit from a heating specialist or check for videos online that walk you through the process.

Keep area around furnace clear

Garages and closets are prone to gathering clutter, but it's important to keep the space near your furnace clear of boxes, trash, open laundry soap, paint thinners and gasoline containers or other combustible items. Keep this up year-round, whether you regularly use your furnace or not.

Keep supply registers clean and open

While it may make sense, in theory, to close supply registers to unused rooms to save on heating bills, heating specialists suggest otherwise. A furnace needs constant, consistent airflow to function properly, or it may use up the oxygen in your home. Closed supply registers can allow water pipes to freeze even though the frozen pipe is not in the room with the closed supply register.

"It's also possible to damage your furnace by closing too many air registers," according to  Angie's List . Closing off registers creates less airflow, which forces the furnace to work harder.  It's also possible that limited airflow may cause the furnace to blow air that is too hot and trip the limit safety switch in the furnace.

Replace older furnaces

Like an old car, an old furnace that requires costly repairs is signaling that it’s near the end of its useful life and needs to be replaced soon.  Even if your furnace has a few years left in it, it may not be cost efficient to keep it if your energy bills during the heating season are high due to the furnace’s poor efficiency.

Newer furnaces are cleaner, operate more safely, produce less pollution, and are built to meet modern building codes.  If your furnace is over 18 years old or if it is requiring frequent repairs, it may be time to replace it. 

In addition, "After July 3, 2019, residential furnace manufacturers must include energy-efficient electronically commutated motors (ECM’s) on their furnace fans, which are expected to save homeowners significant money on electricity bills," according to  Anthony Plumbing, Heating & Cooling's blog

ECM motors are also expected reduce carbon pollution and keep occupants more comfortable, too. First, they provide more efficient airflow. Second, they reduce temperature swings in the home by allowing the fan to run for a longer time at a reduced speed.

For more information on how to safely maintain your furnace or to determine whether it's time to replace it, contact  Anthony Plumbing, Heating & Cooling  today.

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