What Causes a Furnace to Overheat: 5 Possible Causes

Is your furnace overheating? Call JC Heating & Cooling for assistance. 

Cooler weather brings about seasonal pleasures like apple cider, bonfires, and your favorite sweaters. It also harkens the time to fire up the old furnace. As temperatures gradually dip below freezing, you need to rely on your furnace more and more to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures.

Unfortunately, mishaps like overheating can and will happen at times. What causes a furnace to overheat? At JC Heating & Cooling, we provide trusted heating repair in Hodgkins, IL. So we developed a list of potential reasons behind your overheating furnace. 

How to Recognize an Overheating Furnace

When a furnace overheats, it often provides several tell-tale symptoms that it needs servicing. 

  • Sky-rocketing energy bills that coincide with furnace usage
  • A burning or smoky smell that just won’t dissipate 
  • An unceasing humming noise throughout operations
  • Cycles suddenly stopping before reaching your temperature setting

Each of these indicates that your furnace must overwork to accomplish its task. An overworked heater will quickly overheat due to friction, malfunctioning mechanical components, and/or blocked airways.

Once these issues come across your radar, turn your furnace off and look for obvious issues. 

What Causes a Furnace to Overheat? 

So why did your furnace overheat in the first place? Furnaces can overheat due to any of these causes: 

#1 Airflow Restriction

When a furnace struggles to disperse air throughout a building, it often works against some obstacle. This causes airflow restriction, which prevents air from easily traversing the air vents and ducts that make up your HVAC network.

Airflow restrictions can occur for various reasons:

  • Dirty air filters that hamper air return
  • Blocked vents or ducts that prevent heated air from entering the building
  • Fans caked in debris

You can easily change a dirty air filter. Purchase a filter that matches your home’s filtering requirements and slip it into the return vent. Make sure you change it no less than every three months.

Sometimes, foreign objects get stuck in HVAC passageways. In some cases, you can simply remove the vent cover and remove the offending object. However, you may need an HVAC technician to remove objects you can’t easily reach.

The fans on your HVAC system constantly circulate to draw in and push out air. Through their continuous movement, the blades gather a coating of debris.

Depending on the HVAC model you own, you may be able to clean the blades yourself after turning off the HVAC system. When in doubt, call an expert to handle the situation. 

#2 Mechanical Underperformance

As you troubleshoot your furnace for potential problems, you might come across certain furnace components that underperform, have visible damage, or don’t function at all. This underperformance or lack of performance may occur for myriad reasons: 

  • Broken parts
  • Outdated pieces of equipment
  • Bad electrical connections

Most of these parts will require service from a furnace technician who understands the repair and replacement process intimately. They can source the correct part for your HVAC system and install it correctly. 

#3 Dirty Parts

Certain components, like fan blades or the blower motor, are susceptible to debris buildup. This buildup can prevent strong electrical connections, slow part performance, and force your furnace to use more energy to reach your desired temperature. Parts like blower motors can easily overheat when dust and grime cover them.

Regular maintenance packages can help you avoid these issues. During a maintenance service, the technician will check all components that can easily gather dust and grime. The technician can then clean them off and prevent the furnace from overheating in the future. 

#4 Outdated System

Old age is often what causes a furnace to overheat. All home appliances have a typical lifespan. Once they reach a certain number of service years, they need complete replacement. For reference, a gas furnace can last up to 20 years, while electric furnaces can last up to 30 years.

When any furnace lasts a couple of decades or more, it usually receives immaculate maintenance and prompt repairs throughout its service. Many homeowners put off or completely forgo these essential services. Schedule repair services as soon as you notice something amiss with your system. And don’t forget about annual maintenance and tune-ups! 

#5 Inefficient Cycles

The average furnace should only cycle between 10 to 15 minutes. Cycles that last too long are called long cycling. Cycles under 10 minutes are short cycling.

Inefficient cycles typically occur when the furnace doesn’t fit the size of the building. An oversized furnace will heat a home too quickly, forcing it to start and stop constantly. This short cycle wears out the components and may cause overheating.

Similarly, an undersized furnace will overheat during its cycles. The small furnace cannot effectively heat a large house. It struggles to reach the preferred temperature setting. 

How to Prevent a Furnace from Overheating

What can you do to prevent your furnace from overheating? Use the following checklist to inform how you care for and maintain your furnace each year. 

  • Replace your filters as often as needed. A three-month replacement cycle is the bare minimum. 
  • Keep the components that you can safely access as clean as possible. Clean vent openings and remove debris from outdoor units. 
  • Only allow certified HVAC technicians to service or install your system. They’ll ensure that your furnace size matches your house’s needs and secure all connections and parts. 
  • Don’t treat maintenance and tune-ups as optional services. These services are very much necessary for a furnace that lasts for decades. 
  • Don’t wait to schedule repairs when you notice something awry. Strange sounds, weird smells, and inefficient operations all indicate that the furnace needs repairs. 

What Causes a Furnace to Overheat? JC Heating & Cooling Will Find the Reason! 

What causes a furnace to overheat? Many issues contribute to your furnace’s struggles. Sometimes, a combination of hidden problems causes furnaces to eventually underperform.

Fortunately, our top-rated HVAC experts at JC Heating & Cooling can solve all sorts of problems, like a bad furnace ignitor. We’ll get your home back to its former cozy state in no time. Call 708-367-6720 to schedule repairs, maintenance, or related services.