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Will my furnace die?

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Waulie, Jan 16, 2013.

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  1. Waulie

    Waulie Minister of Fire

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    On a recent thread, there was a comment about if you don't let your furnace run periodically it will suffer an early rusty death.

    This is something I've been thinking about lately since mine doesn't run at all unless we are out of town which is very rare. We have a newer, efficient forced-air propane fired furnace and even though I don't want to use it, I don't want to lose it either.

    Any thoughts?

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  2. DianeB

    DianeB Feeling the Heat

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    Why not schedule to run it on the first Monday of every month or something like that.
  3. Waulie

    Waulie Minister of Fire

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    I sure could, but not unless there is a real reason too. Stuff's pricey.
  4. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Gasoline is expensive too but all of my generators are fired up and run for fifteen minutes every month.
    dorkweed and Lumber-Jack like this.
  5. fire_man

    fire_man Minister of Fire

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    My Oil Company told me heating oil starts to go bad after 5 years - even with stabilizers. So now I have to make sure to burn my tank down every few years - even though we are 99% heating with wood.

    I know - oil was in the ground for millions of years and did not go bad. He says heating oil now contains some biofuels.
  6. jeff_t

    jeff_t Minister of Fire

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    Good practice. Mine wouldn't fire at all last year, and I never got it fixed. While outside this summer, I noticed a wasp nest hanging out of the vent, so last week I poked a rag down through it and pushed out a couple more. Glued the pipe back together, and good as new. Up until last year, I always ran it every two weeks or so. Just let it cycle, warm the house up a couple of degrees. Fifteen or twenty minutes twice a month isn't going to break me.
  7. Lumber-Jack

    Lumber-Jack Minister of Fire

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    Yep, I have no generators, but a couple motorcycles and a couple vehicles I don't use through the winter. I like to start them up and let run at least once a month. I also run the heat pump in my house every once in a while.
    Machines don't like to sit idle for long periods of time, metal parts tend to fuse together and seize.
    If for no other reason it would be good to just periodically check and make sure your furnace is working,,,,you know,, before you really need it.
  8. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    I've always advocated for running the furnace or boiler a couple times a month. It's good for the equipment, particularly if they are in an cool area where condensation can build up on them. You never no when circumstances may require that you need them for a spell.
  9. rdust

    rdust Minister of Fire

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    Mine is an old girl with a pilot so that helps with the moisture a little. I still try to run it every couple weeks to a month for 10-15 minutes. I don't like using it but I also want to be able to travel during the winter if needed without having to winterize this place.
  10. lopiliberty

    lopiliberty Minister of Fire

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    I turn the heat pump on two or three times a month just to make sure it still works==c. Was lazy last one night last week with no fire and it ran that night so should be good to go until next month
  11. legrandice

    legrandice Burning Hunk

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    I think it has a lot to do with what type of furnace and where it is located. If it's in a very dry environment and gas fired hot air...that would be the best. A oil fired hot water boiler in a damp environment with pumps to move water would be the worst.
  12. Waulie

    Waulie Minister of Fire

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    Sounds like everyone agrees it's a good idea to let it run every once in a while. You have to wonder, though. If it's all right to let it sit for half the year, where is the line drawn. Is once a year enough? Once a month for half the year then not at all the rest? I guess I'll go once a month for a quick morning warm up on a Sunday morning when I want to sleep in anyway. Of course, with two young kids I'll be up by 7:00 anyway. :mad:
  13. evilgriff

    evilgriff Burning Hunk

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    My oil boiler runs year round to heat the hot water with a BoilerMate. It is warm all of the time, some residual heat from the furnace itself keeps the basement to about 60 degrees. This costs me 1 tank of 250 gal per year, along with backup/lazy day/sick day heat when I don't want to/can't run the woodstove. Only clean the furnace every other year with the repair man telling me it's clean as a whistle. The little oil I use is a combination of insurance/maintenance/comfort/necessity. I would think a completely shut down unit would be potential trouble, like a car that you don't drive.
  14. jatoxico

    jatoxico Minister of Fire

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    I have a separate oil fired hot water heater but even so I never shut the main boiler off completely. I turn the temp settings to 100-120 in the summer. Uses like 50g for the 4-5 months its not needed. In fall goes to 120-140 and winter 140-160. Runs a little in the am and pm and during the day if its really cold (night and weekend wood burner). Its original to the house and I don't think its smart to let it go cold.
  15. Waulie

    Waulie Minister of Fire

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    Like legrandice pointed out, there has to be a difference between a boiler and a forced air unit. I could see a boiler having rust issues. I suppose with the forced unit it's most just the fan mechanism. I wonder if you had a fan only option if just running that would be good enough to keep things up to snuff? Of course, I don't have a fan only option so moot point for me.
  16. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    There's plenty of places for condensation causing issue on a forced air furnace, especially a gas unit.
  17. legrandice

    legrandice Burning Hunk

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    I should also add that I have an oil fired forced hot water system at my house. There is also solar hot water panels that were installed in the late 80's. This old solar system provides all of our hot water during the summer. I don't run our boiler unless we have a few days of cloudy weather. I have gone over 2 months without running it. When inspecting the boiler, I have seen no rust or other wear associated with not running it.

    The oil in my tank ranges from 2-5 years old. We have some rental property that was switched to gas or electric...so I took the oil here to burn. No problems yet. (fingers crossed)
  18. ddahlgren

    ddahlgren Feeling the Heat

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    I am a former oil burner tech / installer and will promise you that 99% of all the forced air and boilers changed were from rust outs. 90% of those premature were in seasonal homes so draw your own conclusions. My boiler is on at standby of 70 degrees so just a bit warmer than the cellar and enough to geep it dry as it runs for maybe 5 minutes a day. If I had warm air I would run twice a week for a half hour a day. With fuel oil it wil cost very little in the end and the pump seals will not dry out or various bearings go bad or stack pipe rust out as there is some sulfur and other corrosive things in the fuel or at least used to be.. I have not been active in that biz for close to 40 years so not positive on the oil currently used other than expensive.
  19. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    I really don't know the answer to the OP's question . . . but I do know that I had my oil boiler serviced two days ago and the tech said it looked pretty good and I could probably get away with having it serviced every three years. I do however use my boiler a few times throughout the winter -- thermostats are set to kick on at 60 degrees F and when it is bitterly cold I will crank the thermostat once or twice a day to move some hot water through the pipes to insure there is no freezing in the pipes.

    As a side note . . . when I called my oil supplier she started to tell me that the last time I bought oil was in 2009 and that they only service their own customers . . . until I pointed out that I still buy their propane for my hot water heater and that I mostly heat with wood -- at which point she said they do make an exception for folks heating with wood.
  20. MaintenanceMan

    MaintenanceMan Burning Hunk

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    I spent ten years as an HVAC installer/service tech. The High efficiency (90%+ efficient with PVC vent pipe) furnaces these days will drain condensation from the exhaust inside the furnace into a little trap and then out the drain. Most of the time this condensation is mildly acidic and doesn't take on a lot of algae. But I have seen more than one get gummed up with algae and need a good cleaning. This backs water up into the furnace and shuts it down most of the time. With a furnace not running, that would be one of my concerns, the remaining water in the trap "gunking" up. Among other things that's one reason I think it would be best to run your furnace at least a few times during the season.
  21. Waulie

    Waulie Minister of Fire

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    Thanks for all the comments everyone!

    Unless anyone thinks I should do something else, I guess I'll let the furace run once a week for a half hour or so. It really won't use much propane at all. I just didn't want to do it unless there was a reason to do it. Sounds like there is!

    My furnace is the 90+ eff with pvc vent pipe. I'll see if I can get a look at the trap to see if I'm growing anything.
  22. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Sounds like a plan.
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