While Las Vegas is famous for its sweltering hot weather, it can get downright chilly on many winter nights. This is why most homes in the area still rely on a gas furnace for heating. While gas furnaces are one of the most effective heating options, they can also occasionally experience a variety of different issues. Water leaks, a lack of hot air, or a furnace that runs constantly are all things you may have to deal with at some point, and today we’re going to look at these and other common furnace issues to help you understand what causes them and how they can be fixed.
Water Leaking From a Furnace
High-efficiency condensing furnaces can sometimes start leaking water for a few different reasons. Before we get into the issues that can cause a condensing furnace to leak, let’s first quickly look at where the water comes from.
Condensing furnaces have two heat exchangers instead of the single heat exchanger found in conventional furnaces. This secondary heat exchanger works to absorb most of the remaining heat from the combustion fumes before they flow out through the exhaust flue. This results in the fumes cooling down so much that any moisture begins to condense into water.
As the moisture collects, it drips down into the furnace’s drain pan. The water then flows through the condensate drain pipes that either lead directly outside or into a floor drain. If you have a condensing furnace that is leaking, it can mean that the drain pan itself is damaged or that one of the condensate pipes is clogged or leaking. Luckily, all of these issues are usually quite easy for a furnace technician to fix. The only exception is if you have a damaged drain pan as these are sometimes welded in place and cannot be replaced. In this case, you may need to replace your furnace if the drain pan is damaged beyond repair.
A conventional furnace should never leak as the combustion fumes exit the unit before they can cool down to the point where condensation forms. If you notice water pooling around your furnace or dripping down it, you should immediately shut your heating off and call for a furnace inspection. The reason is that this issue indicates there is some problem with your furnace’s exhaust system, and it’s preventing the combustion gases from being vented outside. As a result, the gases get trapped inside the exhaust flue, and condensation can start to form. If the fumes aren’t being properly vented, it means that carbon monoxide is leaking back into your home, so this is something you should get checked out immediately.
If you’re unsure whether you have a conventional or a condensing furnace, the easiest way to check is to look at the manufacturer’s plate to find out your furnace’s AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rating. If the AFUE is 90 or above, then you have a condensing furnace. Anything below 90 AFUE is a conventional furnace.
Cold Air Blowing Out of Your Vents
There can also be situations in which you may find that cold air is blowing out of your vents even though your heating is running. This typically means there is some issue that is preventing your furnace from lighting or causing it to turn off too quickly. When this happens, the blower fan may continue to run and start circulating colder air through the ductwork and out of your vents. This can happen due to a variety of different issues, so you will need to have a technician inspect your furnace to determine the specific cause.
Your heating system can also blow cold air because you have the fan setting on your thermostat set to “On” and not “Auto.” If the fan is set to “On,” it will continue to run after your furnace shuts off and eventually start circulating cold air.
Furnace Running Constantly
On most winter days in Las Vegas, your furnace will usually only run once or twice an hour for around 10 to 15 minutes each time. During the colder nights, it may need to complete three heating cycles in an hour. If you find that your furnace suddenly runs much longer than this, it’s a sign there is some issue that’s decreasing your furnace’s effectiveness and leading to it producing less heat.
The most common reason this will happen is a dirty air filter. It will drastically reduce the amount of air coming into the furnace and, consequently, how much heat it can produce. This is always the first thing you’ll want to check for whenever your furnace starts running more. The general recommendation is that your filter needs to be replaced at least every three months. However, in drier, dustier climates like ours, you’re usually better off replacing your filter every month or two.
Another possibility is that the furnace’s gas burners are dirty and beginning to clog. If the burners are dirty, they often won’t be able to fully combust the gas that flows into the furnace. If the gas doesn’t burn fully, much less heat will be created, and it will take your heating system much longer to raise your home’s temperature.
Furnace Won’t Stay Lit
You may also encounter a situation where your furnace turns on almost immediately after lighting but only ever runs for a few minutes. If your furnace turns off within a few seconds of lighting, it almost always indicates that there is an issue with the unit’s flame sensor. The flame sensor is what detects that the furnace is lit. It ensures that gas won’t flow if the furnace fails to ignite for any reason. If the flame sensor is overly dirty or broken and doesn’t detect that the burners are lit, the unit’s gas valve will automatically close as a safety precaution. In this situation, you will need to have a technician inspect and test the flame sensor to determine why it isn’t working.
Even in places like Las Vegas, it will typically always take a furnace at least 10 minutes to complete each heating cycle. If your furnace ever shuts off in less than this time, it indicates that the unit is short cycling. This can happen because the furnace is too large for your house. It could also be due to overheating or some other issue. Short cycling is another problem you will want to have checked out as soon as possible as it puts lots of extra stress on your entire heating system and can cause the furnace or the blower motor to wear out prematurely.
Cooling and Heating Professionals in Las Vegas
If your furnace is leaking or has any other problems, you can count on the team at Simply Cooling, Heating and Plumbing for help. We offer professional furnace repairs and maintenance, and our technicians work on all furnace types and models. If you’re looking to upgrade your old unit to a new more energy-efficient unit, we specialize in furnace replacement and installation as well. Keep in mind that we do the same for air conditioning equipment, and we offer a full line of plumbing services. Give us a call today if you have any questions or need to schedule any heating or cooling service anywhere in the Las Vegas area.