“Why does my furnace have to break on the coldest day of winter?” some have wailed this frigid winter. It’s because extreme weather impacts the heating system: the colder it is outside, the harder and longer the furnace has to work inside. A faulty furnace won’t be able to keep up with that extra energy demand.
Older furnaces may struggle more in freezing temperatures, working overtime to keep producing heat. As a safeguard, most furnaces are equipped with a “limit switch,” which automatically shuts the furnace off when it’s malfunctioning, to avoid fires or other dangerous conditions. However if that limit switch is broken, the furnace will keep trying to work, which can be disastrous, sometimes causing smoke to pour out the heating vents. Not only is the furnace over-heating and melting its internal components, but the possibility of a whole house fire is strong.
How to avoid this disaster? Tom Eppers, co-owner, Dowe & Wagner, a heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning company serving residential and commercial customers in Illinois and Wisconsin, recommends annual furnace inspections, which can catch many equipment problems early, such as a broken limit switch.
Other suggestions to keep your furnace working are to change the filters regularly. Dirty filters force the furnace to work harder to pump air through debris. A clean filter improves operations, and enhances air quality.
To de-stress your furnace on extremely cold days, experts recommend turning down the house temperature a few degrees when no one is home, or at night when everyone’s sleeping.
Eppers suggests using programmable thermostats which adjust temperature automatically, giving the furnace rest breaks that homeowners won’t detect. Using less energy throughout the day will also cost less, leading to a lower utility bill.