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The Natural Gas Furnace: What You Should Know

by Daniel Estevao on September 18, 2015

September is National Furnace Tune-Up Month, which is why we are focusing on getting your furnace fixed this month. Most home fires occur during the winter months and many dangers can be attributed to the natural gas furnace or home heating system in your home.Important information on your natural gas furnace

This blog focuses on natural gas furnaces because it is the most common home heating system in the country, being used in about 57% of American homes.

If you are considering changing or upgrading your central heating system, consider investing in home insulation for your home in order to reduce the need for a larger unit. Click here for some more outdoor home maintenance chores for late summer.

Insulating your home before you decide to replace your natural gas furnace will save you money by reducing your need for a larger unit.

Everything You Need to Know About Natural Gas Furnaces

First, let’s start with some statistics (energy.gov):

  • Space heating is the largest energy expense in the home, with cooling taking second place. In the average U.S. home, space heating accounts for about 45% of total energy costs.
  • The average U.S. household spends about $700 a year on natural gas furnace heating.

Your natural gas furnace is made up of three main components:

  1. The heat source: your furnace provides the heat for your home
  2. The distribution: your natural gas furnace is sometimes called a central heating system, since heat is created in the center and the distributed throughout your home using a forced air ductwork system.
  3. The control system: your thermostat sends and receives messages from your furnace, allowing it to regulate the amount of heat that gets distributed.

In fact all heating systems have these three main components. Compare the different types of heating systems here:

Types of Heat Sources and Heating SystemsSource: energy.gov

How do I measure the efficiency of my natural gas furnace?

There is a very useful energy efficiency rating for heating systems, known as AFUE (annual furnace utilization efficiency).

AFUE is a rating that measures how efficient your heating system is in converting the fuel it consumes. Specifically,

“AFUE is the ratio of annual heat output of the furnace or boiler compared to the total annual fossil fuel energy consumed by a furnace or boiler” (energy.gov).

For instance, if you have a 80% AFUE natural gas furnace, that means that 80% of its consumed fuel is being used to heat your home while the remaining 20% escapes through your ventilation system or elsewhere.

What Should I Maintain to Keep my Furnace Running Well?

Furnaces are not the most complicated device in your home, but they do require a substantial amount of maintenance.  Here are some highlights that you should be watching for when it comes to furnace maintenance (energy.gov):

  • Check Vent Pipe and Chimney conditions – are they broken or obstructed?
  • Check fuel input and flame characteristics – the flames from your furnace should all be blue, if they’re yellow you probably have a venting problem.
  • Make sure that smoke and CO detectors near the furnace and vents are operating properly.
  • Clean out dirt, soot, and corrosion.
  • Make sure the heat exchanger is clean, clear of debris, and undamaged.
  • Keep the area around your furnace clear of other objects, especially flammable ones.
  • Use a clean filter and make sure it is installed correctly.

These are all things you can look at for yourself.  Of course a licensed technician will inspect and maintain a lot more, as you’ll find out in this video:

For more information, read these articles on the topic:


Call Pacific Air Systems Heating & Cooling at 253.292.3995 for 24/7 service!

Since 1984, we’ve been proudly serving our communities in Federal Way, Graham, Spanaway, University Place, Steilacoom, Sumner, Lakewood, Puyallup, Tacoma and Gig Harbor.

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