Furnace failures after flurries fall: 'The systems just work too hard'

      EUGENE, Ore. -- Betty Else's furnace has been broken since Monday.

      "I looked at the thermostat and it was 63 degrees. That's pretty cold for me. I'm an older person and you know, you get really cold," Else explains.

      Else lives alone and says she's been homebound since falling this summer. When she heard her heating system making strange noises, she knew she had to act fast. While she only had to wait a few days for repairs, many Lane County residents are being forced to wait much longer.

      Associated Heating has been swamped with calls, says repairman Kevin Kelly.

      The majority of furnace issues he's seen have to do with frozen drain lines or backup heating systems failing.

      He says people can take preventative steps to decrease the likelihood of furnace issues, like annual inspections.

      Further, he suggests homeowners change filters and check thermostat batteries regularly.

      "Turning the thermostat down at night or when you go to work is normal during normal Eugene weather. But we don't want to do that when we're in these bad cold snaps. The systems just work too hard," Kelly says.

      While utility bills may be more expensive, Kelly tells customers to keep their homes at a consistent temperature.

      The annual inspection is also important to ensure the heating system is not putting people at risk. Particularly during winter months when windows and doors stay shut.

      "If you did have a failed heat exchanger and your furnace was not burning properly, there's a chance for infiltration for those flue gases to now share the air that's inside your home," Kelly warns.

      While modern furnaces rarely lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, incidents do occur.