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Furnace Troubleshooting 101 - 5 Easy Things to Check Before you Call the Pros

Raymond Linklater March 05, 2019

So, you’ve decided to be proactive this season and test your furnace before it starts to get really cold? That’s a smart move, as we talked about in our previous article about testing your furnace now that the weather is starting to cool off. But what do you do when you flip the switch and turn up the heat, only to have your furnace fail to react the way you expected?

Well, before you rush to the phone, there are a few simple troubleshooting tips that you can try that may help you correct the problem and get the heat flowing again. These tips are easy to follow, so don’t be afraid to give these a shot before you call your trusted HVAC pro to come and give everything a thorough inspection.

1 - Check the Furnace Switch

Now, this may seem like a pretty obvious one, but you’d be amazed at how easy it is to forget about the fact that your furnace has a switch, usually found near the power outlet that it is plugged in to, that will switch the power on and off. The reason it gets forgotten most of the time is simply because people almost never need to use it.

It’s possible that someone had flipped the switch accidentally at some point and just forgotten about it, so this should be your first check if you go to turn on your furnace and nothing happens. As far as simple fixes go, this is as easy as it gets.

2 - Check the Electrical Breaker

Once you’ve checked to ensure that the switch near the furnace is flipped on, and if your furnace still is not doing anything, your next stop should be the electrical panel for your house, which is usually found in the garage or in the basement. Locate the breaker that indicates that it’s for your furnace, and check to see if it’s been tripped. If so, flip it all the way to the ‘off’ position to reset the breaker, then switch it back on.

If the breaker trips again, you may have a faulty breaker that needs to be replaced. If this is the case, your certified HVAC pro or licensed electrician can help you determine the exact cause and provide a replacement breaker.

3 - Check the Filter

If you’ve verified that power is flowing properly to the furnace and you’re still experiencing problems, either with low air movement or no movement of air at all, your furnace filter may be the culprit. Clogged or overloaded filters restrict the flow of air through your furnace and can trip some of the safety measures that are incorporated in to the control systems of your furnace.

If your furnace turns on briefly and then shuts off almost immediately, it’s possible that the lack of airflow causing the safety measures to activate is due to a clogged filter. Remove the filter and inspect it. If the filter is dirty or loaded with dust and other contaminants, it’s time for a replacement. As a rule of thumb, furnace filters should be changed out about every three months. If you can’t remember the last time it was changed, then your furnace is most likely overdue for a new, clean filter.

Check out our guide to finding the right furnace filter for more helpful tips and advice.

4 - Check the Thermostat Batteries

Modern thermostats offer much more control than the basic dial thermostats of the past, and this means that they often require additional batteries to power their many functions and programs. If your furnace is behaving erratically, such as not staying at the set temperature or following one of the programs, it’s possible that the batteries in your thermostat may be low in power and need replacement.

Most batteries in thermostats are common sizes, such as AA or AAA, and are easy to replace. Simply pop the battery cover off, remove the old batteries and install the new ones. Depending on the model or style of your thermostat, the removal of batteries may reset your programs. After you’ve replaced the batteries, take a moment to check to see if it saved your previous settings or if you need to reprogram it.

5 - Check the Vents

Another thing to look for if your furnace is not acting as it should is any clogs or obstructions in the furnace vents that lead to the exterior of your home. These vents are a safety measure to prevent the build-up of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide in your home, and if there is a blockage in the vent there are safety settings in your furnace that will recognize this and shut the unit off as a precaution.

Inspect the vents and remove any clogs or blockage that may be present, such as animal nests, snow, leaves, or other obstructions. Once these have been removed from the vents, check to see if your furnace has been restored back to normal operation.

The Best Way to Troubleshoot

If you’ve tried all these tips and you’re still not having any luck with your furnace, the time has come to pick up the phone and call your trusted HVAC professional. Although these simple fixes have proven to be quite helpful for many people, there are limits to what you can fix yourself when it comes to your HVAC systems and equipment.

An expert home comfort technician will have the extensive training and experience needed to pinpoint the problems with your heating and cooling systems and recommend the best course of action to solve them.

If you’re having troubles with your furnace or any other part of your heating and cooling equipment, contact the team here at Gaslink today and we’ll be glad to assist. Our HVAC experts have the knowledge and expertise you need to get the right answers for your questions and get your home comfortable again.

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