Anatomy of a Gas Furnace

Anatomy of a Gas Powered Furnace

Many homes on Long Island and the New York City area use gas-powered furnaces to heat their homes. If you happen to own one, having a basic understanding of what it does and how it works is critical to helping you save money and maintain it properly. Here is an overview of all the parts of a gas furnace and what they do to help heat your home:

  • Return Register(s): Normally located in the hallway or in a ceiling, these vents draw cold air into the ducts (see below) and send them to the furnace to be heated.
  • Return Ducts: These sheet metal ducts are connected to your return register and guide cool air into your furnace.
  • Air Filter: We’ve mentioned air filters quite a bit on our blog (here’s an example). When cold air is brought in through the return register and duct, it then passes through the air filter. The filter traps dust and other contaminants, preventing damage to your system.
  • Blower, Blower Motor, and Blower Chamber: These components are responsible for distributing air through your HVAC system and into the supply ductwork. Without these the heated air would never reach your living spaces.
  • Burner and Burner Chamber: Burners pull natural gas from a gas line to create a jet of fire that heats the air to generate heat for your home. The burner is located within the burner chamber.
  • Flame Sensor: This component detects when a fire is lit in the burner chamber and allows the gas valve to let the gas flow continuously until the set-point is reached within the conditioned space. The flame sensor will shut down the gas valve if no flame is detected.
  • Pilot Light or Electronic Ignition: Pilot lights and electronic ignitions are essentially the same but have different safety levels. Older furnaces will have a pilot light to ignite the gas and newer furnaces will have an electronic ignition. Older furnaces with pilot ignition systems can be converted to the newer electronic ignition saving money on your gas costs. Consult your HVAC contractor if you would like to convert your existing furnace.
  • Burner Cover: This critical piece sits over the burners, flame sensor, blower chamber, and electronic ignition or pilot light. It is a safety measure that keeps the flames inside the furnace.
  • Combustion Chamber: The combustion chamber holds the fire-related components in place. It’s a chamber specifically for the burners, flame sensor, flames, and pilot light or electric ignition.
  • Heat Exchanger: When a furnace burns fuel, its combustion by-products enter and travel through the heat exchanger. The hot fuel heats the metal as the gas makes its way to the exhaust outlet of the furnace. As this is happening, the hot metal heats the air circulating over the exterior of the heat exchanger. As a result, spent, “unsafe” gases are sent through the flue to exit your home.
  • Supply Plenum: The supply plenum receives heat-treated air from the heat exchanger and prepares to send it back into your home.
  • Supply Duct: Once the air is conditioned it travels through the supply plenum ductwork to distribute conditioned air into your home.
  • Supply Grills: Supply grills are usually found on your home’s floors, walls and ceilings, and they distribute treated air into your home

Final Thoughts

These components must be in good condition to have safe, efficient heat during the winter. If you suspect a problem, it’s a good idea to contact a reliable HVAC contractor and have them do a complete inspection.

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