Managing Your HVAC System

Know What To Do When Your Heater Breaks

If your heater fails during the summer, you are unlikely to notice until you try to turn it on during the fall. When that first fall cold snap happens and the heater fails to come on, you still have time to deal with it before it becomes a serious issue. On the other hand, when the heater fails in the middle of a cold snap, you need to ensure that you have everything on hand to deal without heat for awhile. Hopefully, you can get everything back up and running in a few hours, but it is possible that you will need to survive without heat for a couple days. If this happens, take these steps to ensure that you are properly prepared to beat the cold.

Check the Easy Things

Sometimes the heater isn't really the problem, and if so, you may be calling a tech for nothing. Before you make that appointment, take a few minutes and walk through each stage of the system to ensure that this isn't something you can resolve yourself. Things like the power being out are pretty obvious to spot, but you should also check your breaker to ensure that the furnace circuit is on. If not-- flip it and see what happens. While a furnace that regularly trips the breaker is cause for concern, an occasional issue is normal, and at the very least you might get a little heat out of the system before it trips again.

Other areas to check are your furnace filter, since a dirty filter can force a fan to work so hard it shuts down, and the thermostat. While it might sound counter-intuitive to try turning on the air conditioning in the middle of the winter, this will tell you if your furnace is truly dead, or if the thermostat is simply not telling it to turn on. If you can't get your air to come on either, chances are that the thermostat is to blame. Most homeowners can handle this themselves, but if you are uncomfortable working on electrical components, have a furnace repair person out to take care of the installation for you. Finally, have a peak at the pilot light to make sure it is on. Be very careful relighting the flame, and follow all the safety directions as written. Incorrectly lighting a pilot light could cause a gas explosion.

Stay Safe

There are several safety issues involved with a broken heater. First and foremost, is that you shouldn't work on the furnace itself. There are quite a few electrical components involved, an open flame, and often, natural gas. Making a mistake with any of these components could spell major disaster if not handled correctly, so save yourself the trouble and hire a professional.

Missing heat during the winter has an additional problem-- everyone in the house must stay warm. Space heaters are okay in moderation, but not all are safe to use indoors, and very few of those are large enough to warm more than a few square feet. If the heat is going to be out for a few days, try to find somewhere warm to stay in the meantime. Crashing on someone's couch may not be comfortable, but it is certainly better than hypothermia. This is especially true if there are children, pets or elderly residents involved.

Having a heater break down is not a pleasant way to wake up in the morning, but it will happen someday. If today is the day, make smart use of this information to ensure you and your family remain safe while getting the heat back on as soon as possible.