What You Need to Know: Gas Furnace Basics for the Homeowner

Gas Furnace Basics for the Homeowner

It's something that you know for a fact is an important feature in your own home — the furnace. You've walked past it countless times and you know you have it to thank for all the comfortable days you've experienced at home even in the coldest weather. But to put it simply, you don't really have a clue as to how it works. If you approach an HVAC expert about this dilemma, they'll tell you not to sweat it — after all, there are different types of furnaces used in today's homes and each one functions in a different way from the others. As such, it's inevitable for the average homeowner to become puzzled over how exactly these mechanisms work. Fortunately, HVAC specialists are always happy to share information that can help their residential clients get to know this important piece of equipment better. Provided below is a brief introduction to how a gas furnace — in particular, a standing pilot gas furnace — works to keep a house nice and warm.

What You Need to Know: Gas Furnace Basics

  • The most important thing for any gas furnace is for heat to come from the thermostat before anything else. This will take place as long as the pilot is ignited and burning and all the safeties are set (more on safeties later).
  • The furnace begins to heat up. When the heat reaches the adjustable set temperature, the blower will then become engaged.
  • The fan kicks up and starts to distribute the heat throughout the house's duct system. This continues until the thermostat satisfies; once this is achieved, the main burners will shut down, but the blower will keep on running.
  • The blower continues to run for two reasons: to help the furnace cool down and to use up the available heat that still remains within the furnace and the house's ductwork.
  • As long as the thermostat is properly set, a component called the heating anticipator will end the call for heat even before the thermostat satisfies; this helps prevent overheating.
  • Once the heat inside the furnace is expelled, the fan limit control will then shut down. The entire furnace system will go into standby mode until it is needed to produce heat once again.

As previously mentioned, a gas furnace involves various safeties:

Standing pilot gas valve safety. This is designed to prevent the furnace's main valve from opening until there is a pilot light to ignite the main burners. Essentially, this safety prevents un-ignited gas from being released into the atmosphere. High limit safety. This opens once the heat exchanger temperature achieves a specific temperature designed by the furnace's engineer. Limit switches. These switches prevent the blower from overheating. Spill switches. This is found close to the draft hood and is used in the event that the chimney or flue fails. For more helpful information on the way your furnace operates and how to keep it in its best running condition, you can always contact your trusted HVAC company in Contra Costa for assistance.
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