6 Ways You're Wearing Out Your Furnace Too Soon

This has been a brutally cold winter in many parts of the country, and furnaces from Maine all the way down to Florida have been working overtime. Having your furnace fail unexpectedly can be traumatic, leading to a night huddled under blankets, frozen and burst pipes, and even deadly house fires caused by using unsafe backup heating. It can also be traumatic for your wallet; HomeAdvisor puts the cost of a new furnace as high as $6,045, and repairs and part replacements can run up to $1,200.

You might think having the furnace go out is out of your control. Sure, it could be bad luck, or the furnace might just be at the end of its life span. Or, you might be hastening its demise by doing one of these things.

1. Skipping the annual checkup

If you didn't call your local HVAC company to check out your furnace at the beginning of the season, do it now (or inspect it yourself; Angie's List has DIY tips). The main things to check are that the furnace is getting power, and that nothing is blocking the fresh air intake and exhaust. Running the furnace with these parts compromised could lead to a larger repair bill down the road, or worse, danger to the people in your home.

2. Using a dirty filter

If your furnace isn't too old, the only thing that actually gets replaced during the annual inspection may be the filter. But that doesn't mean you're taken care of for the whole year. Filters need to be replaced regularly, and the frequency depends on the type of filter, the frequency that you run the furnace, and on your home; houses with pets, cigarette smoke, or a lot of dust need more frequent changes. If you replace your own furnace filter, set a Subscribe & Save order on Amazon to help remind you and save time. (See also: 10 Things You Should Always Order on Amazon)

Experts say you should also periodically make sure the filter is securely in place and dust the area around it. If you run the furnace on a dirty filter, you are compromising your indoor air quality, and you're also making the furnace work harder, potentially shortening its life.

3. Running the furnace more than necessary

The less you run your furnace, the longer it (and its component parts) will last. You may not be able to control the temperature outside, but you can control your thermostat.

One way to reduce how much the furnace runs is to turn down the temperature when you are out of the house or sleeping. My family sets the nighttime temperature to 60 degrees, and since we live in a moderate climate, that means that the furnace usually doesn't kick in at all at night. We have lots of blankets on our beds, and we find that we sleep better in cooler air and without the dryness and sound of the furnace blowing. If you have trouble remembering to turn down the heat before you leave or go to bed, get a programmable thermostat or a learning thermostat like the Nest Learning Thermostat.

Even if you work from home, you may be able to set the thermostat lower during your workday, since you are probably spending most of your time sitting in one place. Space heaters, electric blankets, heating pads, or even a kitty in your lap can help keep your home office or even just your desk chair cozy.

Even when you are using your whole house, you may find you can turn down the thermostat a couple of degrees and compensate by wearing a sweater. The lower the temperature, the less frequently the furnace will need to turn on. (See also: 6 Smart Ways to Help Your Appliances Retain Their Value)

4. Making the furnace work without help

Your dad said it best: "I'm not paying to heat the whole neighborhood!" If you leave the doors and windows open, or if your home doesn't have adequate insulation, the furnace is working harder than it needs to maintain the indoor temperature. Do your furnace — and your wallet — a favor and bundle up your house with additional insulation, higher-rated windows, and anything else you can do to keep the warm air in.

If you're not sure if you are letting out too much of the heat, get a home energy audit. (See also: 34 Smart Ways to Cut Your Electric Bill)

5. Trying to rush the furnace

We've all done it; you come home and the house is cold, so you set it to 80, hoping it wil warm the house up faster. The reality is, if you want your house to be 70 degrees, setting it to 80 won't get you there any faster. What it will do is force the furnace to keep running once it's achieved 70 degrees, leading to an overheated house and unnecessary wear and tear on the heater.

6. Blocking or closing vents

As a frugalista, I have often closed vents in unused rooms to save on heat. Little did I know I may have been wearing out or even damaging my furnace! It turns out, HVAC systems are set up to achieve optimal air pressure to heat the whole house. When you close vents, you raise the pressure in the system, forcing the blower to work harder, and wearing it out faster. The imbalance can even cause the heat exchanger to crack. Not only is this more costly in the long term, it's probably not even saving money in the short term, since closing vents can increase energy use rather than reducing it. If you really want to heat only certain areas of your home, look into getting a zoned system.Placing furniture and rugs over vents can cause the same problems. If you have to place furniture over a vent, use a deflector to route the air away from it.

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 6 Ways You're Wearing Out Your Furnace Too Soon

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