What to Do When Your Furnace Goes Out
Waking up to a chilly house is not pleasant. Making a plan to tackle your furnace outage in the wee hours of the morning before work can be more stressful than the discomfort of a cold bedroom. Fortunately, many outages have easy fixes that do not involve furnace repair. Something as simple as changing a thermostat setting could stand between you and a warm, cozy home. Here are some questions to ask yourself when furnace troubleshooting.
Is it on?
Checking the power switch for your furnace is the first place to start. Some furnaces are controlled by a switch on the unit while others are controlled by a box on the wall, which looks a lot like a light switch. Either may have been unintentionally bumped off during cleaning or the roughhousing of a child or pet. Wall switches are the greatest victim due to their similarity to light switches. If a switch is off, turn it back on and wait a couple minutes. There is often a delay between the switch and the furnace kicking on.
Is the thermostat on and set?
Like power switches, thermostats are susceptible to being bumped and reset. If you’ve had a recent power outage, it is likely that your thermostat has returned to its default setting. Make sure your thermostat is set to “heat” rather than “cool,” and that the temperature setting is significantly above the current temperature of the house (at least 5 degrees). The switch for the fan should be on as well. Thermostat programming is often a part of home furnace troubleshooting.
Have circuit breakers popped?
Parts of both oil and gas-fueled furnaces require electricity to operate. If your circuit breaker panel reveals a popped breaker, it could be the breaker for your furnace. Return the breaker to the “on” position. Your furnace may also have a circuit breaker on the unit that has popped and needs to be reset. If you’ve reset one or both of these breakers once and they pop a second time, do not reset them again. There is a reason that your circuit breakers are popping, and resetting them could cause damage to the system. It may be time for a furnace repair.
Is it receiving gas or propane?
The easiest way to check if your gas is out is by trying to turn on another gas-fueled appliance in your home, such as your stove. If both your furnace and your stove aren’t working, check your gas valve to make sure it is in the “on” position. The handle will be parallel to the pipe if it’s on, perpendicular if it’s off. If the gas valve is on and your furnace still won’t turn on, you may need to call your gas company. For propane-fueled furnaces, check the gauge on your tank. You may simply need a refill.
Is the blower motor panel shut?
Your furnace knows if its blower motor panel is open, and it will not run if this is the case. Make sure that the blower motor panel is pushed in all the way.
Is the air filter clogged?
Newer furnaces have a safety feature that will shut everything down if there is too much heat or pressure, to prevent overheating. Excessively dirty or clogged air filters cause trapped heat and air. Consult your owners manual to replace a dirty air filter.
Is it the condensate pan?
Your furnace has a condensate pan that should be draining or pumping out water if it is operating properly. Some models have drains, others have pumps. If you notice standing water in your condensate pan, check your furnace’s method of water movement. If a drain has built-up sludge or other accumulation, you can buy tablets at your local department store to clear it out. If the float switch to a pump is in the up position, your furnace will not run. You should be able to flip the float switch down. If the float switch will not stay down, you probably need a new pump.
Furnace troubleshooting can be as easy as flipping a switch. These questions can help you discover what’s between you and a heated home. If you’ve been at it for hours and your house is still icy, you may need furnace repair help from a local HVAC professional.