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Is Your Furnace Overheating? (Quick Tips & Fixes)

April 17, 2022

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Are you a homeowner asking, is my furnace overheating? This is not an uncommon question! A furnace might produce burning smells, grinding sounds, and other issues often associated with overheating. However, not all such sounds and smells indicate overheating or other needed fixes.

An HVAC repair contractor near you is the best choice for diagnosing issues with your home’s furnace. In the meantime, note some vital information about heater issues and needed repairs. In turn, you might know when to call a contractor for furnace repair or how to address certain problems on your own!

How Do You Know If Your Furnace Is Overheating?

First, note that not all unpleasant sounds or odors will signal a furnace overheating. Second, your furnace should have a mechanism that cycles it off if it should overheat. However, you don’t want to rely on that mechanism alone, as it can malfunction like any other HVAC feature!

Note some common indicators of an overheating furnace:

  • An overwhelming, constant burning aroma
  • A loud, persistent humming or grinding noise
  • A furnace that cycles off before reaching the temperature set on the thermostat

Also, consider that these indicators are typically constant. For example, you might notice a slight burning smell the first time your furnace cycles on. Very often, a furnace burns away dust that has built up over the summertime during its first use. This temporary burning smell is often normal and not necessarily an indicator of needed fixes.

furnace requiring repairs

Why Is My Furnace Overheating and Shutting Off?

Understanding why a furnace overheats can allow you to avoid this issue in the first place! Also, note that overheating leads to premature wear and tear and risks toxin buildups. Consequently, preventing overheating means fewer repair costs and a healthier indoor environment! Check out a few common reasons for a furnace to overheat.

Restricted airflow

Proper airflow keeps furnace components cool and operating properly. However, restricted airflow allows heat to build up near the heating element. In turn, your furnace might then overheat and even shut down.

A clogged furnace filter is a common cause of restricted airflow through a furnace. To avoid this, change that filter every month while the furnace is in use. Additionally, ensure you start the heating season with a clean filter! Remember that an AC runs air through that filter throughout the summer months, so change it before using a furnace.

Dirty, dusty ductwork and furnace components

As said, dust tends to burn away when a furnace cycles on. Consequently, light dust layers often create a burning smell when a furnace first cycles on during wintertime. However, accumulated dust along furnace components or inside a home’s ductwork can clog airflow and cause overheating.

To avoid this issue, schedule regular HVAC maintenance including furnace cleaning. A repair contractor will typically clean all internal components as needed. Also, have the ductwork checked for needed cleaning every three years or so. Ductwork cleaning keeps a furnace from overheating while also reducing dust in the air, for a healthier indoor environment!

Damaged wiring or thermostat

A furnace cycles on and off according to temperature readings and settings on a thermostat. A damaged thermostat might not read air temperature properly. Additionally, damaged wiring might not signal a furnace to cycle off as it should.

In turn, a furnace might run for too long and then overheat. Have the home’s thermostat checked periodically to avoid this problem. Also, a contractor can calibrate the thermostat as needed. This simple step ensures it reads air temperature properly, to cycle off the furnace properly.

Damaged components

A furnace can suffer damage and malfunction just like any other household appliance! The mechanism meant to switch off the furnace when it gets too hot can eventually fail. Damaged parts might also rub against each other, causing friction and excess heat. Replacing parts as needed prevents premature wear and tear and reduces the risk of overheating.

Can a Furnace Catch On Fire?

Yes, a furnace can catch on fire, although this situation is extremely rare! A severely clogged filter or thick dusty layers inside a furnace often pose the biggest risk. Also, damaged wiring or a gas leak can risk a furnace fire.

Additionally, it’s vital that a homeowner avoid storing flammable items near a furnace. Remember that a furnace body does get very warm while it cycles on. Consequently, keep paper, wood, flammable liquids, clothing and linens, and other such items well away from the furnace!

Why Is There a Burning Smell Coming From My Furnace?

Dust might cause a temporary burning smell, as said. This odor usually goes away as heat burns off that dust along furnace components and ductwork. However, a prolonged burning smell might indicate a severely clogged filter or dirty ductwork.

If you notice this smell in your home, don’t ignore it! One reason for this is that a furnace might soon overheat and shut down. Two, dust in ductwork circulates throughout the home every time a furnace or air conditioner cycles on. Additionally, note that thick dust won’t simply go away but only continues to thicken over time.

Rather than ignoring this smell, call a professional for ductwork cleaning. He or she will remove that dust and check for leaks and other damage. You’ll then enjoy fewer bothersome odors and improved indoor air quality.

How Do I Stop My Furnace From Overheating?

There are two simple ways to stop your furnace from overheating. One is to change the filter often, and before the winter season begins. Two, keep the furnace cleaned and maintained inside and out! Professional maintenance calls are vital for removing thick dust and other debris that risk overheating.

Additionally, keep your home’s ductwork clean and dust free! If you notice dust along registers and vents, call a pro for a ductwork inspection. You might also make that call if you notice lots of dust in the air or settling onto furniture and other pieces. Homeowners especially sensitive to dust also need to keep those ducts clean year-round.

Lifespan of a Furnace

A furnace’s lifespan depends on its make and model, how often it’s used, and if you maintain it properly. Most reputable furnace brands offer a 15-year life expectancy for their appliances. However, neglecting regular maintenance can risk premature damage and wear. On the other hand, regular maintenance calls might extend that lifespan!

Also, how often you use the furnace will affect its overall longevity. However, investing in high-quality air filters can offset some of that damage. A quality filter keeps dust and dirt out of the furnace and your home’s ductwork. In turn, that appliance might last for several years longer than expected!

If you’re not sure the age of your home’s furnace, call a repair contractor for an inspection. He or she might find an identification label, which would indicate when the furnace was manufactured. If not, he or she can inspect the furnace from top to bottom. In turn, they can usually tell you about how many years of life it has left!

What Is Furnace Short Cycling?

Short cycling refers to a furnace shutting off sooner than it should, meaning before it warms interior spaces. This short cycling means cold rooms but also added wear and tear on the furnace! A malfunctioning thermostat or damaged wiring might cause short cycling.

Additionally, an oversized furnace might short cycle repeatedly. Oversized appliances push air through a home too quickly. Consequently, the space around a thermostat heats up, so that furnace then cycles off. However, not all the air in the home is warm, so spaces feel cold again quickly!

An overheating furnace might also short cycle repeatedly. Since furnaces have a shutoff mechanism, the appliance might shut off as it gets overly warm. As with an oversized furnace, your home is soon cold again rather than staying comfortable.

Should You Repair or Replace a Furnace?

Your repair contractor is the best source of advice when it comes to repair versus furnace replacement! However, you might note the appliance’s age. If it’s getting to the end of its expected lifespan, you’ll probably need to replace it soon enough. In that case, why pay for repairs on an appliance that is likely to shut down before too long?

Also, consider if a new furnace might suit your home better. For instance, if you’ve been tolerating an undersized furnace, a larger one might offer the heating your home needs. A new furnace might also work more efficiently, saving on your monthly utility costs.

Lastly, note if you might put your home on the market sometime soon. Outdated appliances might scare off potential buyers and fail to attract offers. On the other hand, a home with new appliances might fetch more bids and higher offers! You also won’t need to worry about an old furnace failing during a home showing or inspection.

Rhode Island HVAC Services is happy to help answer the question, is my furnace overheating? Hopefully you found this information helpful! If it’s time for repairs in your home, call our Rhode Island furnace repair contractors. We offer expert, guaranteed services you can trust.


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