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Question DetailsAsked on 2/14/2018

If wheel on furnace breaks will furnace shut down or keep running through the cycles till maually turned off?

My furnace shut down the other day and when I turned it back on it cycled through and then started grinding. I turned it off and called service man. When he came, no more grinding noise. He said he thinks it would probably be the wheel. I have not heard it since but am now worried if I am out and it starts grinding that I won't be home to shut it off. What happens then? Will it eventually shut down on its own or keep running and cause a natural disaster in my house?

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Depends on brand and on what wheel you mean.


Generally - if you heard grinding that likely means either a bearing going bad (meaning the motor could freeze up) or the wheel (be it a blower or a humidifier) is dragging - in either case, if it stalls out and the motor is not properly protected in its design, it could overheat and cause a fire, so to be on the safe side get it fixed immediately, and I would not leave it running when out of the house. Not any safer at night, of course, unless yuou have good fire alarming ovder the furnace.


Now - details:

1) if a humidifier wheel, furnace will almost always keep running if that fails. Usually just a mater of changing out the slip-on mat element, which tends to get slack and droopy over time so can start dragging against the housing. Ditto if it sits for many months without turning.

2) if a high-efficiency (direct vent to outside, through plastic pipe) furnace and the wheel you are talking about is an eductor fan, pushing/pulling exhaust gases out the flue pipe, generally there are sensors which shut the furnace down if that fails to operate right.

3) if you mean the main blower fan, which pushes the air through the air ducts, some units will shut down if that stops turning, some will continue to operate but will short-cycle - fire for a few seconds to maybe half a minute, then overheat and shut down because the heat is not being removed from the heat exchanger as it should. Not a safe thing nor good for the unit, and some much older units (if this is say 20-30 years old or more) have zero safety shutoffs to prevent the unit from keeping on firing and significantly overheating because the blower is not working.


Bottom line - get fixed ASAP, and I would not let it run when you are not able to keep half an eye on it and detect a problem early on. In my book, merits immediate service call if it is cold enough out to need heat throughout the day. If not, then shut power off to unit and only turn it on when you get home, listen for the blower coming on (and if it grinds or whines), and I would shut it off before bedtime too till fixed.


In normal cases, unit should self-protect if not over maybe 30 years old - but if it does not and starts a fire, where are you ?


BTW - get a new service man, If he could not determine if it was a dragging wheel, grinding motor bearing, etc he should not be in business, and if it shut down once already then evidently some safety sensor tripped out - indicating more likely an overheating situation. Heating and A/C is the Search the List category to find well-rated and reviewed HVAC vendors for this type work.


Answered 9 months ago by LCD




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