How Does My Heating System Work? (Part 3)

We’ve been talking about heating systems. In Part 1 we discussed in detail how a Heat Pump heating system works. Then Part 2 showed the importance of maintaining it and how to keep your utility costs down. But what if you have a Hot Air Furnace? First let’s go over how it works. Then we will focus on your most important question: “How does this help me?”

Hot Air Furnaces – How do they work?

A Hot Air Furnace is fairly straightforward: it generates heat from gas or oil or from electricity. Let’s start with electric, which is the simplest design. An electric furnace generates heat using electric heating elements. These elements, like those found in a hair dryer but much larger, use from 5,000 to 25,000 watts of electricity to heat the air which the circulating fan is blowing over them. This heated air is then blown into your home. The thermostat (mentioned in Part 1) tells the electric heating elements when to turn on and off to keep your home comfortable. 

A gas or oil burning furnace generates heat from fire. When your thermostat tells the heating system to turn on, the furnace lights a fire that burns inside a heat exchanger which is a series of tubes inside the furnace. The fumes from the fire go outside your home through an exhaust pipe. The heat exchanger heats up from the fire inside. The circulating fan blows air over the heat exchanger, and this heated air is then blown into your home. (If you want to see a more detailed picture of a Gas Furnace heating system, see our Heating Systems page.)

Hot Air Furnace maintenance

Keeping your furnace in good working order is very important. Why? Here are four reasons:

  1. Heat damage. The heat in a furnace can get up to 180 degrees, so there is a risk of damage from heat or fire. Of course every furnace is designed with safety switches and sensors to prevent damage from overheating. However over time safety controls wear down or break.
  2. Fire hazard. When a gas or oil furnace is told to turn on by the thermostat, it starts pumping fuel into the heat exchanger to be burned. But what if the fuel fails to ignite? Then the safety controls take over and shut off the fuel valve. But now think of this: What if the safety controls aren’t working? The fuel valve could keep pumping in fuel creating a potentially explosive situation.
  3. Toxic Fumes. We already stated that the fumes inside the heat exchanger are exhausted outside. However heat exchangers wear down and could get cracks. This might result in some toxic fumes getting into your home.
  4. Equipment damage & reduced efficiency. The circulating fan is blowing air from your home through the furnace, along with the dust, lint and hair floating around in the air. On an electric furnace these particles will damage the heating elements if they burn up on them. In a gas or oil furnace they will burn up on the outside surface of the heat exchanger building up a film of soot that reduces efficiency. But as we mentioned in Part 1 regularly replacing your air filter protects your heating system.

Don’t you see now how essential it is to have your furnace inspected yearly to make sure that the safety controls are working properly and that the heat exchanger is not damaged? Even if a few problem-free years have gone by without a check-up, we urge you not to keep putting your equipment or your family at risk.

It will be worth it to you to call a trustworthy service company to inspect your furnace before each heating season. Please let us help you with this. We perform system tune-up and safety checks and we guarantee 100% satisfaction on our work. So please call us at (310) 651-6936 to schedule an appointment or click here to use our online request form.

So, what about getting the most out of what you spend on energy costs?

Hot Air Furnace usage tips

Electric furnaces are the most expensive to operate in terms of energy costs. Sadly, there isn’t much you can do to save money besides lowering the temperature on your thermostat a few degrees. If you have one, it is likely a backup, or you live in an area where there is seldom a need heat. If it is a backup try to use it as little as possible, if at all, and depend mostly upon your primary heating system. But if it is your only heating system, and you use it a lot during the winter, then investinging in a different heating system would definitely save you money. Click here to set up an appointment with us so we can visit you in your home and give you a free quote for replacing your heating system.

For a gas or oil furnace, the best thing you can do to make the most of your energy costs is to have your furnace inspected and tuned up every year. Adjustments should be made to make sure that it is not using more fuel than needed to heat your home properly. Once again, we’re here to help! Call us at (310) 651-6936 or fill out our online request form to schedule an appointment.

We hope this three-part series was helpful for you. Do you have any questions? Visit our Ask an Expert page at any time and we’ll be happy to answer your questions!

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