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Why is My Heater Not Working? Tips and Tricks for Common Furnace Problems

Why is My Heater Not Working? Tips and Tricks for Common Furnace Problems

Why is My Heater Not WorkingIf you live in Sacramento, you know some winter days are less than pleasant. When that first cold snap blows, we know to bundle up for temperatures that probably won’t go above 60 until February. When the weather gets like this, one of our favorite things is coming home to a nice, cozy house. So, imagine your surprise when you come home one day to a strangely working furnace. It could be a loud noise, odd odor, or cold air coming through the vents. During winter, there is one question we hear more than anything else, “why is my heater not working.” Because of this, we’re sharing the most common furnace problems and what can be done to fix them.

Never Skip Routine Maintenance

The best thing you can do for your entire HVAC system is to schedule your routine maintenances. Between furnace season in the fall and winter and AC season during the spring and summer; your HVAC system is working hard. Make sure your system is running at its peak performance with routine tune-ups. At Bell Brothers, we recommend two tune-ups per year, one during the spring and during the winter season. At Bell Brothers, we know all HVAC systems are different and need different care and attention. Our technicians understand there is no “one size fits all solution.” That’s why we check 18-points of your heating system. This allows us to make sure nothing is left unchecked. During a tune-up, our technicians make sure to professionally clean every part of your system and will let you know if there are any small problems that need to be fixed.

Why is There Cold Air Coming from My Vents?

Have you ever been trying to relax at home, go to turn on the heat, and are startled to feel cool air instead of warmth? If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone and know there could be several reasons for the sudden influx of cool air. When you feel a rush of cold air from your vents, check your thermostat. The thermostat acts as the remote control of your entire HVAC system, if it stops working, so will your air. First, replace the batteries and reset the thermostat—sometimes all it needs is a simple refresh and restart. When that doesn’t work, the next step is to test the settings. Make sure the thermostat is set to heat, then raise or lower the temperature by a few degrees. If your home’s temperature adjusts with the thermostat, the problem is your furnace. Beyond the Thermostat, there are a few other reasons why your heater is blowing cold air:
  1. Leaking Ductwork – Any treated air is distributed through your home by a set of ducts that live in the attic, basement, or even in your walls. Over time and with use, cracks and holes can develop in the ducting system. These cracks and holes can grow and expand, allowing cool air to mingle with your nice, treated warm air.
  2. Pilot Light Won’t Turn On – Though many newer furnaces do not have pilot lights, a majority of older furnaces do. The pilot light is a crucial part of the entire HVAC system. It’s a small flame that ensures any gas sent into the furnace burns and makes the air warm. Sometimes the pilot light will go out and it’s easy to relight it on your own. However, it’s time to call a professional when the light won’t stay on or turn on at all.
  3. The Air Filter is Dirty – The air filter is one of the most important pieces of your HVAC system. It protects your home, and your HVAC system, from indoor air contaminates, dust, and dander. The filter needs to be checked at least twice per year, if not it can get too full of debris. An air filter that’s too dirty will block treated air from coming through. Meaning some air will still come through the vents, but it won’t be warm.
  4. Not Enough Fuel – All heaters rely on natural gas to run properly. It’s not just your heater that relies on natural gas. Your stove, clothing dryer, and water heater also need natural gas. In all homes there is a supply line that runs from a public line into your personal property. If you suspect a problem with the gas line, you should try to turn on the stove. This little test will show if you have a problem with the gas supply line itself, or with the heater.

What if my Furnace Won’t Turn-Off?

We’ve covered what to do when a furnace won’t turn on, but what about when one won’t turn off? A furnace that won’t turn off could be an indicator of two problems. The first being the thermostat and the second being the furnace blower. As we mentioned earlier, checking your thermostat should be the first thing you try. Inspect the settings and make sure the thermostat is set to “auto” instead of just “on.” The auto setting will allow your system to cycle on and off. If you checked the settings and nothing changed, you may be looking at an electrical problem. To check this, pull your thermostat off the wall and make sure all the wires are securely connected. Next, restart the system. Sometimes this is what the thermostat needs to start working again. After you’ve checked the settings and wiring on the thermostat, it may be time to call a professional because the problem could be the blower motor. The blower motor is what pushes treated air through your home. The blower motor is an essential part of any HVAC system, also being a major component for your AC system during the summer. We don’t recommend you doing this repair yourself as it involves electrical, this should be handled by a pro.

Only Parts of My Home Have Heat

It’s a strange phenomenon when you walk from one room to the other and realize that every space isn’t the same temperature. Sometimes there can be dramatic differences. If you’re wondering what could cause this, it could be from a dirty air filter or problematic ductwork. There’s a theme here, changing and checking your air filter is critical to proper HVAC maintenance. Over time, the air filter can get full of dust and debris that make it hard to distribute warm air to every part of your home. After the air filter, it’s time to have the ducts inspected. Unfortunately, this is very hard to do on your own, so it’s time to call the professionals. Cracks and holes in ducts can cause treated air to escape before it gets to a specific room or area.

Is My Furnace Short Cycling?

All furnaces run in cycles. These cycles allow the furnace to fully heat your home, then give itself a break before starting again. The average furnace will cycle for about 2 – 3 times every hour. If you notice your heater cycling more than three times an hour, it could be an indication your furnace is short cycling. Frustratingly, there are several reasons your furnace could be short cycling. While some can be easily fixed on your own. However, we recommend it’s best to call an HVAC professional if you are unfamiliar with your furnace.
  1. Overheating – Even a furnace can get too hot. If this were to happen, the appliance will turn itself off. This is a safety measure to prevent damage to the system and motor. After the furnace cools, it will start up again, which leads to short cycling.
  2. Dirty Air Filter – An air filter has two jobs. The first is to keep indoor air contaminates from getting in your home, and the second is to keep dust and debris out of your HVAC system. Your furnace can short cycle if an air filter is too full and can no longer catch the dust and debris that may pollute the inner-workings of your furnace.
  3. Bad Flame Sensor – All furnaces come equipped with safety features. One of the more important ones is the flame sensor. This part makes sure gas only flows into the furnace when a flame is present. If the flame sensor cannot detect a flame, it will stop all gas flow. Over time, this part can get dirty with dust, dirt, and other debris. If it gets too dirty, it won’t detect a flame and automatically shut off any gas flow to your system. Which will cause short cycling.
  4. Your Thermostat is in the Wrong Spot – The placement of your thermostat can determine how long your furnace stays on. If you find your furnace short cycling, make sure the thermostat is in a good area of the home. You don’t want it to be just above or below a return vent. It’s also bad to put it too close to the warm kitchen or in direct sunlight. If the thermostat thinks your home is properly heated, it will tell the furnace to turn off, which could explain short cycling.
  5. Your Furnace is Too Big – When it comes to HVAC, size matters. If your furnace is too big or too small, it will short cycle. A larger furnaces will shut off before they complete their cycle, and the smaller furnaces will constantly cycle because they can’t effectively heat the whole home. This frequent short cycling puts unnecessary pressure on the compressor and could lead to early system failure.

Did Your Heater Stop Working? Bell Brothers is Here to Help

We all know how unpleasant it is to come home to a cold house. The HVAC experts at Bell Brothers are here to fix any furnace problem you may have. We have been in business for almost 30 years, so we’ve seen every furnace problem there is. If you’re in Sacramento, Stockton, Vacaville, or the East Bay Area, give us a call today to schedule your appointment. Call the number at the top of the screen or click here to book online.