Dangers Associated With Dirty Furnace Filters

Published: 26th January 2008
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It is surprising how many people are unaware of the dangers associated with dirty furnace filters. Have you ever heard a horrifying tale about a family that just barely escaped from a bad situation with their lives, as a silent killer lurked secretively in their home? The silent killer being referred to here is CO or Carbon Monoxide. You could be putting yourself or your entire family at risk if you are not changing or maintaining your furnace filter as recommended by the manufacturer. Your furnace filter is responsible for removing dust from the air as it passes through your furnace. Over time, furnace filters become dirtier and dirtier based upon how long it has been installed. As the furnace filter continues to be overloaded with dust, a resistance to or reduction in airflow may result.

Like most air conditioning and heating equipment, gas furnaces and oil furnaces are both designed to work with a certain amount of airflow, meaning that this airflow is vital for the furnace to operate not only at the highest efficiency possible but also to operate properly in general. The amount of airflow is traditionally measured in CFM, which stands for Cubic Feet per Minute. The quality of your furnace filter plays a part in how this entire process works. A heat exchanger exists in these appliances which contains a flame, and the necessary airflow is responsible for passing over the heat exchanger on the outside, picking up some heat from the flame on the inside of the heat exchanger in the process. If a furnace filter has remained in the system for so long that airflow is impacted, you could be looking at a dangerous situation.

This is why changing out your furnace filters is so important: As the amount of airflow traveling over the heat exchanger begins to decline, the operating temperature for the heat exchanger will begin to increase. Heat exchangers are built to withstand a lot of heat, but they can crack if the heat becomes too much for them while exceeding the conditions for which they were designed. The head exchanger can expand as it becomes hotter, and then contract during the off cycle of the process. All of this expanding and contracting can cause cracks and warps in the metal of the heat exchanger, which can allow for combustion gases to mix themselves with the oxygen in your home.

This is the good news: A properly designed furnace will have a high limit switch, which can prevent the excessive heating of your head exchanger. These limit switches are typically capable of monitoring the temperature either at the source of the heat exchanger or near it. If the temperature should happen to reach a specific, predetermined point, the unit will automatically shut itself off until it is reset manually.

Furnaces do seem capable of operating for a good long time based on these automatic reset limit switches. This just means that the furnace is operating based on the limits of its design. Most furnaces will not operate until they are serviced following one of these shut offs, meaning the furnace will not run until the problem is corrected. Still, there are some furnaces that will turn back on when the temperature of the unit has cooled considerably.

You should not rely solely on the safety switch to protect yourself from a potential disaster, because mechanical devices are capable of failing no matter how safe they appear to be. One of the best ways to reduce your risk of such a disaster is to maintain your furnace filters properly based on the provisions set forth by the manufacturer. This will probably include cleaning the furnace filter or changing it regularly based on manufacturer guidelines and common sense.

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