Is Your Furnace Not Working Properly? You’re Not Alone!
Is your furnace not working properly? When winter’s chill hits your home, a reliable gas furnace serves as the uncelebrated champion of a household, silently ensuring comfort and warmth. But what happens when your sentinel of warmth falls silent? If you’re asking yourself, “Why is my furnace not turning on?”, you’re not alone.
This article will guide you through this annoyance with a few common furnace troubleshooting tips provided by our Atlanta HVAC pros. We’ll give you steps to fix a heating system that’s not working by addressing furnace problems and solutions, including DIY furnace repair tips and a brief furnace maintenance checklist. So buckle up and get ready to become a furnace troubleshooting expert.
Understanding Your Electric or Gas Furnace
Before we dive into the furnace troubleshooting tips, let’s take a quick look at how an electric or gas furnace works. Understanding the basics of your heating system will help you better diagnose and quickly fix any heating issues that may arise.
A gas furnace uses natural gas or propane as fuel to produce heat. When the thermostat senses a drop in temperature, it signals the furnace to turn on and ignite the gas burner. The heat produced is then distributed through ductwork to different areas of your home by a blower fan. Once the desired temperature is reached, the furnace shuts off until it’s needed again.
The furnace, a cornerstone of home comfort, may seem complex, but its problems often boil down to a few common issues. Whether it’s an unresponsive thermostat or a furnace problem you can’t quite pinpoint, understanding the basics of your heating system can empower you to take the first steps toward a solution.
7 DIY Furnace Troubleshooting Tips To Restore Your Heating System
If your furnace is not working, don’t immediately assume you need a professional HVAC technician. While some issues may require the help of an expert, there are some troubleshooting tips you can try first. Here are seven common furnace problems and solutions to help you get your heating system up and running again at lightning speed.
1. Check Your Thermostat
The first step in furnace troubleshooting is to check your thermostat. Make sure it’s set to heat and the temperature is higher than the current room temperature. If you have a programmable thermostat, also double-check that the schedule is set correctly.
If your thermostat has batteries, replace them if they are low or dead. This may come as a surprise but double check to make sure that you even have batteries in there in the first place!
A malfunctioning thermostat can cause your furnace not to turn on or off correctly, so it’s always a good idea to start here.
2. Check Your Air Filter or Furnace Filter
Checking the furnace’s air filter—also known as the furnace filter— is one of the easiest fixes that could restore warm airflow if your furnace is blowing cold air. This essential component is easily overlooked. When filters accumulate dust, pet hair, and particles over time, it restricts critical airflow through the HVAC system.
Left unchanged for months, excessively dirty furnace filters place strain on internal components and cause any number of symptoms like:
- Furnace failure to turn on
- Intermittent operation
- Loud noises like banging or even whistling
- Complete shutdowns from overheating
Replacing a dirty, clogged air filter every 3 months takes just about 5 minutes and ensures essential, unobstructed airflow and efficient performance. During winter months when your heating system works overtime, be vigilant about changing furnace filters per manufacturer recommendations. Monthly inspections help spot restricted airflow issues faster before lack of warm air leaves you calling for unexpected furnace repairs.
3. Inspect The Power Supply and Emergency Shut Off Reset Button
A furnace without power is like a car without gas. Check for any tripped breakers, blown fuses, or find out if the furnace power switch was accidentally turned off. Additionally, check if your furnace system has a small red emergency reset button on its exterior panel. Accidental bumps can trigger this safety shut-off unexpectedly.
If the reset button appears popped out, press it in firmly until you hear a solid click. Give your furnace 1-2 minutes to reboot before testing if the heat was restored. Repeatedly resetting this button without addressing the root cause risks furnace damage. If electrical issues reoccur, call a local certified HVAC technician to avoid hazards from improper DIY repairs.
4. Relight Your Pilot Light
Older natural gas furnace systems rely on a small pilot light that must stay lit to trigger the release of gas for heating when needed. Over time, this pilot light can blow out or weaken due to cracks in the thermocouple lines that keep the flame steady.
If your furnace fails to ignite or produces no heat, it’s smart to check to see if the pilot light is still illuminated. Natural wind gusts, small animals, or other issues can also fully extinguish your furnace pilot light.
Relighting a pilot that has gone out takes a few quick steps:
- Locate the pilot assembly panel, remove any covers
- Rotate the gas valve knob to “Pilot”
- Repeatedly press and hold the igniter button while laying flame near the pilot
- Continue holding the igniter for 10-15 seconds after it is lit to heat the thermocouple
- Rotate the gas valve knob to “On”
Avoid attempting to relight the pilot light more than a few brief times in a row, as accumulating gas can pose an explosion risk. Inconsistent pilot issues may need professional HVAC repairs.
5. Test Your Furnace’s Blower Fan
Insufficient air circulation from a furnace’s blower fan not operating can also prevent adequate heat. The fan and its motor can seize up over years of build-up or suffer electrical shorts.
Warning signs of blower fan failure include:
- The furnace runs but airflow cuts on/off
- Burning smells from overheating
- High-pitched squeaking or grinding
First, check your furnace blower compartment for debris blocking the fan’s rotation. Then try giving the fan blades a gentle spin-test by hand to check for stiffness impeding motion.
If the blades move freely, test fan operation by setting your thermostat fan control to “On” for continuous mode. If the blower still fails to start or run reliably, shut down your furnace and call for a professional heating and air conditioning contractor for blower motor repairs before resuming use to prevent fire risks.
6. Make Sure You Don’t Have Blocked Exhaust Vents
A furnace that fails to ignite or produce heat may have an obstruction around the exterior exhaust vents blocking the safe passage of emitted gases. If combustion byproducts cannot adequately evacuate from your furnace, dangerous carbon monoxide can backflow into your home.
Take a look outside at the exhaust vent pipes protruding from external walls. Nearby leaning ladders, piled up leaves, snow piles, and even branches are common culprits obstructing outward fumes flow.
Carefully clear debris at least one foot around exhaust vents for unimpeded outward ventilation. Also, check intake vents for any blockage. With proper airflow restored, you may prevent costly repairs for furnace problems and restore normal system functionality once any accumulated gases fully dissipate. Take proper safety precautions and call in an HVAC technician if ventilation issues quickly reoccur after your DIY troubleshooting attempts.
7. Inspect Ductwork and Vents
Another reason that your furnace may not be working properly could be due to faulty ductwork or vents. If your furnace fails to heat properly after trying other troubleshooting tips, inspect the ductwork and vents distributing air throughout your home.
Cracked ducts or disconnected vents prevent heated airflow from reaching all intended rooms. Use caulking, tape, or mastic to seal minor duct leaks. Realign separated vent/duct joints for secure fits. Ensure that you insulate any exposed runs that are susceptible to conduction losses. Restoring ductwork integrity lets previously lost warm air start circulating again to hopefully get that furnace working effectively once more.
When to Call An HVAC Professional
Attempting all DIY troubleshooting tips without success means your furnace requires qualified assessments and repairs before safely running again. Call an HVAC technician right away if your system emits burning smells, leaks water/oil, short cycles on and off, flashes error codes, is over 15 years old, or suffers ignition failures.
While basic heating system tune-ups and furnace maintenance fixes help cut costs, attempting complex repairs on a furnace not working risks safety issues, equipment damage, and voided warranties. Work with a certified local heating and air conditioning pro to correctly diagnose and fix your furnace problem via high-tech analysis, providing written estimates first before any furnace replacement or repair services.
If you are located in Decatur, McDonough, or the Greater Atlanta area and need furnace repair and maintenance, My Aire Heating and Cooling has got you covered. Contact us today at (770) 818-6096 for exceptional service that puts your warmth and safety first.
As a leading HVAC company in the Metro and South Metro Atlanta area, the team at My Aire Heating and Cooling is thrilled to be sharing our expertise and knowledge through our company HVAC blog. Our team of experienced NATE-Certified HVAC technicians is committed to providing top-notch heating and cooling services to our customers. We believe in the importance of educating people on how to properly troubleshoot and maintain their HVAC systems to ensure they are running efficiently and effectively. Our goal is to help our customers achieve optimal indoor comfort all year round.