Checking Your Heating System Before Calling for Service

During the cold winter months, the last thing you need is for your furnace to break down.

However, things don’t always go as planned. These types of contingencies do occasionally surface. It’s good to have a little basic knowledge of your home heating system in case of emergency.

If your furnace does happen to shut down or stop working properly, there are a few things you can do on your own before having to call in the heating and cooling experts.

Do It Yourself

Some furnace problems begin at the thermostat level, so start by checking your thermostat. As you are probably aware, the thermostat controls the level of heat your furnace distributes throughout your home. As simple as it may sound, make sure your thermostat is on the “heat” setting. This is sometimes a small detail overlooked. If the temperature on the thermostat is not set higher than the current room temperature, make this adjustment and see if the furnace kicks on. Also check the emergency switch to make sure it is on.

Next, go to your fuse box or circuit breaker panel to check for any blown fuses or tripped circuit breakers. It doesn’t take an HVAC expert to tell if a fuse is bad or if a circuit breaker has been tripped:

• If you still have glass fuses, one that is blown will have a gray, smoky look or will contain a little metal strip or wire inside the glass that is burned out.
• If you have a circuit breaker and the little switch or handle is between the “on” and “off” position, turn it off and then back on again.

However, it just may take an expert to find out why your circuits became overloaded. Unless it’s something obvious, if you don’t have the expertise, call an electrician.

Next, check the gas. If you have a standing pilot furnace, the pilot may have blown out, causing the burner not to light. To solve the problem, relight the pilot light. If you have an electric ignition furnace, follow the instructions on the furnace to relight the burner.

If this isn’t the problem, check the ends of the pipes. Any blockage will keep your furnace from working. Also check for wear and tear and rips or dirt in the pipes, as they may need to be replaced. Be careful not to disconnect any pipes leading to the gas supply. If you do, this could cause a dangerous gas leak.

This is more of a maintenance tip, but remember to periodically change the air filter. Make sure you maintain a schedule of when to change the air filter in order to help keep your furnace clean and running properly. Disposable air filters should be changed relatively often. Check them about once a month to make sure they’re not accumulating too much dirt. Metal air filters can be washed and reused.

If none of these actions get the furnace up and running, try resetting it. Hitting the reset button may fix any problems you didn’t catch before. Don’t try to do more than you’re capable of. If you feel uncomfortable with any of these actions, don’t try them. If resetting the furnace doesn’t work and all else fails, then it’s time to call someone who specializes in furnace installations and repairs.


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