What You Don’t Know About Your Furnace Could Kill You

September 04, 2008

We tend to use our household appliances until they stop functioning or cause problems that we can’t miss. If the toilet clogs beyond our fixing, we call a trusted plummer or one of the “rooter” companies. If the roof starts to fail during a storm and the rain comes into the house, we know to contact a roofer.

Sometimes, though, we do not address things because we can’t see or detect any damage happening. This can be the case with many elements in our homes and it’s the reason you should periodically have your home inspected and its components serviced, even if you can’t tell there may be an issue. These can be both costly and/or dangerous. Below please find a few examples.

(1) Risk of Fire exists when you have these conditions.

  • cracks in your fireplace’s flue or firebox
  • frayed electrical wires (mice or rats in your attic can cause this)
  • lack of clearance between flue (from heater, water heater) and wood or other combustible materials

(2) Risk of Dry Rot, Fungus Damage, Mold exist under these circumstances

  • leaks in your roof that go into your attic but not all the way into the living area of your home
  • leaks from your toilet’s wax seal can enable moisture to get into the underlayment
  • loose flashing can enable water to travel into your walls

(3) Carbon Monoxide Poisoning may occur

  • if your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger (an “old age” problem for a furnace)

These are only a few examples. Termites (drywood termites and subterranean) are also an issue for us in Santa Clara County, and it’s best to catch those sooner rather than later to prevent extensive damage to the structure of your home.

You’ve probably heard that it’s important to get your heater “serviced” once a year by a qualified, Silicon Valley HVAC company. You may have thought that the typical $99 cost to have your furnace looked at, tuned up and checked was simply a waste of money.

It’s not. It could actually be a matter of life and death. If your unit is older (more than 20 or 30 years old), it may well have a crack or hole in the heat exchanger. This won’t provide any hints of trouble. There will be no noise, no alarm. Instead, your ducts will likely carry carbon monoxide into your home. Depending on the location of the hole or crack, its size and the amount you use your heater, this poisoning could make you ill or kill you. (A carbon monoxide detector is a great idea, of course.)

I just took my own advice. Fall is a good time to have a heater serviced, so last week I called a company I trust to inspect and service my furnace. Guess what? It’s got a hole in the heat exchanger. The good news is that I found out now, when I don’t need the heat and can leisurely take bids on replacement units, and even more, no one in our Belwood home got sick or worse from using an unsafe furnace.

Have your heater checked, and do it before you need it. But that’s not all. If you’ve been in your home three years or more, have a periodic termite inspection. Have your fireplace cleaned and checked. Make sure your roof is not in need of repairs or gutters in need of cleaning. Periodic maintenance and inspections will make your home’s parts last longer, will be less costly in the long run, and will keep you happier and safer.

Do you need suggestions on whom to contact for various servicing and repairs? Please contact me and I’ll share with you the names of companies and tradespeople whom I trust.

Mary

Mary Pope-Handy, Realtor, CRS, ABR, e-PRO, SRES, ASP, RECS, CNHS, ACRE
Helping Nice Folks to Buy & Sell Homes Since 1993
Co-Author: “Get The Best Deal When Selling Your Home In Silicon Valley”
Keller Williams, Cupertino, CA (Silicon Valley)
408 204-7673 (Cell)
www.DelightHomes.com (PopeHandy.com)
emailto: Mary@PopeHandy.com
Blog: www.LiveInLosGatos.com & www.ValleyOfHeartsDelight.com