A winter in Rochester, New York, is beautiful with plenty of snowy activities to enjoy, but the when cold temperatures accompany the snow and ice, it can test even the heartiest of Rochester residents. Every Rochesterian knows that the right winter gear can make or break a day outdoors, but another thing that is essential in every Rochester household is a properly functioning furnace.
Many of us may take our furnaces for granted until they aren’t giving off adequate heat or have quit working altogether. Not even the toughest of Rochesterians can get through a winter without a reliable furnace. Whether you’re seeking out furnace repair in Rochester or you’re looking for a furnace replacement, let this guide help you find the right furnace to get you through all your Rochester winters.
Table of Contents:
The Heating System in a Home
How Long Does a Forced Air Furnace Last
How to Clean Your Furnace
Furnace Blower Motor
How Much Does a Furnace Cost?
Common Problems & Solutions
The Heating System in a Home
A majority of homes in the Rochester area heat their homes with forced air furnaces. Forced air furnaces can run on propane, natural gas, fuel oil, electricity, and even wood. A furnace heats air and distributes the air through the home, using ducts.
The way that a forced air furnace works is fairly simple. According to the experts at Popular Mechanics, a humidifier, air cleaner, or evaporator cooling coil is connected to the duct system, which allows the homeowner to have complete control of the indoor temperature of the home, as well as the humidity. Forced air furnaces heat a home more quickly and evenly as air travels about 700 ft per minute through rectangular ducts; the heat vents themselves may be rectangular or round.
Forced air furnaces are particularly popular and practical for homes in Rochester because they are easy to control and they heat the whole home more evenly than other heating methods. Every Rochesterian knows that winter temperatures can be inconsistent, negative temperatures one day and above freezing the next, so furnaces are a better and easier heat source to use.
How Long Does a Forced Air Furnace Last?
In short, your forced air furnace should last anywhere between 15 and 20 years, but like everything, some factors can shorten the lifespan. Forced air furnaces that heat homes for nearly two decades are most likely a high-quality unit and have been maintained on a regular basis. While heating systems are built with the intent to heat your home, year after year, with very little work on your part, it is almost guaranteed that it will work longer and more efficiently if you give it a little TLC.
If your furnace has been warming your home for at least 20 years, it may be time to start shopping around for a new unit. Additionally, if you live in a home where the furnace was already there when you moved in, you may want to check the date when it was installed.
How to Clean Your Furnace
It’s important to think about your furnace as a financial investment, like your vehicle or any other major appliance. There’s a good chance you wouldn’t neglect caring for your car or your refrigerator; your furnace is no different. An easy way to help your furnace last longer, into that 15 to 20-year mark, is by keeping it clean. Seems simple enough, but many well-intentioned homeowners fail to keep up with proper maintenance until a furnace starts to show signs of failure.
Before you read about how to clean your furnace, yourself, it’s important to remember that if you feel unsure or uncomfortable removing or touching any part of your furnace, call a professional HVAC tech to come and take a look and do a tuneup. Even if you do clean your furnace, it’s a good idea to get in the habit of having an HVAC tech stop by every year, before it gets cold, and perform a tune-up. Not only will it keep your furnace running more efficiently, but your heating system is more likely to last the lifetime it was intended.
Many people clean their furnace to save money, but if not done properly, it may end up costing more. Here are some tips for completely cleaning your furnace:
Keep Your Basement Clean: If you sweep or vacuum your basement on a regular basis, which includes clearing cobwebs from the rafters, your furnace will stay cleaner, too.
Turn the Power OFF: Before you even open the combustion chamber door, make sure you flip the electrical power switch to “Off.” If you have a non-electric furnace, it’s important to look for gas leaks before you start cleaning or inspecting the unit any further. If you spot a leak, call a professional, step away from the furnace, and wait until you get an “all clear.”
Change Your Furnace Filter: Furnace filters help keep the air cleaner and your furnace running more efficiently. Filters are inexpensive and easy to change; it’s recommended that they are changed every 2-4 months for optimum results.
Clean with Care: Although the mechanics behind a forced-air furnace are pretty basic, the wiring and other components are not. Whether you use a damp rag, brush, or vacuum cleaner attachment, work slowly and carefully. If parts are hard to reach or cannot be cleaned thoroughly, it’s a better idea to hire a professional. If anything, you can watch him or her do the work and maybe pick up a few pointers.
Furnace Blower Motor
If your home is heated by a forced-air furnace, you by no means need to become an expert on how the furnace works, but it’s always good to know a little bit about important parts if your furnace stops working properly.
Your furnace blower motor is an important component to warming your home, as without it, you’d be chilly. Simply stated, the furnace blower motor draws heat from the furnace and distributes it throughout your home. When you set your thermostat to the desired temperature, it will initiate the heat sequence, and after the set temperature is reached, the blower motor kicks on and moves the heat out of the furnace.
When your blower motor goes bad, you can certainly try to replace it yourself, but because it’s a more involved process than just removing the motor and putting in a new one (wiring and other components), you’re better off calling a professional HVAC tech to do the work. Unless you know the ins and outs of a furnace, a professional’s hand will make the job go faster and will ensure a correct installment.
Gas furnaces are the most popular type of furnaces because they are powered by natural gas, which is inexpensive, produces fewer greenhouse emissions, is safely stored, heats quickly, and burns completely. Overall, gas furnaces are the most popular heating source for because they are easier to maintain and are often cheaper than other sources, such as boilers. Additionally, furnaces, for the most part, are relatively simple to repair.
As stated earlier, a furnace that is well-cared for is more likely to last over a decade and less likely to need repairs, but you may encounter some common problems with your furnace that require a repair or replacement. Some common furnace repairs include, but are not limited to:
- Broken Thermostats
- Air Circulation Issues (such a broken fan motors or belts)
- Ignition or Pilot Control Problems
- Frequent Cycling
- Not Heating Enough or Too Much
Most, if not all, furnace repairs should be performed by a skilled HVAC professional. While there are ways for you, as the homeowner, to prevent a repair from being needed in the first place or keep an issue from getting worse until it’s fixed, furnace repairs aren’t always cut and dry and an initial diagnosis could actually end up being something else.
Even though a furnace can continue to crank out heat for up to 20 years, it doesn’t mean that your furnace will warm your how for that long. Like all major home appliances, furnaces should and must be replaced at some point. So, how do you know when it’s time to start shopping for a replacement? Most experts agree that you should buy a new furnace after about 15 years because units become less efficient with age and technology changes quite a bit during that amount of time; there are better furnaces on the market.
Another sign that may indicate that it’s time to replace your furnace is by increases in your energy bills. Have you noticed a huge increase in your bill? While it may indicate the need for an easy-to-fix repair, it could also mean it’s time to get a new furnace. When in doubt, call up a trusted HVAC tech and have them do a check up. Speaking of HVAC techs, if they are stopping by frequently to make various repairs on your furnace, it’s a good sign that you should start shopping for a new one.
Finally, if your home has inconsistent temperatures (and it hasn’t been an issue in the past), you have noticed an increase in dust or your furnace has become noticeably loud, it’s probably time to replace your forced-air furnace.
How Much Does a Furnace Cost?
When it’s time to replace a furnace, one of the biggest concerns is the cost. Even if you’re hoping to keep your furnace a little bit longer, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll need to replace the whole unit, as the cost of repairs can add up quickly.
Before you start shopping, it’s important to know the size you need. No, not all furnaces are the same size; the larger the house, the larger the furnace. When you moved into your house, there’s a good chance a furnace was already installed and you didn’t ask any other questions other than, “Does it work?” Back to sizing, unless you know, for sure, that the size of your furnace is the right fit for your house, it’s a wise idea to contact a professional who can help you calculate your heating needs. If you’re wondering if size really matters, it does. A furnace that’s too small won’t heat your home adequately and if it’s too big, it will cycle too often, raising the cost of your energy bill.
To some homeowners, the brand of your furnace matters, to others it doesn’t. Whomever you ask, you’re bound to get a biased opinion about brands. Some HVAC companies only carry one brand, while others may be able to give you the pros and cons on a variety of brands. If your furnace has treated you well, so to speak, why not stick with that brand?
Finally, the pricing. Price is one of the biggest factors when picking out a new furnace. While some furnaces, like Payne, are estimated at around $700 others like Lennox are near $1,500. The cost of a furnace might not seem too bad, even at the higher end, but you will need to factor in installation prices, which can range anywhere from a thousand to a couple of thousand dollars. You may also need to consider additional costs when it comes to ductwork and other replacements.
Start planning ahead, set a budget, talk to your local HVAC company, and make your decision with the information you’re given. It’s always best to start shopping early rather than making an emergency call on a weekend.
Common Problems & Solutions
If you’ve never encountered an issue with your furnace during a cold Rochester winter, consider yourself lucky. Furnaces are built to withstand some harsh winters, but like any major appliance, they are likely to have a problem every now and then. While you may come across any number of issues with your furnace, here are some of the most common problems and solutions:
Furnace Blowing Cold Air: Nothing may feel more troublesome than coming in from shoveling after a Rochester snow storm to find that your furnace is running, but blowing cold air. Here are a few things to investigate before calling your local HVAC company:
Check Your Thermostat: Even if you tell everyone in the household not to touch the thermostat, it’s inevitable that someone will go ahead and try to adjust the temperature. Look at your thermostat and make sure that it is set to “auto” rather than “on.” If it’s set to “on”, the fan runs continuously, even if the furnace isn’t heating the air (hence the cold air).
If your thermostat isn’t working anymore, you can end up spending anywhere from under $50 to over $100. It all depends what kind of thermostat you’re looking for, such as programmable or something you can access from your smartphone.
Change the Air Filter: Changing or cleaning your furnace filters regularly may be the cheapest fix you can perform. A furnace filter can cost anywhere from under $10 to over $40, depending on what you need, but it’s easy enough to change on your own.
Pilot Light is Out: If your pilot light has gone out, your furnace won’t produce any heat, hence the cold air. You can try to re-light the pilot light yourself, but if it makes you too nervous or it’s not staying lit, call HVAC professionals.
Furnace Blower Making Noise: Awakened in the middle of the night by an unsettling noise coming from your furnace? It may indicate a major or minor problem, as it depends on the sounds you hear.
You Hear a Squeal or Screech: A squeal or screech can be unnerving, but much like a noise you hear on your vehicle, you may need a new blower belt or a motor bearing issue. Fortunately, belts are relatively inexpensive. To keep belts properly lubricated, ask your HVAC tech what you should use; household lubricants like WD-40 don’t work well.
Rattling, Clanking, Thumping: These sounds may indicate that a part is loose or something has already become loose or broke off the motor. You can try turning the motor off and on again, checking for loose pieces, but your best bet is to call a qualified technician.
If you hear clicking noises or a sound similar to that of playing cards on bicycle spokes, it’s a good idea to call a professional to diagnose the issue. If you do need a new furnace blower motor, you can expect to pay, on average, at least a couple hundred dollars.
Bad Furnace Control Board: If there’s an issue with your furnace control board, your furnace will probably stop working, as many malfunctioning boards automatically turn off the gas as a safety feature. The control board more or less “orchestrates” your furnace’s functions. Once it receives a signal from the thermostat it starts the ignition system, it initiates the flow of gas through the burners and continues to run the furnace until the desired temperature is reached.
Since furnace control boards include lots of wiring and other important components, it’s a good idea to call an HVAC tech (unless you know the ins and outs of a furnace). You can expect to pay a couple hundred for the part and a couple hundred more for installation.
Learning a little bit about your furnace can help you determine whether or not you need to call a professional HVAC technician in the Rochester area or if it’s something you can fix on your own. By taking care of your furnace, you are destined to stay happy and warm the next time snow falls in Rochester.