A functional furnace is a vital asset during the winter months. A home without a working furnace can become very cold, putting the health and safety of your family at risk.

Modern furnaces are designed to function efficiently, but there is still the possibility that your furnace will break down at some point in the future.

Every homeowner needs to be aware of some routine repairs they may have to make over the life of their furnace. Here are three common furnace repairs you could face during the coming winter.

1. Belt Replacement

The heated air generated inside your furnace is pushed into air ducts by a fan. This fan is powered by a motor that relies on a belt to function properly. It's common for a blower fan belt to become loose, damaged, or worn over time.

If the belt becomes compromised, your heating system will no longer deliver warm air via your air ducts. A buildup of hot air can accumulate inside a furnace with a busted blower fan belt, causing the appliance to overheat.

You will hear a high-pitched squealing sound each time your furnace kicks on when your blower fan belt needs to be replaced. An experienced HVAC technician should be called to install a new belt and restore the function of your furnace.

2. Ball Bearing Replacement

Ball bearings can also be found inside your furnace's blower fan motor. The primary role of the ball bearings is to help the blower fan operate smoothly and quietly.

You should carefully monitor the sound of your furnace if you want to detect ball bearing failure before your access to heat is compromised.

A low hum or grinding noise when your furnace kicks on is the first sign of potential ball bearing damage. As the damage worsens, your furnace will begin to squeal and the blower fan blades will eventually stop moving.

Hire an HVAC technician to replace your furnace's ball bearings as soon as you hear the tell-tale signs of damage to prevent more costly repairs in the future.

3. Heat Exchanger Replacement

The heat exchanger is an essential part of your furnace system. Without a structurally sound heat exchanger, your furnace cannot safely produce heated air for your home.

The heat exchanger is responsible for shielding toxic flue gases from entering the heated air supply that is distributed through your home. Flue gases can contain potentially deadly nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide. Cracked heat exchangers allow trace amounts of flue gases to escape into your home.

Rattling, popping, and banging noises can be heard when a furnace with a cracked heat exchanger cycles on. These sounds are caused by the expansion and contraction of the metal used to produce the heat exchanger.

Other signs that you need to replace your heat exchanger can include the emission of an odor that smells similar to formaldehyde in your home, a change in the color of your furnace's pilot light from blue to orange, and the detectable presence of carbon monoxide inside your home.

A cracked heat exchanger must be replaced by an experienced HVAC technician immediately to protect your family against the dangers of exposure to flue gases.

Take the time to become familiar with your furnace. When you are able to identify slight changes in sound, performance, or heat output, you are better able to invest in the repairs that your furnace will need to continue heating your home.

Whether you have to replace the blower fan belt, the ball bearings, or the heat exchanger, handling these repairs quickly can prevent additional damage from compromising the efficiency of your furnace in the future. Contact a company that offers heating repair services to learn more.