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Keeping Your Furnace Working, One Part at a Time

Feb. 01, 2012

Just like your car and every other hardworking machine that you rely on, a furnace has parts that are going to wear out.  It’s just the nature of machines.  And, much like being left on the side of the road for a major problem that could have been avoided with a minor repair, you want to make sure that these wear-and-tear parts won’t leave you cold this winter.

A modern furnace has so many parts that it takes a qualified repairman to recognize when some of those parts are nearing the end of their lifespan. That’s one reason you have your furnace inspected and tuned up annually.  It is significantly less expensive, not to mention inconvenient, to have any worn-out parts fixed as part of a tune-up than to have to call for emergency service on a Saturday night when the temperature is well below freezing.

So which parts can be expected to wear out?

  • Flame Sensor  This is an important safety device that tells your furnace that it is safe to keep gas flowing.  Technicians measure the flame sensor using a special instrument that calculates micro amps.
  • Ignitor.  In modern furnaces, these replace hand-lit burners to light the gas flames when your furnace turns on. Expect an ignitor to last about three to five years before needing to be replaced. 
  • Burner.This produces the heat you need. Check it frequently to ensure the flame it’s producing is blue.  If it’s yellowish-red, it’s dirty—and may be producing carbon monoxide.
  • Internal Condensate Traps.  High efficiency furnaces are manufactured with a condensate trap that allows water to flow out of the furnace safely to a nearby drain.  These traps require cleaning.  In order to clean the trap a series of hoses need to be disconnected.  These hoses are held in place with a special clamp that is easy to misalign – resulting in water leaking that could cause furnace failure or property damage.
  • Internal Drain Hoses.  Modern furnaces use specialty hoses to direct the furnace condensate (acidic water) to the condensate trap.  These hoses will wear out due to the acidic nature of the condensate traveling through them.  Leaks in these hoses can cause furnace failure or property damage.

Of course, these are only a few of the parts that can wear out or malfunction on a modern furnace, and every furnace is different.  A qualified furnace technician can give you an idea of the parts that may need to be replaced soon.

When it’s time to replace these parts, remember that you almost always get what you pay for.  Even if you’ll save a few dollars, wear-and-tear parts should not be purchased from a wholesaler or off the internet.  Why?

  • Many parts are complicated to remove and install.  You may damage other parts of the furnace.
  • It’s difficult to diagnose a furnace’s problem.  You run the risk of replacing the wrong part.
  • It’s even more difficult to order the specific part for your specific furnace.  Yes, you got a blower online for less than your technician quoted, but are you sure it’s the right one?  If not, you didn’t save any money.

And, most importantly:

  • If you try to fix your furnace yourself, it’s likely to void any manufacturer’s warranties.

Furnaces, like all other machines, break when it’s most inconvenient.  It’s best to avoid the chance of a very chilly night by being aware of the parts of your furnace that may leave you cold, and discussing wear-and-tear part replacement with your furnace technician.

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Thornton & Grooms
24565 Hallwood Ct
Farmington Hills, MI 48335
(248) 644-7810
MI Plumbing Lic. #: 8106666
MI Contractors Lic. #: 7100232
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