Understanding the Importance of Combustion Analysis

December 18, 2020

Properly maintaining your furnace is one of the best ways to ensure that it lasts a long time and does not cause any safety hazards. This is especially important in the case of a gas furnace, given the inherent risks that come with burning natural gas in your Kansas City home.

One crucial part of maintenance for gas furnaces is something called combustion analysis. While you have likely never heard of this term, it is vital that you hire a company like Summit Heating & Cooling to ensure that a combustion analysis is performed as part of your furnace maintenance service.

What Is Combustion Analysis?

Combustion analysis is not a term that is commonly talked about. Therefore, before you decide whether to have it done, it is important to understand what it is. This process is designed to measure the concentrations of various gases in key components of your heating system.

Specifically, combustion analysis is concerned with the concentrations of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide in your heating system. From this analysis, a technician from Summit Heating & Cooling can determine if your equipment is operating properly or if it needs repairs or upgrades.

How Is It Performed?

Although it sounds complicated, combustion analysis is actually a straightforward process. A technician from Summit Heating & Cooling will begin by calibrating the unit in the outside air. After they enter your home, they will take measurements near your heating system, in the combustion chamber, and in the furnace flue. To get an accurate reading in the flue, the technician may need to drill a small hole in the duct. After the analysis is complete, the hole will be filled to restore proper operation.

Once the measurements have been taken, the technician will analyze the results. If it is discovered that the right mixture of gases was detected, your heating system will be given a clean bill of health. If there was too much of a certain gas, your technician will be able to recommend the next steps based on the final results.

Proper Mix

When it comes to combustion in your gas furnace, the proper mix of gases and fuel is crucial. In the flue, specifically, it is important that both oxygen and carbon dioxide are present. Typically, there will also be some carbon monoxide present, although the goal is to try and keep the concentration of carbon monoxide as low as possible.

In some cases, the combustion analyzer from Summit Heating & Cooling may also detect leftover natural gas. If this happens, it means that your burner is not efficiently burning all of the gas, leading to wasted gas that can cause higher utility bills. In addition to wasting energy, having too much gas with not enough oxygen is the main cause of carbon monoxide release.

If the mixture is correct, though, you will see oxygen levels that are lower than the typical atmospheric level of oxygen and carbon dioxide levels that are slightly higher. This is because most of the available oxygen was used in the combustion process. The good news is that our trained technicians will take care of all of this when they run a combustion analysis on your heating system.

Verify Efficient Operation

As mentioned, one of the key purposes of running a combustion analysis on your heating system is to verify that the unit is operating efficiently. Ideally, you want 100% of the fuel that is being delivered to your furnace to be turned into heat. However, even in the most expensive heaters, that number maxes out somewhere in the 98% range. The key, then, is to make sure that your equipment is performing to its expected efficiency, whether that’s 80%, 90%, or more.

If your furnace is not operating correctly, the main hit to efficiency will be in how long it takes to increase the temperature in your home. After all, if some of the gas that is being delivered to the burners is being wasted without producing a flame, that is heating capacity that is being sent through your flue. The longer it takes to warm your house, the longer your furnace will have to run, meaning that you will have to pay more to keep your residence at a certain temperature.

Verify Safe Operation

The other important benefit of combustion analysis is that it allows technicians from Summit Heating & Cooling to verify that your heating system is operating safely. When it comes to safety, the main thing that technicians are looking for is higher-than-normal levels of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is created when incomplete combustion occurs in your furnace.

It is important to note that nearly every gas furnace creates at least a small amount of carbon monoxide. As the burner in your heater becomes filled with soot, the amount of carbon monoxide that the burner produces will increase. Typically, though, a level of about 150 ppm is considered acceptable in the flue. That is why flues are equipped with a draft inducer to ensure that all of the heating system’s exhaust gases are pulled out of your property.

If the concentration of carbon monoxide is higher than 150 ppm, however, your technician will need to do further investigation to see what is causing the problem. Excessively high concentrations of carbon monoxide in your flue could result in carbon monoxide being released into your home, leading to potentially serious side effects for you and your family.

Signs That You Need a Combustion Analysis

While a combustion analysis should be performed every time that you have maintenance performed on your heating system, there are a few signs you can look for that indicate you might need to call Summit Heating & Cooling to have an emergency analysis performed. One key indicator is if your utility bills suddenly increase without explanation. If your furnace suddenly decreases in efficiency, this will result in more natural gas usage, thus leading to higher utility bills.

Another reason to have a combustion analysis performed is if you notice that the flame from your burner is not completely blue. Anything other than a blue flame indicates an issue with your burner, meaning that you could be at risk of carbon monoxide exposure. A combustion analysis will help to better determine what is causing the problem so that Summit Heating & Cooling can get it fixed quickly.

How to Protect Yourself

Of course, Summit Heating & Cooling cannot always be at your house to ensure that your furnace is operating correctly. Therefore, it is important to protect yourself if your heater begins to malfunction to the point that carbon monoxide is released into your residence. The best protection against carbon monoxide exposure is to install carbon monoxide detectors around your property. With these in place, you will be quickly alerted when there is a problem.

Taking Care of Our Customers

At Summit Heating & Cooling, we want you to know that we care for you. That is why we will work hard to make sure your HVAC equipment always runs safely and efficiently. Whether we are repairing your air conditioner, maintaining your furnace, cleaning your ducts, or performing one of our other services, you can be sure that we will have your best interests in mind. That is one reason so many of our customers leave us five-star reviews. To learn more about combustion analysis, contact us at Summit Heating & Cooling in Kansas City today.

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