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Heater Not Working? Here’s How to Troubleshoot at Home

It’s your worst nightmare – on the coldest day of winter, your heater is not working. What do you do?

Don’t put up with a cold house. Before you curse the bill you’re in for with repair service, you may want to try and fix the problem yourself.

If you’re the type who likes to try your hand at fixing things before calling in the service men, we’ve got some tips for troubleshooting at home. Read on to learn what you can do during the year to prevent your heater from breaking down and the steps you should take if your heater is not working.

Maintenance to Prevent Your Heater From Not Working

While forced-air furnaces are reliable for the most part, it is possible that they can break down. When they do, you’re left with a cold house and a cold, unhappy family. You’ll want to get the problem fixed right away.

It’s important to keep heating systems in perfect condition for the cold winter months. To prevent your heater from not working in the future, a little motor maintenance prior to the cold winter season can go a long way.

When winter nears, vacuum out the area around the furnace’s blower. If you can, slide out the fan unit and clean the blades of the fan with a toothbrush. Use a brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner to vacuum it out.

Next to the motor shaft, see if there are oil ports on the motor. If so, add a couple drops of non-detergent motor oil into the ports. You may need to remove a cover plate to do so.

If your motor has oil ports, you should lubricate it once a year.

Heater Not Working? 7 Troubleshooting Tips:

Before calling in the professionals, try the following tips to get your heater working again:

1. Check that your thermostat is set to “heat.”

This may sound like a no-brainer, but more often than not the thermostat is the problem. Programmable thermostats can be confusing and complicated. It’s worth taking a look to see if your thermostat is set correctly before assuming the furnace is the problem.

It is also easy for the switch to accidentally get moved, most likely during cleaning. So, before you make any phone calls, take a minute to make sure everything is right with the thermostat.

The thermostat should be set to a temperature that will kick on the furnace. After it is set to the right temperative, give it a minute for the fan and heat to kick on. If it doesn’t come on, set the thermostat to 90-degrees Fahrenheit so it won’t turn on and off while you are trying to fix the problem.

If your thermostat doesn’t seem to be working, trace the wires back to the furnace to check for breaks. If you do find a wire break, splice it back together and wrap it with electrical tape. Maybe you need to replace the battery.

2. Change the filter.

Dirty and clogged filters are one of the primary causes of furnace problems and can cause high operating costs. The heat exchanger can overheat and shut off quickly when filters are clogged with dust and dirt. This also causes soot buildup on the heat exchanger, which makes your furnace run less efficiently.

The next step is to replace the filter if the blower is running but no heat is coming out. Use your owner’s manual to locate where the filter is and how to remove it.

You should change flat filters at least once a month and inspect pleated filters once a month. If you can’t see the light clearly through the filters, it’s time to replace them. Pleated filters are generally good for three months, but you may need to change them more frequently if you have pets or kids that aid in generating dust.

3. Make sure the gas is on.

Just like the thermostat, it’s easy for the gas valve to get turned off and forgotten about. To check this, trace the gas line from the furnace back to the meter. If there is a handle that is perpendicular to the gas pipe, turn it to make it parallel.

An older furnace or boiler likely has a pilot light. If yours has a pilot light, remove the front panel and the burner cover to check if it’s lit.

4. Clear the chimney exhaust flue.

The problem may be that you have birds or debris in the chimney exhaust flue.

To check this, turn the furnace off and the thermostat all the way down. Dismantle the duct and check for debris. Then reassemble the sections in the same order and direction you used to dismantle them.

5. Clean away leaves and debris from exhaust vents.

If your furnace vents out the side of the house, it’s possible that leaves or debris are blocking the intake or exhaust. If the pipes are covered with screen mesh, replace it with a half-inch mesh hardware cloth.

You may have a bigger problem if ice is clogging one of the pipes. Clear off the ice, give us a call and we’ll help you figure out why that is happening.

6. Flush out the drain lines.

During the heating season, your furnace can drain off several gallons of water a day. The furnace will quit working if the drain lines become filled with sediment or mold growth.

If you see that the drain hose is dirty, remove it and fill it with a mixture of bleach and water. After letting it sit for several minutes, flush it out.

7. Check for blocked ducts restricting airflow.

If only one or two rooms are cold and your furnace is coming on and working in other rooms, check the ductwork that you can access and look for any gaps between the sections or branching points.

Seal any gaps with metal duct tape. Make sure not to use standard cloth duct tape as it may cause ducts to leak.

There are plenty of things you can do when your heater is not working to try and fix the problem yourself. But when you’re cold and nothing seems to be working, don’t hesitate to call us at Van Valer Inc.

Prepare for winter now by taking advantage of our heating furnace clean and safety check special!

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