4 Questions To Ask Before You Call For Heater Repair

When the temperatures fall and chilly nights set in, the last thing you want is a heater that won’t turn on, or won’t stay on. But, before you pick up the phone to call for a repair, there are a few important questions to ask. There’s a good chance you can solve your heating problem without paying for a repair visit.

1.      Is the power on?

High winds, thunderstorms, and other environmental factors can cause a power surge that ends up tripping your circuits and shutting off your heater. Even when the power comes back to the rest of the house, your heater may remain powered off. Check your home’s breaker panel and look for the circuit that controls the heater. If it’s turned OFF, flip the switch back to ON. With power restored, your heater should go back to working as usual.

2.      Is the thermostat working?

Before you call to have your heater looked at, make sure your thermostat isn’t the problem. If your thermostat isn’t reading the temperature of the room correctly, it may not be sending the right signals to your heater. This can lead to endless power cycling, the heater never turning on, or rooms that fail to reach the temperature you set.

Check the settings

It may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how often a professional gets called out to fix a heater when the only problem was that it was turned off, or turned to the wrong setting. Double check that your thermostat is on the correct setting. If it’s set to COOL or OFF, it stands to reason that you won’t be getting any warm air.

Replace the batteries

If your thermostat isn’t responding, the solution may be as simple as replacing the batteries. Some thermostats are wired to a home’s electrical system, but many use batteries. Battery-powered thermostats typically display a low battery warning at least a month before the battery goes dead completely, but this can be easily overlooked.

To locate the batteries in your thermostat, take off its cover. The back panel of the cover should tell you where the batteries are located, and give you instructions for replacing them. If not, consult your thermostat’s manual.

Clean the thermostat

If your home is older, you might have a mechanical thermostat as opposed to a newer digital one. Mechanical thermostats use a lever to adjust the temperature setting by hand, rather than by setting the input on a digital screen. They’re also prone to malfunctioning when they get too dusty. To fix this, clean the thermostat by removing the cover and carefully dusting inside with a small brush.

3.      Are the filters dirty?

Dirty filters physically block warm air from entering your home. This means that your heater may be doing its job, but if your filters are dirty, the warm air won’t make it past the vents. All you have to do is replace your filters to restore the flow of warm air.  

How often should you replace your filters? The answer depends on where your home is, who lives there, and if you have any pets. A home with three dogs in an urban area is going to need its filters changed more often than a home with no pets in a rural area. Use the following as general guidelines for filter replacement:

  • Vacation or seasonal home: every 6 months
  • Home without pets: every 90 days
  • Home with pets: every 60 days
  • Home where one or more people have allergies: every 30 days
  • Home in an area with bad air pollution: every 30 days

One quick way to judge if your filters are dirty is to shine a flashlight at them. If no light shines through, it’s time to change the filter.

4.      Is the pilot light on?

Many modern furnaces are powered by electronic ignition, but older homes likely still have furnaces with standing pilot flames, otherwise known as pilot lights. When the thermostat sends the signal, the pilot light ignites the gas, which in turn heats the air in the combustion chamber. If the pilot light fails, this process doesn’t happen, and the furnace fails to turn on.

It’s possible to relight the pilot on your own. However, if you feel uncomfortable doing so, don’t hesitate to call a professional. For safety reasons, we recommend that you use either a long fireplace match or an 11-inch gas lighter to re-light the pilot, rather than a standard match or handheld lighter.

  1. Turn your thermostat to a temperature that will demand heat—for example, 80 degrees.
  2. Locate the pilot valve on the furnace. This is a box-shaped device typically located near the gas burners. It will have a knob with options along the lines of ON, PILOT, and OFF.
  3. Turn the knob to the OFF position. Then, wait 3-5 minutes for residual gas to clear.
  4. Turn the knob to PILOT and prepare to light the pilot.
  5. Place the tip of your lighter at the pilot, while simultaneously depressing the knob to maintain gas flow.
  6. Once the pilot stays lit, slowly withdraw your lighter and release the knob. Then, turn the knob from PILOT to ON. This will ignite the burners.

If the burners fail to ignite, repeat the above steps.

Weak or irregular flame

The pilot light’s flame should be bright blue, with a faint tinge of yellow towards the tip. If the furnace uses propane, this flame should be bluish-green. If the flame is entirely yellow, or appears to be split into two, a dirty pilot tube tip is likely to blame. You can clean the tube using a needle or small nail to remove any debris.

If the flame flickers or waves, there may be a draft in the room. Look for common sources of drafts, such as plumbing vents, recessed lights, electrical outlets, and openings around windows or doors. Also, ensure that the cover on the furnace’s combustion chamber is fitted correctly with no gaps.

If the pilot light remains weak or irregular, a full replacement may be in order. The good news is, replacing a pilot light takes less time (and less money) than replacing the entire furnace.

Heat still out? Let us help

If the tips in this article don’t work, and you’re still left with a broken heater, the problem may be too big for you to solve on your own. Fortunately, our HVAC experts are always available to inspect, repair, and even replace your heater if necessary. From repairing the ignition to replacing the blower, there’s no problem too big or too small for us to handle. So, if heating problems are leaving you out in the cold, contact Chas Roberts today.