Struggling through the winter months with a heating system that’s not working as intended is no fun. When a heating problem occurs, most people call their local heating and cooling specialist for expert help and advice. This is a good idea in most cases, but there are times when you can identify and fix the issue with no special skills or tools. If you can deal with a minor heater repair yourself, you can avoid heating downtime and a repair bill. In this article, we will take a look at four common furnace repair problems in more detail.
Is the Heater the Cause?
In many cases, people have a perception that their heating system is the cause of the problem when in actuality there is another problem to identify and fix. Two classic examples are a malfunctioning thermostat and a lack of power to the system. A simple check of the battery in the thermostat or the circuit breaker to find a flipped breaker can be quick fixes that require no professional assistance. If the thermostat is an aging model, it may be time to consider an upgrade to a more controllable and reliable unit. If the breaker flips on a regular basis, it’s time to contact a professional to find the root cause of the problem.
4 Furnace Repair Problems Explained
1. The Heater Provides Insufficient Heat
If you place your hand up to the heater vent, does it feel too cold? Perhaps there is a lack of airflow? These two problems are usually connected, and the root cause lies in the air filter. Every day, the air circulates through the HVAC air filters multiple times. As the air is circulated, it picks up airborne particulates and other contaminants such as skin cells (dust), pet hair, and more. These pollutants are captured by the air filter, and as you might imagine, they accumulate as time passes. Eventually, the surface of the filter membrane will become clogged with material, and the air cannot flow through the filter.
A lack of airflow is a real problem for performance, reliability, and energy efficiency. The HVAC system needs a steady supply of air to deliver the treated air throughout the home. When the airflow is diminished and interrupted, the system is forced to work harder in an attempt to compensate for the lack of performance. This drives up the energy bill with no appreciable improvement in performance which can be a significant waste of money. But, there is another problem, when key components are overworked, they become prone to damage, and early failure is a very real possibility. These parts may need frequent repairs and replacements, and this can be expensive.
These problems all sound terrible, and they have significant repercussions for the entire HVAC system. But, they are very easy to solve with no professional intervention, and it only takes a few minutes each month to prevent them entirely. Checking the air filter is simple. The filter housing will be different depending on the exact make and model. The full instructions on the air filter location and model number are detailed in the owner’s manual for your system. Take a look at the air filter; if it looks dirty, replace it with a fresh filter or clean it if you have a model that can be washed. If you are washing the filter clean, it must be fully dry before you place it back in the filter housing. The filter should be checked, changed, or cleaned once per month or more often if you have pets in your home. It’s always a good idea to have a spare filter on hand, and there are significant savings if you buy in bulk.
2. The Furnace Door Safety Switch
The furnace door has a built-in safety switch to prevent the burner and fan from operating if the access panel has been removed. The door must be replaced to engage the pop out safety switch, or the furnace cannot operate. Solving this issue could be as simple as placing the furnace door back in the correct position. But, if the safety switch has been damaged, it’s pretty easy to install a new one. To start, shut off the power, then prepare the blower door, wire in the new safety switch, and finally check and test the installation to ensure that the furnace is working. If this sounds too complex, contact your local heating and cooling specialist. They can fix the safety switch and perform some routing furnace maintenance while they’re there.
3. Clutter Around the Furnace
The furnace can seem like a magnet for a wide variety of boxes, clutter, garden furniture, and other possessions. This debris can impede the efficient operation of the furnace, limit access for routine maintenance and repairs and clog the filter quickly. When there are a lot of items stored in the furnace location, there is an increased risk of fire. This is especially true if you have flammable items, such as paint, varnishes, oil cans, stored fuel, clothing, rags, and more, in the immediate vicinity. If the heat exchanger is cracked, flames can be emitted from the furnace, which can ignite these items and cause a house fire. Cluttered areas also create more dust and debris that finds its way into the air filter leading to the problems we covered earlier. To avoid these problems, keep the furnace area clear, vacuum regularly, and store flammable items in a different area.
4. Dirty Gas Burners
The pilot flame should be blue, and if it’s yellow, this may indicate incomplete combustion, and toxic carbon monoxide gas may be a serious problem. Carbon monoxide is poisonous to inhale, and a detector should be installed 5-20 feet from the furnace and on each floor of your home to stay safe. But, it may be possible to fix the immediate problem by turning off the power and gas and cleaning the burners. A vacuum can remove many contaminants, or you may want to remove the burner assembly to clean or replace it entirely.
If you’re experiencing heating system problems, contact your local HVAC specialist for expert help and advice.