Winter is in full effect in Canada, which means your furnace is likely working overtime to keep your home warm. Can you get insurance for your home furnace to keep you comfortable? How does a furnace actually work? If you’re like most Canadians, you probably give little thought to your furnace until it stops working. But the more you know about the basics of your home’s heating system, the better you’ll be able to maintain it or choose a new one.
What is a forced air furnace?
Most homes in Canada are heated by forced air furnaces, which use gas or electricity to heat air. A fan then blows the heated air through a series of ducts to every room in the house.
Insurance for your home furnace
If you’re wondering if your homeowners insurance will cover your furnace, the simple answer is no. Home insurance is not a maintenance plan. Your insurance provider will cover your furnace if there is damage done from fire, flood, or a burglary.
If your furnace isn’t working, there are a few checks to perform and we’ve listed them out below.
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What should you do when your forced air furnace stops working?
Being caught in the cold winter months with a faulty furnace is a situation that nobody wants to be in. You’re cold, your family is cold, and so are some essential other services in your home, especially when it comes to water. Try a few at home remedies to fix the problem on your own. Here are some suggestions to try if your furnace won’t turn on:
Check your air filter
The most common cause of a furnace malfunction is a clogged air filter. If you’ve been neglecting your air filter, replace it. It’s as simple as slipping the old one out, and putting a clean one in. You can buy new ones at any home supply store or online. They should be replaced every 3-4 months. A clogged filter is troublesome for your system causing it to work harder to get hot air through, and with enough resistance, for safety concerns, it will shut down. You can temporarily just remove the filter, but replace it as soon as possible.
Check your circuit breakers.
If your furnace doesn’t switch on, the circuit breaker could be shut off. Check your circuit breaker panel to make sure all switches for your HVAC system are set to “ON.” There is also a switch near the furnace. It looks like a regular light switch, but it is the off/on for your furnace. Ensure that is in the correct position as well.
Check your thermostat.
If your furnace isn’t turning on, the thermostat may have lost its programming or reset itself from a power loss. It may even simply be set on the wrong setting. The thermostat receives its power from the furnace. If the circuit breaker or switch or set to the correct position and there’s still no power, your next move may be to call an electrician. Should power be there, you can test the furnace by cranking the heat all the way up to see if the furnace kicks in. If not, move to the next steps.
Check the drain.
Your HVAC system needs to drain. There are two ways it can happen. A drain pan collects water that has been removed from the air by your HVAC system. When the system is working as it should, the water should be pumped out or drain out automatically. If the pan is full of water, a triggered float switch could be preventing your furnace from turning on. If this is the case, make sure the pan’s drain is clear or that the pump is working properly. Alternatively, the drain flows directly into a floor drain via hose. If the hose is clogged, or kinked, the system will stop working. The DIY quick fix is to use a vacuum to suck up any particulate and allow the drain to flow again. If you’re concerned about this, call an HVAC technician.
Check the pilot light.
Many modern furnaces won’t kick on if the pilot light is out. This is a safety feature designed to prevent pumping natural gas or propane into your home. Unless you’re very familiar with how this works, call a professional.
When to upgrade your furnace
How do you know when to call a repairman and when to throw in the towel? Repairing your furnace might sound like a more affordable solution now, but it may not be the best choice in the long run. Here are a few signs that it might be time to replace your furnace.
- Your furnace is more than 15 years old. The average lifespan of a furnace is 15-20 years. The older they get, the more problems and potentially pricey repairs will arise, especially if they haven’t been getting annual maintenance.
- Your heating bill has increased. If your home heating bill keeps increasing year after year, it could be a sign your furnace is running less efficiently.
- Uneven temperatures. Your furnace is designed to keep the temperature of your entire home comfortable. If you notice differences in temperature between different rooms, you may need to call a professional duct cleaning company to suck up all the dust and particles stuck inside the vents of your heating system.
Understand that rooms with direct runs from the furnace, or rooms closer to the furnace will have more heat. Also, rooms with windows and doors will have a harder time holding heat. Balancing an HVAC system is a difficult thing, but there are some smart home devices that can help you such as the Flair smart vent.
- Your furnace is making strange noises. Have you heard any banging, popping, rattling, or squealing noises coming from your furnace? Old furnaces often start to make some strange noises as they get toward the end of their life.
Can I buy furnace insurance?
What you’re really talking about is a warranty. There is no such thing as furnace insurance. The plans that tell you otherwise are mini maintenance contracts, typically from companies that rent you furnaces. They charge a monthly fee of $15-$20 to maintain the furnace that they rent you for $30-$40 a month.
Let’s do the math.
Furnace rental $35 per month.
Furnace protection plan $15 per month.
Total $50 per month.
Life expectancy of your furnace is 15-20 years.
At 15 years, you’re paying $9,000.
At 20 years, you’re paying $12,000.
If you buy a new furnace, installed, you might pay an average of $4,500.
You can have it regularly serviced for, on average, about $125 every year.
At 15 years, you’re paying $6,375.
At 20 years, you’re paying $7,000.
Home insurance for your furnace is part of your existing policy and therefore isn’t part of this conversation. If you live in a basement, you could be a tenant and if a pipe bursts due to cold weather, you’ll want to get renters insurance quotes and buy some insurance to protect your valuables.
While a furnace rental is far cheaper up front, it will end up costing you much more in the long run.
The Bottom Line
Your furnace is an essential component of your household. Don’t take it for granted. Knowing a little more about how it works, regular maintenance, and when to call a professional will help you keep it running well, saving you valuable time and money.