At this time we find ourselves relying on our heating systems to maintain an acceptable level of indoor comfort. Even though the full brunt of the winter months hasn’t yet arrived, it’s still a good time to watch out for potential furnace related problems. A regularly scheduled annual maintenance can help to avoid many of these issues, and there is still time to get your furnace looked at. A well maintained heating system will run better, be less likely to break down and more efficient to run. In this article, we will look at four common winter furnace problems and how they can be fixed.
- A Lack of Heating Performance
There are a number of reasons why this might occur, but the simplest to identify and fix is to check that the thermostat is turned on. This may seem strange, but some people forget to turn the thermostat on to a “heat” setting after the warmer weather has finished. To stay comfortable, the thermostat should be set at around 5º above the current room temperature, and many people call out an engineer without checking this first. Let’s look at some simple steps that you can take to troubleshoot your thermostat at home.
- Step 1: Make sure that the battery on the thermostat is working and remember to change them annually.
- Step 2: Carefully open up the thermostat casing and blow away any dirt, dust or debris that could be affecting the sensor or other systems.
- Step 3: If you have a smart or electronic thermostat, make sure that you double check that the date and time are correct.
- Step 4: If the thermostat isn’t working, check the breaker; if it’s on turn it off and check the furnace fuse.
- The Furnace Will Not Produce any Heat
There are a number of reasons why your furnace will not produce any heat at all. In the spirit of this article, we will look at a possible simple fix you can do yourself. Check that the thermostat is set on “heat” mode and confirm it’s working by rocking it gently a few degrees up and then down again. If the heating system is working correctly, the temperature should change as you adjust the temperature dial. If this doesn’t work there could be a problem with the circuit breaker or a fuse may have blown. Let’s take a look at a few steps that you can take to check your circuit breakers at home.
- Step 1: Locate the breaker panel for your home and check the circuit that is used to control the furnace.
- Step 2: Examine the breaker for the furnace circuit to see if it’s been thrown to the “off” position or if it’s set in the middle.
- Step 3: Test the breaker by manually flicking it back and forth.
- Step 4: If the breaker stays in the “on “ position it has been successfully reset.
If this has not fixed the problem there could be a wiring problem and some professional help from a qualified HVAC technician is necessary.
- The Furnace Cannot Produce Enough Heat
This is a very different problem compared to a furnace that will not work at all. In many cases, this issue can be fixed by checking and changing a clogged air filter. Let’s look at how you can do this yourself by following along with these simple steps.
- Step 1: Locate your air filter. It could be in the intake that looks like a grate in the wall, ceiling or floor. Some air filters may be located inside the furnace, and it’s a good idea to check your owner’s manual if you’re not sure.
- Step 2: Take a look at the air filter, hold it up to a light source and if no light can shine through it’s time to change it. Another sign that you may notice is a dirty or musty odor emanating from the vents when the blower is turned on.
- Step 3: Turn the gas furnace off and make sure that no air is coming out of the heating system. The check the direction of the filter points, a filter is designed to trap particles in a single direction. If you install the air filter the wrong way round, it will be nowhere near as effective.
Establishing a habit to replace your furnace air filter regularly is a great way to protect your HVAC system and improve your indoor air quality. A build up of dust and debris on the filter will cause the air handler to work harder than necessary to compensate. This can drive up your energy bills and reduce the airflow in the heating system. Eventually, the heat exchanger itself could be affected, it could overheat, and this can lead to a number of other problems, including the formation of cracks.
- A Dirty Flame Sensor
The flame sensor is a safety feature that will protect your home against any unsafe burning of natural gas. If the flame sensor is dirty, it will not work correctly, and gas will not be supplied to furnace for combustion to create heat. The flame sensor usually looks like a small rod, and it can be found towards the rear of the furnace in the path of the burner. Follow these simple steps to clean the flame sensor safely, and you can get the gas running again.
- Step 1: Go to the breaker box and turn off the power to the furnace.
- Step 2: If the flame sensor can be removed from the furnace remove it now to make the cleaning step easier. If it’s fixed in place, you will have to clean it where it is.
- Step 3: Carefully scrub the flame sensor to remove any dust and dirty carbon and oxidation residue that has built up over time.
- Step 4: Replace the sensor if you removed it for cleaning.
- Step 5: Restore power to the gas furnace.
These are some common gas furnace problems and some simple fixes to correct them. If you’re unsure of how to proceed or you have a problem that you cannot fix, it’s time to contact a professional HVAC engineer for expert assistance.