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Furnace operating controls & switches: this article explains how to identify & set or adjust the controls and switches found on warm air heating furnace systems.
This article series answers questions about central heating system controls and switches: troubleshooting, inspection, diagnosis, and repairs.
We describe how to inspect, troubleshoot and repair heating and air conditioning systems to inform home owners, buyers, and home inspectors of common heating system defects.
We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.
How to Identify, Reset, or Adjust Hot Air Heating System (Warm Air Furnace) Controls and Switches
The articles listed below and found in this article series provide description of all of the major
components of warm air heating systems, how to recognize or find each component, what it looks like, what goes wrong, and how
to maintain, repair or adjust the component.
Comparing Forced Hot Air Heat with Gravity Hot Air Heating Systems
The sketches at above and at above left left are provided courtesy of Carson Dunlop, explains the basics of how a modern warm air heating system or "furnace" works and shows how warm air flows in a building.
The Carson Dunlop sketch at right shows how an older gravity heating system worked, such as the "octopus" france shown at the top of this page.
This article provides details about the operation, controls, inspection, diagnosis, and repair of all types of warm air heating furnaces.
What is the Function of the Hot Air Furnace Fan Limit Switch?
Details about the fan limit switch, how it works, and how it is set are provided at FAN LIMIT SWITCH. Excerpts are below.
The warm air furnace fan limit switch is a control which determines when the hot air furnace blower assembly turns on and off.
The fan limit switch prevents the furnace blower from sending chilly air into the building if the oil or gas burner has not sufficiently heated
up the furnace heat exchanger and supply air plenum.
In our gas furnace control photographs above we show to illustrations of a hot air furnace fan limit switch as you're likely to find one at a typical furnace.
A fan limit switch on an oil fired furnace is shown the right hand photo above and a close up is shown at left.
fan limit switch is about in the center of the above photo, and is partially hidden by a low voltage transformer and a metal electrical junction
box which are mounted at the right side of the furnace cabinet.
The fan limit switch is also a safety control which protects the furnace heat exchanger from damage by turning the burner offOn the furnace gas or oil burner if the temperature inside the warm air supply plenum (just above or just next to the heat exchanger) gets too high.
Details about the fan limit switch, how it works, and how it is set are provided
at FAN LIMIT SWITCH where we provide a series of installation, wiring, diagnostic & repair articles including FAN LIMIT SWITCH FAQs.
A Quick Guide to Oil Burner and Gas Burner Flame Sensors
Furnace Oil-burners use either a cad cell or stack relay to confirm that the furnace oil burner is operating properly and to avoid flooding
the combustion chamber with un-burned oil.
Where are the all the forced warmair heating system reset buttons? If you are looking for the main reset button on heating equipment you'll want to see:
At ELECTRIC MOTOR OVERLOAD RESET SWITCH we discuss the thermal overload switch and reset button that is found on many electric motors including those operating air conditioning fans, heating system oil burners, and furnace blowers and motors.
A Guide to Oil Fired Furnace or Heating Boiler Cad Cell Relays
Flame sensing devices on oil-fired heating appliances: modern oil-fired heating furnaces, boilers, and water heaters use a Cadmium Cell
sensor, usually located inside the oil burner tube, to "see" the
presence of flame and thus to assure that the oil burner assembly stops pumping oil into the combustion chamber if flame ignition is
The cad cell itself, that is the little cell that "sees" the oil burner flame,
is wired (often by a yellow wire) to the cad cell relay switch (see photo) which is usually a gray box with a red "reset" button located on top of or alongside
the the oil burner assembly.
The cad cell causes the relay to switch the oil burner off when a flame is not established or if flame is lost at the
Our photograph shows a modern Honeywell(R) R8184G 4009 cad cell
relay for use on (typical) intermittent ignition oil burner equipment.
Details about Cad Cell relay switches, how to inspect, test, and reset them can be read
at CAD CELL RELAY SWITCH
A Guide to Stack Relay Control Switches on Boilers, Furnaces, or Water Heaters
Oil Burner Stack Relay Switches Explained Older oil burners used to heat a warm air furnace, a heating boiler, or a water heater may use a Stack Relay
to prevent sending fuel into the heater if it has not been successfully ignited.
Stack relays are an older type of flame sensor than the Cad Cell Relays which we discussed above, but they accomplish the same purpose (turn off the oil burner if the flame is not established).
The "stack relay" is a bimetallic spring inserted into the flue vent connector located usually quite close to the heating boiler between the boiler top and the chimney.
The bimetallic spring warms in response to hot oil burner exhaust, confirming that combustion is taking place.
If combustion is not
occurring a timer inside the stack relay turns off the oil burner to prevent flooding of the combustion chamber
with un-burned oil.
We provide details about stack relays, the function, inspection, testing, and setting of stack relay switches
at STACK RELAY SWITCH
Guide to Draft Hoods on Gas Fired Furnaces, Boilers, Water Heaters - Purpose, Inspection, Repair
What is a Gas Appliance, Furnace, Water Heater, or Boiler Draft Hood
The photo at left is of a York gas fired furnace which displays a conventional draft hood opening - the large horizontal
opening space shown in the middle of the furnace.
The purpose of this opening is to permit additional air to flow into the flue vent connector (stack pipe)
and chimney when the gas burner is operating.
This additional air flow avoids excessive draft at the
gas burner. Too much draft at the gas burner could result in improper gas combustion.
(The gas burner will be below this opening and behind
the cover with the louvered openings.
The louvers provide combustion air to the gas burner.)
The draft hood or draft
regulating device we are discussing here is normally
used only on gas-fired heating equipment, not on oil-fired equipment.
Details about draft control for gas fired heating systems, including furnaces (like the furnace shown in our photo above) or boilers, are discussed
at DRAFT HOOD, GAS HEATER On gas fired equipment.
(Details about draft control on oil fired heating systems, including furnaces or boilers, are discussed
at DRAFT REGULATOR, DAMPER, BOOSTER barometric dampers on oil fired equipment.)
Guide to Flue Gas Spill Switches on gas fired equipment
What is a furnace, boiler, or water heater flue gas spill switch?
A spill switch may be found at the draft hood on any modern gas fired appliance, such as a heating furnace (hot air heat),
a heating boiler (hot water heat or steam heat), or a water heater.
This little sensor, or two or more of them, form
an important safety device that feels the heat of escaping combustion gases that ought to be going up the flue or
Since escaping combustion gases in a building are dangerous (forming a potentially fatal carbon monoxide hazard),
if the sensor gets hot from flue gases flowing past its surface, it is designed to turn off the fuel supply to the
Guide to Inspecting Barometric Dampers or Draft Regulators on Oil Fired Furnaces, Boilers,
Barometric dampers are devices used to regulate the draft on oil-fired heating equipment such as furnaces, boilers, or
On oil fired equipment the barometric damper, or draft regulator is typically a round Tee inserted in the
flue vent connector between the heating appliance and the chimney.
The face of the tee contains a round "door" with an adjustable
weight. The service technician adjusts the weight to control the swing or opening of this door which in turn controls the amount of
excess air that can enter the flue and chimney when the oil burner is operating.
The barometric damper or draft
regulating device we are discussing here is normally used only on oil-fired heating equipment, not on gas-fired equipment.
Details about draft control on oil fired heating systems (such as the oil fired heater shown in the photo at left), including furnaces or boilers, are discussed
at DRAFT REGULATOR, DAMPER, BOOSTER barometric dampers on oil fired equipment.
(Details about draft control for gas fired heating systems, including furnaces or boilers, are discussed
at DRAFT HOOD, GAS HEATER On gas fired equipment.)
If you don't know what kind of heat your building uses, we explain how to figure out the answer
at HEATING SYSTEM TYPES
If your heating system is not working properly,
see NO HEAT - BOILER - gravity or forced hot water heat: baseboards, radiators, convectors
or NO HEAT - FURNACE - forced warm air heat
Continue reading at BLOWER DOOR SAFETY SWITCH or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.
Domestic and Commercial Oil Burners, Charles H. Burkhardt, McGraw Hill Book Company, New York 3rd Ed 1969.
National Fuel Gas Code (Z223.1) $16.00 and National Fuel Gas Code Handbook (Z223.2) $47.00 American Gas Association (A.G.A.), 1515 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22209 also available from National Fire Protection Association, Batterymarch Park, Quincy, MA 02269. Fundamentals of Gas Appliance Venting and Ventilation, 1985, American Gas Association Laboratories, Engineering Services Department. American Gas Association, 1515 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22209. Catalog #XHO585. Reprinted 1989.
"Warm Air Heating Systems". Instructional Technologies Institute, Inc., 145 "D" Grassy Plain St., Bethel, CT 06801 800/227-1663 [home inspection training material] 1987
Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning Volume I, Heating Fundamentals,
The ABC's of Retention Head Oil Burners, National Association of Oil Heat Service Managers, TM 115, National Old Timers' Association of the Energy Industry, PO Box 168, Mineola, NY 11501. (Excellent tips on spotting problems on oil-fired heating equipment. Booklet.)
The Home Reference Book, a reference & inspection report product for building owners & inspectors. Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a ten percent discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Just enter HRBUS10 in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. Note: InspectAPedia.com ® editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Home Inspection Report writing materials, including the Horizon Software System that manages business operations, scheduling, & inspection report writing using Carson Dunlop's knowledge base & color images. The Horizon system runs on always-available cloud-based software for office computers, laptops, tablets, iPad, Android, & other smartphones.
The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors
Thanks to reader Eric Haver for technical edits 3/24/2009
For details about the setting, re-setting, or function of the controls and switches commonly found on hot air heating systems
see these articles:
Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd., 120 Carlton Street Suite 407, Toronto ON M5A 4K2. Tel: (416) 964-9415 1-800-268-7070 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The firm provides professional home inspection services & home inspection education & publications. Alan Carson is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material.
The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Illustrated Home purchased as a single order Enter INSPECTAILL in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
TECHNICAL REFERENCE GUIDE to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment, useful for determining the age of heating boilers, furnaces, water heaters is provided by Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto - Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Technical Reference Guide purchased as a single order. Just enter INSPECTATRG in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on these courses: Enter INSPECTAHITP in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
The Horizon Software System manages business operations,scheduling, & inspection report writing using Carson Dunlop's knowledge base & color images. The Horizon system runs on always-available cloud-based software for office computers, laptops, tablets, iPad, Android, & other smartphones