A Late Season Furnace Tune-Up: Auburn’s January Rain and Snow May Have Chilled Your Efficiency

late season furnace tune-up AuburnA few weekends back, I had plans to drive up to Northern Placer County to do some fly fishing with my family. It’s kind of a tradition we have. Every January, we head up, shiver through the cold weather along the Truckee River, catch some fish (hopefully), and then head back down. Well, this year we made it as far as Auburn, then had to turn back.

See, by the time we got there, we’d already driven through freezing cold, a downpour, and even some snow. It was winter weather like I hadn’t seen in years. I checked it out, and this wasn’t in my imagination: the first month of 2017 has been a particularly wet one for the area. Auburn’s average precipitation for January is 6.38 inches but, this year, the city got nearly 10.That’s a big difference—and it actually affects your furnace.

I see this whenever we get more rain than usual. Homeowners feel colder, and they run their furnaces more. When you do that, you also run a much greater risk of it breaking down toward the end of the season, kind of like how putting a ton of miles on your car in a short period of time takes a toll on your engine. To help you avoid late season breakdowns, I’d like to share some advice for this overly cold and wet winter, as well as point out signs and troubles you should look for.  

Top Late-Season Furnace Repairs

There are three somewhat severe issues I see late in the cold and rainy winter season: dirty burners, faulty ignitions, and worn-down motors. In fact, I’ve actually been seeing many of these at homes in Auburn since mid-January, which makes sense because there was one weekend the city got almost 7 inches of rain. Let’s look at these problems individually:

  • A faulty ignition: Ignitions that go out late in the season are a serious problem, especially with newer furnaces which tend to use electricity rather than pilot lights to ignite burners. In general, electric ignition systems are better, safer, and more energy-efficient, which is good for both the environment and your bill. But, these types of igniters almost always wear down before the furnace itself does, especially during seasons of excessive use. If your furnace won’t turn on at all, it could be because this component has worn out. Call a technician to get it checked.
  • A dirty burner: The section of your furnace where the jets ignite is called the burner, and the more your furnace is used, the more it has to ignite, increasing chances for developing dirt, grime, and ash on its surface. Any kind of dirt near the burner will make it more difficult for the jets to draw oxygen. If you hear a loud boom when you turn on the heat, this is a potential cause, although there are others as well. No matter the culprit, you’ll want to get it checked out.
  • A worn-down motor: The busiest mechanical part of an overworked furnace during a cold snap like the one in Auburn is the blower wheel in the motor shaft. This component circulates air within your HVAC system. If it wears down, it either stops working, which forces your furnace to turn off, or it comes loose and scrapes the sides of the motor shaft, which makes a loud screeching noise. Don’t let this continue—it can cause damage to other parts of your HVAC system that will be much more expensive to repair.

Don’t Wait Until Next Fall

You’re likely going to shut down your heater for the season in a few weeks time, even in the currently chilly Auburn, since the average high temperature for April is nearly 70 degrees, but that’s not a good reason to ignore furnace repairs. Doing so will only delay the inevitable, and you’ll miss out on some potential benefits.

These are some great reasons to get your heater tuned up or repaired in late winter:

  • Discounted rates: A lot of HVAC companies provide off-season rates, which save you money.
  • An advanced AC check: You can also get ahead of the game and have your AC unit checked simultaneously, long before the average high temperature in the area creeps back up to the 90s.
  • Peace of mind in the new season: I’ve seen many late-season problems that turn out to be issues with dusty or unbalanced ducts, a problem that lives on when you switch your HVAC system over to cooling.

The bottom line is that if you’ve run your heater more than usual this season, you may have resulting problems, and these types of issues are often complex, so much so I’d recommend calling a professional technician. The motor, the burners, and the ignition—the most common components to cause trouble at this time of year—are intricate and best left to the pros.

Professional technicians tend to hear from our favorite customers a lot in the early fall, when you want to make sure your furnaces are ready for the months ahead. Then we don’t hear so much as a peep when spring gets closer. But, do us, and your furnace, a favor in this especially rainy year: keep in touch.

Don’t ignore late-season furnace repairs because the cold weather is almost over. The trained professionals at Bell Brothers are waiting to fix your hardworking heater up.