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Furnace 101: How Do They Work?

Have you ever given much thought to how a furnace works? Probably not. But knowing how your furnace works is a good idea for several reasons. For starters, it can help you make adjustments to improve indoor comfort levels. Secondly, it’ll help you avoid costly repairs and replacements. Keep reading to learn how furnaces work and how to take care of the one in your Greenville, North Carolina, home.

History of Furnaces

Most older homes have furnaces. These heat-producing appliances were among the first residential heating systems. The earliest furnaces produced heat by burning wood or coal. Today’s modern versions are typically powered by electricity, gas or propane. These versions are extremely energy efficient. Some of them reach annual fuel utilization efficiency levels of 98 percent. This means they turn 98 percent of the fuel they use into heat.

How Do Furnaces Work?

No matter the fuel or power source of a furnace, it operates according to the forced-air heating principle. It transfers heat to air, then a blower fan pushes the heat through a home’s ductwork and out through air vents. In many homes, a furnace’s duct system is shared with the air conditioner’s ductwork. This means the air produced by both the air conditioner and furnace travels through the same ductwork.

A home’s ductwork is vital to the efficiency of a furnace. Holes and tears in the ductwork allow heat to escape before it’s pushed through the air vents and distributed throughout the home. As a result, the furnace works harder than it should to keep the home at your desired temperature. This translates into unnecessary wear and tear and a higher likelihood of costly repairs.

How Do Gas Furnaces Work?

A natural gas furnace has a pilot light along with a series of burners. The pilot light ignites these burners and produces heat. The heat enters the heat exchanger where it’s heated to the temperature set on the thermostat. From the heat exchanger, the blower fan then pushes the heat through the ductwork and out through the air vents. Propane furnaces heat a home using a similar principle.

How Do Electric Furnaces Work?

An electric furnace doesn’t have a pilot light. Instead, an electrical ignition activates heating elements that have the same purpose as gas-powered burners. The heating elements in an electric furnace contain conductive coils. An electric current passes through the coils and heats the air. The higher the temperature set on the thermostat, the more the heating elements will heat the air. Once the air reaches the thermostat’s temperature setting, the furnace’s blower pushes it through the ductwork and out through the air vents.

Preventative Maintenance is Key

Furnaces contain many more parts than the ones outlined above. Each part plays a crucial role in how well a furnace can heat a home. They also impact the furnace’s efficiency. Preventative furnace maintenance is essential to extend the life of your unit.

During a maintenance session, you can speak with a service technician about various furnace upgrades. Adding a programmable thermostat to a furnace is an excellent way to lower heating bills. Installing a whole-home air purification system is ideal for improving indoor air quality.

Many homeowners these days prefer Wi-Fi thermostats. This type of thermostat allows you to remotely adjust the thermostat’s temperature from your smartphone while away from home. Keeping the home at a more moderate temperature while away is great for keeping heating expenses to a minimum. On the way home, adjusting the temperature to a more comfortable level will boost indoor comfort levels.

J & J Mechanical, Inc. specializes in a variety of furnace installation services. Contact us today at 888-716-0052 to learn more about the different types of furnaces we install.

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