3 Easy Things You Can Do
If Your Central Heating Stops Working
3 easy checks you can do before calling an engineer to look at your central heating
Central heating, sometimes referred to as a forced air furnace, is such a nice convenience that distributes heat throughout the entire house, usually using ducts within home heating systems. It is designed to run so efficiently that you probably won’t even think about it much until something goes wrong, and your heat is not working properly.
As you shiver inside your home, before you put on your coat and gloves to prepare to call for an expensive repairman, first follow our helpful tips of three easy things you can do if your central heating stops working along with easy checks to perform before calling an engineer to look at your central heating.
Check the thermostat
The thermostat controls the furnace
Regardless of whether it is a gas or an electric furnace, the thermostat, which is most likely located on a main wall somewhere near the center of the home, is what tells the furnace to turn on in central heating systems.
Sometimes, the entire root of the problem rests within the thermostat. Some thermostat controls are designed to make your life easier, but it is often these controls that are the most complicated.
Troubleshooting the root of the problem starts with the thermostat
To troubleshoot whether or not it is the thermostat causing the problem, first check that the switch is, in fact, set to heat and has not somehow been changed to cool or fan. Open the thermostat control panel and carefully blow out any dust that may have accumulated inside. Check the temperature setting as well. Compare the setting with the actual temperature in the room. Now, set the temperature on the thermostat five degrees higher than the actual room temperature and see if the furnace kicks on.
If your thermostat is programmable or contains a battery, replace your battery, and look to make sure the proper date and time are displayed and that it is displaying morning, a.m., or afternoon, p.m. as well.
You can typically bypass the thermostat program settings by holding down on the temperature control up and down buttons. If the programming features are the problem, the furnace should kick on when the settings are bypassed in this way.
Likewise, if the problem is that the furnace is heating up the whole house and not turning off, make sure the thermostat is set to Auto, which should automatically shut off when the room heats to the desired temperature, and not set to On, which will cause it to continuously blow hot air. If it is set properly but won’t turn off, there may be a problem with the wiring, or the furnace blower is malfunctioning.
Check the wires
Now, begin to trace the wires from the thermostat to the furnace checking for breaks along the way. If you do find a break, you can often repair this with electrical tape. Sometimes the fix is to replace the actual thermostat.
Is your central heating turned on?
The problem is often that the central heating unit has been turned off
Don’t shrug at the idea assuming you are quite confident that the unit is turned on. Many repairs of items that run on electricity aren’t really broken at all, but rather simply not turned on.
This can happen in central heating systems if you have had an electrical power surge for one reason or another or if it has been somehow turned off for a construction remodelling project or for some other unexplained reason.
Before you do anything else, look to see if the wall switch near the furnace is on or off. Next, check the circuit breaker or fuse box that leads to the furnace. Now, make sure that the front panel cover on the blower motor is secure.
In order for the furnace to function properly, a switch located under the panel must be pushed in.
Is the gas on?
If you are working with a gas central heating system, make sure the gas is on.
If you have a pilot light in your furnace, take the front panel and the burner cover off to check to make sure the pilot is lit.
To make sure the gas is on, trace the gas line back from the furnace to the meter. If the gas is on at the meter, the handle should be parallel to the gas pipe and not perpendicular. If your pilot light is not lit but the gas is on, relight it according to your manual. If the light won’t stay lit, you may need to clean or replace the sensor.
Resetting the boiler
If your central heating radiators and your water boiler is also not working and has a reset feature, you may need to reset your boiler according to the instructions in your specific furnace’s manual.
Ideally, the gauge should be between 1 to 2 bars. Check your boiler’s pressure gauge. If it is reading one bar or less, you may not have enough pressure for your boiler to work. You can top off the pressure, or you may need to reset your boiler.
Change the filter
The filter may be clogged
This next step may be even more humbling than the first suggestion, but provided the furnace is actually turned on and the thermostat seems to be working well, but the furnace still isn’t working properly, the problem may be as easy as a dirty filter needing to be changed.
If your blower is running, but no heat is blowing out, it’s time to replace the filter.
Dust and dirt build up and begin to restrict the airflow over time. When the filter becomes clogged in this manner, the heat exchange may overheat and begin to shut off too soon, leaving your house a bit chilled instead of warmed to the temperature you had set the thermostat to and expected the house to heat up to.
If this is the culprit to lack of heat, be thankful that you discovered it now rather than later as a dirty filter can also cause soot to accumulate on the heat exchange which will reduce the furnace efficiency and ultimately shorten the life of the unit. As part of furnace maintenance and upkeep, filters should be changed once a month.
Is there airflow and proper venting?
Make sure your ducts and exhaust flue are clear. If your furnace is kicking on, but not every room is heating up as expected, make sure the registers in the rooms are open and air is able to flow freely.
Next, take a look at the duct work that leads to these rooms to make sure there are no breaks or cracks. If you find a crack, seal it with a metal tape and try to avoid using the standard duct tape that tends to break down and cause more problems over time. Also, make sure the exhaust flue is clear. It’s very common for birds to make nests inside, blocking the vent.
If your furnace is a heat pump or vents outside of your home, clean out any leaves or grass buildup from the intake or exhaust vent.
When it’s a bigger issue it’s time to call in an expert
Know when to call an expert for central heating help
While many central heating problems are an easy, inexpensive fix you can do yourself, sometimes there is a bigger issue with home heating systems that will require a new system be installed.
For instance, if you are smelling gas or a burnt smell when the furnace is running, turn it off immediately. The smell could be the result of debris or dust inside the duct work, or it could mean that it’s time to call in an expert to replace the entire unit.