Can An Old Furnace Cause Health Problems? Don’t Be Fooled


It is a general opinion that the older something gets, the less efficient it becomes and the more likely it can bring you problems. Most people apply that idea to their gas furnaces and constantly fear that their old heating system will endanger their family’s health. But is that really so? Can an old furnace cause health problems?

An old furnace can cause various health issues if it is not properly and regularly maintained. But the same is true even with new high end furnaces, like a multi-stage variable speed furnace. Without thorough cleaning and checkup, simple mechanical problems will develop into serious complications that can impact your household’s health and well-being.

can an old furnace cause health problems

If you search on the web, “Can my old furnace make me sick?” you will surely be bombarded with claims that your trusted furnace for many years will put your health at risk. This will then be followed by not-so-subtle recommendations to replace it with the latest models. Sadly, many took the bait without thinking it twice.

But is there truth to it? Can an old furnace make you sick, or at least sicker than a new furnace could?

Are Old Furnaces Riskier Than Newer Ones?

The answer is not necessarily. An old furnace does not pose more health risks compared to a new one if the former is regularly and properly maintained. Conversely, whether your central heating system is old or new, it can endanger your family’s well-being if it lacks routine maintenance by a qualified expert.

To illustrate: An aged person may still have a good quality of life and function well if he has healthy habits and practices and maintains regular checkups with his physician. On the other hand, a younger person’s health and lifespan may suffer if he does not care for his body well enough or neglects to go to medical professionals for help if he has health issues.

A certified HVAC professional is like a skilled doctor that detects seemingly minor problems with your furnace early on and prevents them from becoming serious repair issues. Without his help, you may be tricked by quacks to throw away a perfectly good heating system simply because it has advanced in age.

How Can Regular Maintenance Help Your Old Furnace?

Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems should be checked regularly at least once per year by your trusted contractor. Its overall efficiency and length of life depend greatly on routine maintenance that is expertly done.

How can regular maintenance actually help your central heating system, new or old?

A whole lot, actually. Besides the general furnace inspection, calibration, and testing of the efficiency and safety of your furnace, a responsible contractor would lubricate the components, remove blockages and debris from the vents and blowers, clean or replace the air filters, check and fix any minor electrical issues.

If your furnace is always in its tip-top shape, you will spare yourself from expensive furnace repair costs and financial problems due to outrageous energy bills. Yes! A heating system that is poorly maintained consumes more energy than it should, causing an increase in your utility bills.

But what really matters is how a regularly maintained furnace impacts your family’s health. Let’s look at some ugly effects on your wellness if you neglect to maintain your central heating equipment.

Health Hazards of an Unmaintained Furnace

Allergic Reactions

The most common household air pollutants are dust, pollen, animal dander, dust mites, and every other kind of dirt that circulates the air.

True, your furnace filter can do an excellent job of trapping harmful particulates from your breathing space. But imagine all these indoor air pollutants clogging up your dirty filter and air ducts because you fail to have them cleaned?

No wonder some residents start to sneeze, cough, have red, itchy, and watery eyes, runny nose, and throat irritation as soon as the furnace is turned on. These are classic signs of an allergic reaction.

Dirty air ducts and filters that can trigger allergies and respiratory diseases can easily be restored to clean and working order by your trusted contractor through regular maintenance.

Respiratory Diseases

Allergy attacks triggered by indoor air pollutants may be remedied by over-the-counter antihistamine meds, but long-term exposure to airborne toxins like dust mites and animal dander can lead to serious respiratory infections.

Rhinitis is one of the most common respiratory diseases you can catch from being exposed to pollen from plants, dust mites, mold, cockroach waste, and pet hairs. These irritants can cause your mucous membranes to swell, which manifests in a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, and itchiness of the eyes and throat.

Allergic asthma can also present if a person inhales common airborne toxins. This type of asthma may manifest in shortness of breath, coughing, throat irritation, wheezing, rash, or hives. Children, pregnant women, and older ones with other types of asthma may feel much worse after being exposed to a breathing space with poor air quality.

You may also be putting your family at risk of acquiring other types of lung diseases and respiratory issues such as bronchitis, sinusitis, and pneumonia by not paying attention to the cleanness and maintenance of your furnace.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

By far the most dangerous health hazard a neglected furnace can bring to your family is carbon monoxide poisoning. As expected, many websites use this possible threat as one big reason to replace your old furnace. What they fail to mention is that even modern furnaces are susceptible to this kind of problem.

The existence of carbon monoxide (CO) in a home where gas appliances are used is common. Specialists in cooling and heating equipment say that 9 parts per million of CO is still safe for an indoor setting within 8 hours, while 800 ppm of CO can kill you within minutes.

Faulty heating systems are a common source of high levels of carbon monoxide which can make any household vulnerable to health problems such as carbon monoxide poisoning. This typically happens when you have an unchecked heat exchanger that developed damages and breaks over time,  which can leak a considerable amount of these toxic gases.

The following are the usual symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: the feeling of getting sick from flu, headache, stomach pain, dizziness, weakness, vomiting, chest pain, and disorientation. In worst cases, excessive carbon monoxide exposure may lead to loss of consciousness, comatose, or fatality.

Install a carbon monoxide detector in your living and sleeping areas to monitor the levels of this toxic gas in your home. Be wary of the beginning symptoms of carbon monoxide sickness and go to the emergency room.

As for the carbon monoxide leak in your furnace, contact a certified technician to deal with the problem. More to the point, it could have been prevented by routine and proper maintenance. Making sure that there is no chance of something causing carbon monoxide poisoning would be one of the first things certified expert heating technicians would look into.


We will never get tired of saying that the age of your furnace is NOT what’s putting your health at risk. How long heating equipment has been in operation has little to do with health and safety concerns. It is the lack of proper and regular maintenance by a quality contractor.

A professional and certified expert will not rush you into replacing your old but still efficient heating system but work with you in keeping your family safe and healthy with a well-maintained furnace.

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