What to know about your furnace (and how it affects your home insurance)
Old furnace with water leak

In Canada, it’s essential to have reliable heating for your home. There are many ways to keep your house warm, but most Canadian households depend on a furnace – 55%, as a matter of fact! So, it’s important to know what to do if something happens to your furnace and how it could affect your home insurance. Here are some answers to the most common furnace questions.

Will a new furnace lower your home insurance?

Well, it depends. From the insurer perspective, certain types of heating have more risk attached which means there’s a higher chance of a claim. So, elements in a home that are categorized as “riskier” typically have a higher premium. Learn these 3 ways your home heating affects your insurance.

If you have an older furnace (more than 15-20 years old) it’s probably not as energy efficient as newer models. And you’ll probably be paying more for utilities. Upgrading to a new furnace will ultimately help you save more money, but it won’t necessarily reduce your home insurance premium.

TIP: Schedule yearly maintenance checks with a qualified HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) technician to extend the life of your furnace.

If you currently have an older home heated by a wood or pellet stove, you may be paying more for your home insurance since there’s a higher risk of fire. The same thing can be said about oil-based furnaces. Not only is oil-based heating an environmental hazard, but it’s also more likely to cause a fire – which is less than ideal for insurance companies. A higher chance of fire means a higher chance of a claim. Switching to an electric or gas furnace could lower your home insurance premium because there’s less chance of it causing a house fire.

TIP: Check with your insurance company if they’ll offer you savings on your home insurance if you install a new furnace.

Does homeowners insurance cover furnace replacement?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. Home insurance doesn’t cover furnace replacement. Insurers won’t replace things in your home just because they’re old. However, it’s a different matter if your furnace needs replacing due to an insurable event.

What are some common problems with furnaces?

  1. Broken thermostat — If your fan is constantly running but the heat isn’t turning on, it’s probably time to replace the batteries or switch to a new thermostat.
  2. Clogged filters — Furnace filters collect dust, hair, and other particles in the air. When it gets too full of guck it can constrict airflow through your home. Ideally, you should change your furnace filter every 90 days. But if you have asthma or allergies you may want to consider changing your filters even more frequently to help improve air quality.
  3. Frequent and over-cycling — If you notice that the heating or cooling kicks back on too frequently, it could be several reasons. You could have a clogged filter or improper airflow, or you might be running your furnace too high or too low. Note: having a frequently running furnace will result in a higher utility bill.
  4. Flickering or yellow pilot light — If you notice that the pilot light is flickering or a more yellow colour, it could mean that there’s an excess of carbon monoxide in your furnace. This will require the expertise of an HVAC technician.
  5. Furnace isn’t blowing air — There could be several things causing this. However, if you see a flashing red light on your furnace, it’s an error code. You’ll need to call an HVAC technician for help.

If you’re experiencing any furnace problem, it’s best to call in a licensed HVAC professional. Attempting to fix a broken furnace yourself could make the problem worse and put your health and safety at risk. While it might seem tempting to try to save a few bucks, let a professional who has the necessary skills, knowledge, and education handle your furnace.

TIP: Before a tradesperson does any work in your home, you should make sure they’re licenced and have the appropriate certifications. HVAC technicians, plumbers, electricians are just some of the regulated trades that are required by law to be certified to be able to work legally. You can easily look up a tradesperson’s name online to see if they’re listed in their provincial registry.

Is a broken furnace an emergency?

Depending on the situation, there are some instances where a broken furnace is an emergency.

1. Water or gas leak

If you spot water anywhere near your furnace, there’s a chance it could be leaking. Water damage to the foundation, walls or flooring can be costly, so you’ll want to address the leak right away. Try to mop up the water in the affected area and plug in a fan or heater if you have space to do so. For large amounts of water, a wet vac may be necessary.

If you smell rotting eggs or sulfur, it could be a natural gas leak. Get everyone out of the house (including your pets) to somewhere safe. Notify your local gas company or call 911.

2. Furnace blowing cold air or not working at all

If your furnace is blowing cold air in the middle of February, the situation could quickly become serious if there’s no heat in your home. And if it gets really cold, your pipes could freeze and potentially burst, causing major damage. This is why you need to address this issue immediately.

Or your furnace might just stop working completely. This could be caused by several things — some of which could cause harm. For example, if there’s bad wiring, you could end up with an electrical fire. Or if you have a clogged filter, debris can get into the blower motor and cause it to overheat and possibly have a fuse blow up. So, it’s best to address a non-functioning furnace as an emergency.

The bottom line is don’t ignore the signs if your furnace isn’t working properly. But by doing regular maintenance and changing your filters on time will help to extend the life of your furnace – and keep your insurance company happy (since there’s less chance of something happening). And, if you want to be more sustainable, put on an extra sweater and warm socks rather than cranking up the heat. Both your furnace and utility bill will thank you.

Looking for more ways to save? Here are some other home improvements that could help lower your home insurance.

Protect your home and the things you love most.