There’s nothing more beautiful to me than Sacramento in the fall—apart from my wife, of course. I love this time of year. The summer heat has finally broken and we’re able to enjoy the outdoors again without sweating buckets.
My favorite thing each autumn season is to take long walks down the tree-lined streets and watch the leaves change color. I could walk for hours, but I’m careful not to lose my head in the trees for too long because there’s lots of work to do—especially when it comes to my neighbors’ furnaces.
While I wish this season would last forever, fall will eventually turn to winter, Sacramento will get chilly, and we’ll all have to turn on our furnaces. Inevitably, I always get a cuckoo amount of calls for gas furnace repairs around this time, usually from people who haven’t had recent furnace maintenance.
People are often surprised when I tell them how often a gas furnace should be serviced. As a rule of thumb, I always recommend furnace maintenance in the fall to make sure it’s running as safely and efficiently as possible—and to help prevent many of the common problems that can arise with gas furnaces. After all, we all start looking for ways to stay nice and toasty warm when the cool, damp winter months arrive here in Sacramento and flipping on a furnace you can trust is number one on most homeowners’ lists.
Common Problems When a Gas Furnace Isn’t Serviced Often
Many, if not most, of the problems I see when I get called out to homes for gas furnace repair could have been prevented with a regular annual furnace service. In fact, HVAC experts (myself among them) say that a whopping 75% of no heat calls are a direct result of neglecting furnace maintenance. And you can bet that in almost all of these cases, paying for preventative maintenance would have been a lot cheaper than paying for major repairs.
In fact, HVAC experts (myself among them) say that a whopping 75% of no heat calls are a direct result of neglecting furnace maintenance.
The problem is, a lot of people think that because they only use their gas furnace for a small part of the year here in Sacramento, it doesn’t need to be serviced very often. But, just like an old convertible that sits in the garage all winter long, a furnace needs to be tuned up before you start it up after months of disuse.
Here are some of the most common—and preventable—gas furnace problems resulting in improper home heating that I see every year when the cold sets in, without fail:
- Dirty, dusty filters: If your filter is clogged up with gunk, your furnace will have to work a lot harder than it should to warm your home, making it inefficient and eventually causing it to breakdown. I always change up the filter when I do maintenance, but you should really be doing it every 2-3 months. This simple task in itself can prevent a whole host of problems. Your local HVAC pro can sign you up for a worry-free maintenance plan that includes regular filter changes.
- A faulty pilot light: Sometimes this is due to a clog in the pilot opening; other times, the pilot light button isn’t fully pressed and the gas valve isn’t all the way open. When I make furnace house calls, I always make sure to cover my bases and clean the pilot light, set the flame a little higher, inspect the pilot button, and open up the gas valve to get the pilot working again—all tasks you should leave to a pro.
- A cracked heat exchanger: This is one of the most dangerous problems I see as a result of not servicing your gas furnace regularly. When the heat exchanger cracks, your furnace could leak dangerous toxins like carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and soot into your home. In large quantities, these substances can be very dangerous to your family’s health. Often this problem is caused by a dirty, clogged filter that restricts airflow, but it can be caused by a number of other issues as well. In any case, I always make sure I inspect the heat exchanger when I do maintenance to make sure that your family is safe.
How Often Should Your Gas Furnace Should Be Serviced to Prevent Problems
So, how often should a gas furnace be serviced so that these problems don’t occur? A gas furnace should be serviced at least once a year, preferably, though, in both the spring and the fall. Annual maintenance, including a thorough examination and cleaning of the parts that commonly malfunction, like the air filter, the fan, the pilot light, and the heat exchanger, can usually prevent these problems.
A gas furnace should be serviced at least once a year, preferably, though, in both the spring and the fall.
But, after nearly 30 years in the business, I don’t stop there. After checking all of the key parts, I do a 30-point tune-up, which is basically a complete safety check of the whole system. Once this is complete, your furnace will be raring to go all winter long.
The Benefits of Annual Gas Furnace Servicing and Maintenance
So, experts recommend having your gas furnace serviced and maintenanced at least once a year, if not every spring and fall. Of course, having your furnace serviced annually has more benefits than just avoiding a no heat situation in the chilly winter months. There are many other important reasons to invest in regular gas furnace maintenance, such as:
- Preventative maintenance against costly (and avoidable) expenses: Whenever I do maintenance, I usually find one or two little problems that aren’t causing any immediate issues, but that could lead to bigger problems over time. By being proactive about these problems and having them fixed during a regular maintenance visit, you’ll avoid the development of major issues and save yourself big bucks in the long run. Extensive repairs during busy winter months are pricey. Little fixes in the fall aren’t.
- Increased energy efficiency and reduced power bills: Let’s face it, we use a lot of heat during our Sacramento winters and the energy bills can get pretty pricey. During maintenance, your service pro will make sure your furnace is running at peak efficiency so that it isn’t draining your wallet all winter.
- Extend the life of your gas furnace—and entire HVAC system: A healthy furnace free of leaks, cracks, and blockages can run with ease for many years without major problems, so keeping it maintained can save you from prematurely forking over the cash for a new furnace or an entire HVAC system.
If you’re now feeling inspired to tune up your furnace this fall before the cold sets in, I strongly recommend turning the task over to a professional. While you may be tempted to service it yourself, changing your own filter is as far as you should go on your own. Gas furnaces have the potential to be dangerous to deal with if you don’t know what you’re doing, so it’s best to let the pros handle the servicing for you. And, while they do, you can go out and enjoy a nice fall walk under the colorful Sacramento trees.
At Bell Brothers, we believe in the whole home approach to health and efficiency. Our trained HVAC professionals would not only be happy to give your gas furnace a little TLC, we’d love to make sure your windows and insulation are also working efficiently to keep your house warm this fall and winter. Contact us today to schedule your fall furnace servicing.
Wondering how to finance a new furnace, or maybe even new windows and plumbing? HERO is a unique financing option that helps California homeowners afford energy efficient upgrades to their home. Contact Bell Brothers, a HERO-approved contractor, to learn more. Our local HVAC, plumbing, and window specialists will walk you through the entire process, from applications to installation.
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