No matter how you slice it, eventually your furnace is going to need work done on it. How much work it will need, when it will happen and how long you'll be without heat are all questions you'll need answered when that time comes. Thankfully though, with the proper preventative service, you can avoid most of the surprises involved in a furnace failure and avoid spending days without heat because of something unexpected.
The inside of your furnace relies on two essential components, both of which are responsible for either generating the heat for your home or pushing that heat through your ducts and out your vents. The heating element itself is relatively simple, and has a lot in common with the heating element in your stove. Meanwhile, the fan is just like any other fan and operates in very much the same way, which also means it can be hindered or damaged by many of the same factors.
Inspections should include a close look at your heating element, and you should be attentive for signs of wear or degradation. Electrical elements can fail suddenly, but they rarely do so without outward signs of an upcoming short, crack or fault. The fan too should be checked for dust build-up, signs of strain or excessive noise being produced during operation. Any of these factors can be early indications that the forced air part of your furnace will lose efficiency or cease functioning entirely in the near future.
The build-up of dust on the inside of your furnace might seem like a small thing, but over time it can have a big impact on its performance. Dust adds weight, impedes the flow of electrical current through the heating element and, in severe cases, can even catch fire, causing even more extensive damage. Cleaning out the inside of your furnace will also allow the fan to move more freely, and will leave the air in your home cleaner without placing additional strain on the system or your energy bills.
Maintenance may also involve replacing components that are wearing out, which is often far less expensive than replacing an entire furnace. You may want to consider setting up a regular inspection schedule with an HVAC specialist. Fan motors do fail, as do heating elements, and both are far cheaper to replace as part of an HVAC contractor's periodic maintenance visit than during an emergency repair appointment. Other components which may need to be replaced can include thermostat sensors, electrical switches and even the circuit breaker inside the unit, all of which can leave you in a serious bind if they fail at an inopportune moment, such as in the middle of a major winter storm.
Repairing your furnace may be necessary in the future, but it shouldn't be a surprise that strikes you out of the blue. By having inspections and regular maintenance performed on a regular basis, such as every other year or so, you can avoid unpleasant surprises. You may want to contact a local heating repair specialist, such as White Knoll Heating & Cooling Inc., to discuss your concerns and set up a regular inspection schedule.