Professionals often say that furnaces can last up to 25 years or more. At this point, furnaces start to lose efficiency, and they become increasingly prone to breakdowns. However, replacing an older furnace can be costly. What if you have a furnace that is getting old, but you can't afford to replace it just yet? There's no reason to panic or take out a loan. If your older furnace is still chugging along, there are some things you can do to help reduce the risk of failure and other dangers to your family.
1. Maintain a CO Detector
You should always have a carbon monoxide detector in your home when you have any sort of fuel-burning appliance. But when you have an older furnace, this is even more important. Older furnaces, in particular, can develop cracks in their heat exchangers. If the heat exchanger cracks, fumes from the combusted gas can end up in your home rather than being properly exhausted out the vent pipe. These fumes can contain carbon monoxide.
Make sure you place a CO detector near the floor on the level of your home where the furnace is found. (CO is heavier than air, so it sinks; this placement ensures CO is detected as early as possible.) Test the detector monthly, and change its batteries yearly. If the CO detector goes off, turn off the furnace, leave the house, and immediately contact an HVAC repair company to come take a look. CO poisoning can be deadly, so don't take any chances here.
2. Have the System Inspected Once a Year
Once a year, arrange to have an HVAC contractor come look over the furnace and make sure nothing huge is wrong. They might find some little issues, like worn ball bearings, that may not be worth repairing if you'll be replacing the furnace anyway in a year or two. However, they may also identify larger issues, like a cracked heat exchanger, that might indicate it's no longer safe to operate your furnace. By scheduling an inspection, you can at least be sure any major problems don't go undetected for long.
3. Change the Air Filter
Keep a stack of air filters in the closet, and replace your air filter once a month. This serves a few purposes. First of all, it prevents dust from scattering through your home. (Older furnaces can spread a lot of dust.) Second, it keeps dust from accumulating on the furnace's burner, which reduces the risk of a fire. Third, it increases efficiency, so your energy bills don't end up sky-high even with an older furnace.
4. Keep Your Nose Peeled for Gas Odors
Gas leaks are somewhat more likely with an older furnace than with a new one, especially if the gas lines running to the furnace are also dated. Note that while natural gas does not have an odor, gas companies add sulfur to it to make it smell like rotten eggs. Keep your nose peeled for such odors, and make sure other family members know to watch out for this smell, too. If you do ever smell a gas odor near your furnace or coming from the vents, turn the system off, and call your HVAC company. They may need to work with the gas company to do so, but they can ensure your gas lines are safe so you don't have to worry about fires or inhaling natural gas.
In many cases, old furnaces are still safe and reliable enough, even if they are no longer efficient. You simply need to take a few extra precautions and follow the tips above to reduce your chances of a mishap. Reach out to furnace maintenance services to learn more.