The Potential Hazards Of An Old Furnace — What To Look Out For And What You Can Do
Homeowners are often more likely to notice chipped paint in the living room or pipes that knock loudly upstairs. They may not realize that they need an old furnace repair done by an experienced technician. This oversight can lead to safety hazards in the home. It’s important that homeowners are aware of the potential for dangerous situations regarding any kind of furnace and what to do about it. House fires, after all, are often caused by faulty furnaces.
Is My Furnace Old?
Furnaces are usually rated to last from 15- 20 years. Sometimes new owners of an older house have no idea how old their furnace is. Older furnaces function much more poorly. They’re more likely to develop leaks; their outdated safety features wear out; they need more fuel to run; and, they use it far less efficiently, causing high bills in winter.
Furnaces need space around them. This allows the air flow to assist the combustion process that makes a furnace work. Items like boxes, wood, and shelving can accumulate around a furnace. This is especially likely during the summer when the furnace isn’t heating up. Homeowners let down their guard, so to speak, when they forget how hot a furnace can get. They stack items nearby and focus only on the task at hand, not on the heat produced in colder seasons. They get used to seeing the boxes, etc., stored there, and it can be many months before their furnace comes on, heats up, and overheats the combustible items that are stacked too close for safety. This can be a particular concern with older furnaces because sometimes they already overheat because they are simply getting old and may have a fault somewhere.
Keep storage far from your furnace. This includes boxes, paper, cloth, and anything that could be especially dangerous like propane tanks. Even an empty propane tank left over from camping days can become a serious hazard.
Older furnaces often have pilot lights that have no automatic shut-off switch. This means that when a pilot light experiences an issue, it may keep trying to light or it becomes a problem in another way. Newer furnaces have safety switches built into their system so that if the pilot light has any problem, it will automatically turn itself off. This can be inconvenient, but it is far safer than having a faulty system that includes gas or flame functioning poorly in the basement of your house.
Have your furnace inspected regularly and ask that the pilot light get some special attention. As soon as you can, have your old furnace replaced with a newer one. The many safety and cost benefits of a new, efficient furnace will outweigh the initial cost. Your safety and comfort are at least as important as that, too.
The natural gas that fuels many furnaces is undetectable. This is why that bad smell has been added to natural gas supplies so that when it leaks, it can be detected. Older furnaces wear down. Parts stick, split, separate, or fail to provide the safety backups that may have come with the furnace a long time ago. Gas leaks can be a serious fire hazard. They may remain undetected if they are small, but a small leak is still a dangerous leak. It will still cause an explosion or fire. A small explosion in your basement is still an explosion, after all.
Furnace technicians should check for leaks when they do inspections. You can specifically alert them to your concerns when they come to your house. This is such a serious issue, however, that we ask you not to wait until a scheduled inspection. If you ever smell gas or feel symptoms like chronic flu symptoms, you may have a fire hazard building up in your house. Professional help is always an available option.
What You Can Do
Regular inspection, old furnace repair, or replacement is important. Repairs will give you better furnace service. A new furnace will provide safe and cost-effective heating that you may not have realized you were living without.