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Furnace 101: How Do Furnaces Work?

February 22, 2022 | Blog

Many homeowners know only one thing about their furnace: it keeps them warm. However, the heating process involves a lot of important intricacies, many of which vary between electric and gas systems. Studying your heater probably won’t provide any fun facts for parties, but it can help you notice heating issues sooner. Here is a brief overview of both a gas and electric heater’s structure, as well as some tips on identifying a malfunction.

If you already suspect you need furnace repairs, request a service appointment with Baldwin Heating & Air Conditioning today.

Furnace Basics

There are a few traits that gas furnaces and electric heaters share. In the past, many furnaces depended on wood or coal, which would create warmth simply by burning.

Now, however, all systems depend on the forced-air heating principle. With the forced-air heating method, your system pulls in air, warms it, then pushes it back into your home using a blower fan. This strategy remains largely the same between gas and electric heaters, but the two systems warm air in slightly different ways.

How a Gas Furnace Works

Both natural gas furnaces and propane furnaces use the following steps to keep your home toasty:

As mentioned above, the system pulls in cool air from your home. Next, utilizing a pilot light, a gas heater will ignite a series of burners. These burners warm the air, which then goes through a heat exchanger. The exchanger slightly alters the temperature of the air to match your thermostat.

After going through the heat exchanger, a blower fan will push the heated air through your ductwork and vents, ultimately sending it back into your home.

How an Electric Heater Works

Alternatively, an electric heater relies on the following process protect you from the chill: instead of using a pilot light, the system uses electrical ignition to stimulate heating elements. These heating elements essentially serve the same purpose as a gas furnace’s burners. Electrical currents pass through the elements’ conductive coils, which then warm the surrounding air.

As soon as the air reaches your desired temperature, a blower fan sends it back into your home.

How to Know You Need Heating Repair

If you notice issues with your system, some type of damage has disrupted one of the stages outlined above. With your new knowledge, it might be easier to identify which stage is suffering before you schedule a heating repair appointment.

For example, if your heater produces an irritating whirring sound, you might infer there’s a problem with the blower fan. Meanwhile, if you notice a concerning burning smell, you may assume the furnace’s pilot light ignites poorly. Finally, if your home’s temperature doesn’t change after running the heater, you might guess that a blocked vent or faulty ductwork is barring warmed air.

However, some problems are more complex. While it’s great to learn the basics, there’s no need to study the ins and outs of the heating process. The professionals at Baldwin Heating & Air Conditioning already have.

Contact our team today to keep your system in shape through a furnace repair or heater tune-up!

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