Repair or Replace? How to Know When It’s Time for a New Furnace

A furnace is the heart of your home heating system. You want it running with full efficiency, especially as we head into the coldest months of the season. However, when a furnace starts acting up, it may not be obvious whether it’s a question of repairing or replacing it with a new furnace.

Your best bet is to have a licensed professional inspect the unit. However, it’s good to know the common issues that occur with furnaces so you will have some idea of what to do in advance.

Problems a Homeowner Can Fix

We’ll start with a few simple issues you can successfully fix on your own. If you still experience problems after taking these steps, it’s time book a repair appointment.

  • Lack of Heat
    Make sure the furnace’s power is on. Check to see that the unit and thermostat is set to “Heat” and not “Cool.” Adjust the thermostat to a few degrees above the current room temperature.
  • Clogged Filter
    Most furnaces will shut down if the filter has become especially clogged. Turn off the furnace and check the filter. An old trick is to hold it up to the light. If you see any light coming through, it’s usually okay. Otherwise, replace it, if needed.
  • Incorrect Time Settings on Your Thermostat
    If the programs on your thermostat are set incorrectly, the unit may not come on when you expect.
  • Blocked Ducts and Vents
    Ducts blocked by furniture or other items in front of vents can greatly reduce the furnace’s capacity to evenly heat your home. Units that vent outside must also remain free of debris and obstructions. Make sure they’re all open.
  • Thermostat Not Working
    Check and replace the batteries, if needed. There’s usually an icon on the screen that indicates if the batteries are low.

When to Repair a Furnace

As rule of thumb, the unit is still worth repairing if it is in the first half of its estimated lifespan. However, this may depend on the repair cost.

In most cases, a professional can repair the following issues:

  • Furnace not turning on due to the thermostat
  • Faulty ignition or flame sensing problems
  • Broken limit switch, possibly resulting in continuous operation
  • Unit constantly cycling Off and On
  • Unit makes loud and unusual noises on a regular basis
  • Clogged drain lines (units typically shut down if the drain lines become clogged)

When to Replace a Furnace

Generally, if the unit requires regular repairs and/or is past more than half its estimated lifespan, replace it. A furnace’s lifespan is generally 15 to 20 years. You may need a new furnace if:

  • Furnace needs repair with increasing frequency
  • Increasingly higher energy bills
  • A repair bill that is more than half the unit’s original cost

Ask a technician for their opinion on any of these issues with your equipment. If the unit is just old or you are having other matters, they can identify what are the best options for you.

Whatever option you choose, don’t wait too long! You definitely don’t want to be without a working furnace when you need it most. Contact us to request a quote for furnace repair or install a new furnace in the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton.

Running Out of Hot Water? 3 Ways to Keep It Flowing a Little Longer!

At the end of a long and tiring day, there is nothing better than a hot shower…and nothing worse than having it turn cold on you!

Running Out of Hot Water?

Hot water woes are common in some households, especially ones with multiple family members. However, that need not be the case. Here are three ways to help ensure everyone will have hot water available when they need it.

1. Plan Your Hot Water Usage

The more people in your home, the more you have to think strategically when it comes to hot water usage. If multiple people shower within a short window of time, there is a good chance the hot water heater will not keep up with the demand. The problem of running out of hot water will only increase if your dishwasher and/or washing machine are also in use.

If everyone likes to take a shower first thing in the morning, make sure they are short ones. Also, try to run the dishwasher or washing machine in the evening or another time when the family’s hot water usage is low.

2. Have Your Water Heater Checked

Did you forget to have a certified technician give the water heater a yearly physical? No matter how well-made a unit is, some parts will eventually start to wear out. This may not cause complete failure, but can definitely compromise its efficiency and the amount of available hot water.

If you seem to be running out of hot water faster these days, your heating elements may be on their last legs. Is the water no longer as hot as it used to be? There could be an issue with your dip tube causing unheated and heated water to mix, thus lowering the temperature. Clogs resulting from mineral build-up can result in an uneven distribution of water and insufficient supply. Being proactive and having a knowledgeable professional check your unit annually can help reduce the likelihood of such issues.

3. Choose a New Water Heater

Everyone’s needs change over time and that can mean having to upgrade existing equipment to satisfy those new requirements. Your current water heater may have come to the end of its life or simply does not offer the capacity for your expanded household.

If you have an older unit, there are also models available now that use less energy and are much more efficient. There will be some cost upfront to replace a current water heater, but the eventual savings will more than cover it. In the meantime, you can also enjoy the benefits of a superior model that does a better job and won’t let you down.

Concerned your hot water heater is not doing its job? AtlasCare experts will be happy to examine your unit and make suggestions. We can also work with you to choose a new hot water heater with the capacity to meet your needs and not cost you a lot in energy bills. Call us today to learn more and take advantage of our rent-to-own water heater promotion, which offers some incredible savings!

Image: Susan Richey-Schmitz

No Heat? What to Check Before You Call

High on the list of the worst things that can happen in winter is having no heat. This is especially so in Canada, where our winter season is so cold, a house can become frigid in almost no time.

Let’s say the awful has indeed happened: your furnace has conked out, leaving you with no heat. Here’s what to check before calling a certified technician.

1. Is the Power On?

Let’s start with the most basic possibility for an outage: no power. Even though the power seems to be on in your home, a circuit breaker could have tripped and cut off the electricity to your furnace. If the problem continues, there may be an issue with your electrical wiring or the furnace.

If there are no issues with the electrical box, check to make sure the furnace’s power switch is set to ON. Also, make sure your gas valve is in the open position.

2. Check the Thermostat

It’s possible your furnace is not on because it doesn’t need to be. If someone has changed the thermostat setting, that can cause the unit to turn off because your home is already at the desired level of heat. Make sure it is set above the home’s current temperature.

Also, programmable thermostats often run on battery power. If the batteries are weak or dead, it will not function properly.

3. Check for Blockage

Modern high-efficiency furnaces have their fresh air intake and exhaust located outside the home, where it’s possible for snow and ice, leaves, bushes, vegetation, and windblown debris to block the pipes. These blockages will cause the furnace’s sensors to shut it down. Make sure your intake faces downward as this helps to reduce the possibility of blockages.

When you are back inside, check the condensate tubing for blockages. Condensation produced by the furnace drains off to ensure proper operation. If a blockage occurs, condensation will back up and the unit will turn off.

4. Check the Filter

Your furnace has an air filter that should be changed every 10 to 12 weeks. It prevents the intrusion of dust, hair, pet dander and other substances that would impede the unit’s efficiency. However, the furnace filter can only do so much before it gets clogged. When that happens, it can greatly reduce the amount of air going into the unit. The furnace can start to overheat and shut down as a precautionary measure.

A filthy filter can also cause soot to accumulate on the heat exchange. This can amplify the problem and will eventually even shorten the furnace’s lifespan. Fortunately, you can install an air flow gauge that will warn you when it is time to replace the filter.

5. Check the Access Door

Have you recently opened your furnace? As a safety measure, the furnace turns off whenever you open the access door. If it is still open, even a sliver, the safety switch inside will prevent operation. Fully close the door and ensure the latch is in place.

Have you run through this list and still do not have an active furnace? Give us a call and we will immediately dispatch one of our home comfort professionals to get it back online. Our 4 Hour Emergency Service Promise is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We will also be happy to give your furnace an annual check-up to help ensure you never suffer an interruption in service.

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