Furnace repair is a topic that most homeowners don't think about until there is a problem. Since your furnace is one of the most important appliances for keeping your home comfortable, you should know how to spot signs of trouble so you can have your furnace repaired before a breakdown occurs. Here are five signs that could mean it's time to repair or replace your furnace.

Noisy Furnace Operation

No furnace is completely silent, but there are certain noises to look out for that only a failing furnace will make. Being aware of furnace "problem noises" can give you a clue about which component of your furnace is malfunctioning, and it can help your technician track down the source of the problem.

In some cases, the blower wheel inside your furnace can slip off of the shaft and scrape against the blower motor housing. This will lead to a harsh, metal-on-metal grating sound. Squealing sounds could be caused by slipping or fraying belts, bearings that need to be oiled, or a malfunction inside of the blower motor.

Yellow Burner Flame

A steady blue burner flame is a key indicator of a healthy furnace. Flickering or yellow burner flames are caused by an imbalance in your furnace's supply of fuel. This imbalance could stem from a gas leak, which could mean that there is a risk of dangerous carbon monoxide levels in your home. If your family is suffering from frequent nausea, headaches, confusion, or flu-like symptoms, you should stop operating your furnace and have it serviced as soon as possible.

Increasing Heating Bill

As long as your family is maintaining its usual home heating habits, your energy bill should be roughly the same each month. While sudden spikes in your bill can be caused by large duct leaks, they can also be attributed to a failing component in your furnace that is forcing the unit to work harder.

In some cases, furnace efficiency loss can lead to a more subtle upward creep in energy costs over a number of months. Overall loss of efficiency is inevitable as your furnace ages, so you will eventually need to make a value comparison between the operating costs of your current furnace and the cost of installing a new one. For a more accurate metric on the current efficiency performance of your furnace, you can hire an HVAC technician to analyze your furnace's annual fuel utilization efficiency.

Furnace Nearing Life Expectancy

Just because you haven't noticed any problems with your furnace doesn't mean that it's not on the brink of failure. If you move into a home with a furnace already installed, you should use your furnace's model number to determine the approximate age of the unit. Most gas furnaces are rated to last around 15 years, so you may want to consider furnace replacement if your furnace is nearing this age.

Poor Air Quality

If your family is experiencing more frequent allergy flare-ups or respiratory problems, it is likely that your home's indoor air quality has been reduced. Your HVAC system is designed to remove mold spores, dust, and other contaminants from the air before it enters your home. One of the most common sources of reduced air quality is a clogged furnace filter; you should get in the habit of replacing or cleaning your furnace filter at least once a month. Air quality issues can also stem from a significant buildup of dust inside your furnace that is too much for your filter to handle. Cleaning the inside of your furnace could lead to a marked increase in indoor air quality.

Keep these signs of furnace trouble in mind so that you can be prepared to have your furnace repaired or replaced before a complete breakdown occurs and your home is left without heat. For more information, contact a company like One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning.