This has been another brutal winter in Crystal Lake and the NW Chicago area. The fact is, relatively few areas of the country have been spared from the cold. In Northwest Chicago, however, it seems we have gone weeks at a time without the temperatures reaching above freezing. It is easy to see these conditions are tough on our cars and our attitudes but they are also tough on our furnaces. Our furnaces are asked to work overtime to keep us comfortable in these weather conditions without much regard to age or condition. Eventually, the weakest link or links will fail creating a need for a furnace repair. At Althoff Industries, these are the most common repairs that we have encountered for NW Chicago area homeowners.
- Igniter Failure. Failure of the igniter is the single most common cause of furnace problems we see. Furnace igniters were designed to replace the old inefficient pilot light system that started gas furnaces in the past. Previously, these small pilot lights burned small amounts of gas to “stand-by” when the furnace would be needed. As temperatures dropped, pilot lights served to ignite a larger flow of gas to the furnace. These pilot lights were energy inefficient and often were extinguished by drafts. They also burned gas unnecessarily even through the summer months if homeowners failed to turn them off. Pilot lights in gas furnaces were replaced by safer, energy efficient fuel igniters. These igniters use electricity to heat small wires or filaments, to the point the can provide enough heat to produce a spark to ignite the gas furnace. While igniters are safer and more energy efficient than pilot lights, they still are a common source of furnace issues.
- Issues with the Flame Sensor. Older furnaces had a thermocouple, which could determine the temperature provided by the pilot light. If the thermocouple determined there was no pilot light, it would prevent the flow of gas to the furnace for obvious safety reasons. More modern furnaces use a flame sensor which, in essence, serves the same purpose. A flame sensor will prevent the flow of gas into your furnace if it detects there is not an ignition source like a flame igniter. This is a task that is requested dozens if not hundreds of times per day throughout the cold weather months and can be prone to failure.
- Problems with the High-Limit Switch. You may have noticed that your furnace will kick on minutes before warmer air begins to circulate throughout your home. This is determined by the high-limit switch. The high-limit switch keeps cold, unheated air from being powered through your home by the blower until your furnace has heated it sufficiently. This is another part of your furnace that is asked to perform thousands of times through the winter and will likely eventually fail.
Why You Should Call Althoff Industries
Keep in mind, while your furnace may carry a decade or longer guarantee, some of the smaller, more susceptible parts, like those listed above, may fail prematurely. While it is possible for an experienced do-it-yourselfer to complete some of these common repairs on their own, we would caution against taking on such a task if you feel at all uncomfortable. While today’s furnaces have many fuel saving and safety features not found in previous generations, most Crystal Lake area furnaces still combine electricity and gas to create combustion. The good news is, that often the above common repairs are significantly less expensive than a furnace replacement. When your family’s safety is at stake, we would encourage you to call our expert technicians at Althoff Industries. When it comes to any furnace repair, the safety of your family is our primary concern.