Why Your Heater Isn’t Working
It can be a frustrating experience walking into a cold home. And no matter how much fidgeting you do with the thermostat or banging on the furnace, it doesn’t seem to get any warmer.
Even if you’ve taken great care of your heating system, it can still fail, as any appliance does. Here are some of the most common reasons why your heater has failed and some solutions to prepare for next time.
Pilot Light Problems
First things first — is your pilot light on? For furnaces with a pilot light, make sure the light is burning and has a blue flame. If you have a newer furnace, you may just have a simple electric ignition. Either way, you should hear the system click on when the thermostat directs it to.
However, if your pilot light displays a yellow flame, it means something is wrong. The flame should always be blue, as a yellow flame means that too much air has gotten into the system, messing with the ratio of gas supplied. The yellow flame will create carbon monoxide, an odorless gas that is harmful and potentially fatal.
If you see a yellow flame, turn off your system and contact an HVAC technician immediately.
A Dirty Filter
It’s amazing how many problems can be caused by a dirty air filter. When the air filter is clogged with dust and debris, it restricts airflow and causes the furnace to work harder. This drives up your energy bills, reduces performance, and increases wear and tear on your unit.
Plus, when the filter is full of dust, those and other air particles need somewhere to go. They’ll either squeeze past and enter your indoor air or they’ll get stuck in your unit, causing damage.
When you’re facing an issue with your heater, the first thing you should do after checking the pilot light (if you have one) is check the filter.
Broken Mechanical Components
There may also be an issue with any of the components in your heater. These are more complicated to diagnose and fix, and require the help of a professional.
A common problem is a cracked heat exchanger, which comes from a lack of maintenance on your system. Dirt and dust begin to accumulate, coupled usually with a dirty filter, and reduce airflow. This causes the exchanger to overheat and break. It can be a dangerous problem, as gas and the combustion products that come along with it will be leaking. If you have a strange smell around your furnace, turn it off and call a professional.
Another common issue is a malfunctioning fan. First, make sure your thermostat is not set to “fan,” which will cause your system to run all the time. If the system turns on but you don’t feel any air, the fan may be broken or the air filter may be clogged.
Short cycling means your system turns on for a few minutes (or as short as 30 seconds), then turns off. Then turns back on, then turns off shortly after. This cycle just continues throughout the day.
It may be tough to discover at first, but listen to your system and see if it’s performing normally. This issue could stem from a few things, and it’s usually a dirty air filter. But it could also be an improperly-sized unit or a mechanical problem.
Lack of Maintenance
Overall, a lack of maintenance on your furnace will all but ensure that one of these or a host of other problems occurs – probably when you least expect it. The solution is to have your furnace tuned up every year by a qualified professional. This allows you to get ahead of any problems before they get worse and derail your whole system.