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Furnace Flue Maintenance

Although this winter has proven relatively mild so far, most homes have had some type of heat running for the past couple months. Whether the home utilizes a boiler, a furnace, a fireplace, or a wood stove, an appliance has been working diligently to keep the house warm and comfortable. To keep these trusty units functioning year after year – and to avoid those devastating emergency calls – it is important to schedule regular maintenance.

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Furnaces, in particular, often seem to go without proper care. Perhaps this occurs because homeowners assume the modern features of a gas powered furnace need less servicing. While new furnaces do run more efficiently than more historic forms of heat, like boilers or oil furnaces, they are prone to their own set of issues if they do not have regular care.

A common issue with gas furnaces is damage inside the flue. These furnaces run cooler than other, earlier appliances, making them more efficient but also more vulnerable to condensation. Especially if the furnace was installed in an older home and utilized an existing chimney, the size of the chimney is likely too large to create a proper draft. In a larger chimney, the cooler air spreads out and cools down too quickly, resulting in condensation on the walls of the chimney. This condensation has acidic properties, meaning it degrades the flue lining upon contact. A lining damaged like this can lead to serious problems like carbon monoxide leaking into the home.

Many homes in the Boston were built many decades or even centuries ago, so they may still rely on older heating appliances like oil furnaces. These units experience regular soot buildup as a result of burning oil, so they require regular cleaning and inspection. The soot can buildup to the point of blocking the chimney completely, which can be dangerous if the furnace does continue to function. In addition, the soot may flake off the wall of the flue and fall onto the furnace vent. This blocks the waste air from flowing out of the furnace, heavily reducing its efficiency and even stopping the furnace from functioning at all.

A potential problem with all types of flues is an obstruction from an external source, like an animal living inside the flue. This is a common occurrence as the weather turns colder because the animals start looking for a warm place to wait out the winter. When the flue is blocked by an animal or its nest, the toxic gases cannot flow out of the house properly. The only option then is for them to flow back into the home, but sometimes homeowners are lucky enough to have the furnace quit working instead.

Fortunately, all of these issues can be avoided with regular care of the furnace and its flue. There is rarely a need for an emergency service call in the middle of winter if the furnace has been cleaned and inspected on a regular basis. If you live in the Boston, South Shore or Cape Cod area and need a furnace inspected, contact Above and Beyond Chimney Service to speak with an expert.