“This is not your Father’s Furnace!” – revisited.

Happy 2014!

In my job, so often I hear people say that they had a furnace for 20 years and never had a problem. They even say that they never even had it cleaned! How come these new furnace need so much maintenance and have more problems than the old furnaces?  I’m sure you all have heard something similar to this!

It is true that the furnaces of today do require more maintenance but they are also more efficient and safer than the furnaces of the past.

Just think about it –The older furnaces were only about 55% to 60% efficient and had only 2 safeties on them, a limit control and a thermocouple.  Both of these safeties were temperature activated and took a while to react to unsafe conditions. They had belt drive motors and blowers and were designed for HEATING.

Today’s furnaces are much safer than those in the past.  Furnaces today can have as many as 8 safeties on them and they react to unsafe conditions very quickly.  There are anywhere from one to three limit controls, one to three roll-out switches, one or two pressure switches, and a flame sensor.  A logic panel or “brain” in the furnace monitors all of these safeties.  Safeties, like the flame sensor, can become dirty or corroded, which can cause nuisance lockouts on today’s furnaces.  Since all these safeties are “electronic”, they have electrical connections that can become corroded causing problems with operation.

All manufacturers today recommend yearly maintenance on furnaces to keep them operating safely and to prevent nuisance problems with their equipment.  Here is one manufacturer’s recommendations for that maintenance:

The furnace should be cleaned and adjusted by a qualified service contractor once a year or before the start of every heating season. The following items must be cleaned and serviced or replaced if there are signs of deterioration.

  •  The furnace burners, igniter and flame sensor.
  •  The condensate collection and disposal system.
  • If any disassembly of components containing flue or vent gases is required, a qualified service agency must perform the service.
  • Check  the vent terminal outside the house for obstructions.
  •  Check the furnace vent and combustion air intake passageways for obstructions, sagging, etc.  The operation of this appliance requires the reassembly and resealing of the vent/air intake system
  • Induced draft motor assembly.
  • Heat exchanger assembly.

If you also notice, this says all work should be performed by a qualified service agency.  Even that has been taken away from the average homeowner.

Yes, it is sad to see old reliable go its way, but today’s technology assures us that these products are going to help conserve energy for future generations and provide us with the utmost safety in the process.

Remember, also, that this new furnace can be just as reliable as your  father’s furnace if you take care of it and have it maintained yearly by a qualified service agency  Then you can have the best of both situations – high efficiency, safety, and reliability!

(updated and modernized from my post on 4/2011)

About yorkcentraltechtalk

I have been in the HVAC industry most of my life. I worked 25 years for contractors on anything from residential to large commercial boilers and power burners. For the past 23+ years I had been employed by York International UPG Division ( a division of Johnson Controls) as a Technical support/Service Manager but I am now retired. One of my goals has always been to "educate" dealers and contractors. The reason for starting this blog was to share some knowledge, thoughts, ideas, etc with anyone who takes the time to read it. The contents of this blog are my own opinions, thoughts, experiences and should not be construed as those of Johnson Controls York UPG in any way. I hope you find this a help. I always welcome comments and suggestions for postings and will do my best to address any thoughts, questions, or topics you may want to hear about. Thanks for taking the time to read my postings! Mike Bishop
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2 Responses to “This is not your Father’s Furnace!” – revisited.

  1. dsomerv says:

    Thanks for another thought provoking article.
    The improved efficiency potential of the newer designs is indeed to be welcomed.
    But the manufacturers have dropped the ball when it comes to reliability and service.
    The complaints one hears about the new equipment versus the old reliables comes down to:
    1) The new designs are poorly constructed with poor quality parts; sensors fail, control boards fail because they are sourced from the lowest cost suppliers with limited quality control.
    2) Finding a “qualified service agency” is problematic. Manufacturers seem willing to sign anyone up as a dealer with few requirements for training and specific knowledge of product functions. The result is a lot of seat-of-the-pants parts changing where a failed system can be made to work but actual problems go uncorrected.
    3) Manufacturers prefer proprietary designs rather than agree to common standards; guard their technical information so that only a few unreachable engineers really know the details and do not update or offer accurate technical manuals and data and bulletins.

    Contrast modern automobiles to modern heating equipment: every year cars are better designed, made, and more reliable – easily going 100,000 miles with minor attention … whereas HVAC equipment designs have hardly changed in 25 years and have become less reliable in the bargain.
    I’d say the fault lies with the manufacturers who no longer seem to have pride of reputation and value delivered among their concerns.

    • I disagree with you — what is lacking is properly trained technicians to work on the new products. I conduct training on all of our products. We REQUIRE it on our high end products to assure they are installed and serviced properly. Equipment only works as well as the application allows.
      Manufacturer’s do sign anyone up — the name of the game is sales, but what they can buy can be controlled. It is a sad commentary that people working on sophistacted equipment don’t have the proper knowledge to do so!

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