Sometimes, cold weather sneaks upon you before you’ve had a chance to schedule annual maintenance for your furnace. If that’s the case, you may end up waiting a week or more for a technician as they tend to other more urgent matters, like buildings without any heat at all.
Go ahead and make that call now, but in the meantime, follow these tips for coping with common furnace problems until the technician can pencil you in.
Warm Air that goes nowhere
If you feel warm air coming from the vents, but the furnace doesn’t seem to be forcing the air out of ducts, you may have a faulty furnace fan or motor assembly. This problem is relatively easy to fix.
Cut power to your furnace, and then examine the motor and fan. If the fan is damaged, you can buy replacement fan blades for less than $40 (and usually for considerably less than that). If the motor is dirty or the oil ports are empty, the motor may stop working. Clean the motor and add oil to see if that resolves the problem. If it doesn’t, you may need to replace the motor or the blower wheel.
When the furnace doesn’t kick on, always look for the simplest explanation first, which usually begins with checking your breaker box. Certain components of your heating and air conditioning system may derive power from separate breakers. Find the breakers that correspond to your furnace, turn them off for a few minutes, and then turn them on again. If that doesn’t do the trick, check your thermostat.
A digital thermostat that shows no readout – or flashing numbers – is likely not sending any information to your furnace. Cut the power to the thermostat and remove it from the wall. Check the wires to make sure they’re attached and in good condition. Detach the red and white wires from the thermostat, bind them together, and restore power to the thermostat. If the furnace works after you’ve twisted the wires together, your thermostat is bad and needs to be replaced.
Check the Pilot Light
A strong draft can blow out the pilot light in a gas furnace, but you can reignite the pilot light yourself with either fireplace matches or a grill lighter. Your furnace should have instructions near the pilot light about how to reset it; usually it’s just a matter of hitting the reset switch and waiting a few minutes before lighting it.
Don’t tamper with gas lines or start disassembling electrical systems; leave more advanced troubleshooting to the professionals. And because it’s so easy to forget about scheduling this annual maintenance task, schedule your furnace tune-up when you have your air-conditioning serviced each summer, so your business won’t be left in the cold.