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What to Do When Your Furnace Breaks Down

Alaskans know cold and we have a healthy respect for the dangers it can bring. We know waking up to a cold house is more than a little uncomfortable; it can be scary. Every holiday season, the HeatSource Mechanical team get calls from people whose furnaces break down without any warning.

Don’t worry, we won’t leave you in the cold! For over 35 years, we have provided superior products, elite craftsmanship and stellar customer service to our Mat-Su Valley, and have been voted “Best of the Valley” by our customers since 2013! Our team is on-call 24/7 to assist with HVAC emergencies. We’re a Lennox Premier Dealer, but we service ALL brands of heating equipment, including water heaters and garage unit heaters. Whether you rely on oil-fired, in-floor or baseboard heat, we stock and carry with us the service components needed to get the job done.

Experiencing an HVAC emergency? We’re available after hours.

Stay warm while you troubleshoot your furnace

Fortunately, many outages have easy fixes that do not involve a full repair or replacement. We’ve provided a guide below to help troubleshoot problems while you wait for help to arrive.

Meanwhile, to make sure you stay warm while you wait:

  • Keep moving
  • Bundle up in layered clothing
  • Drink hot chocolate, coffee or hot tea
  • Use a fireplace or space heater if you have one
  • Warm feet and hands with hot water bottles or electric heating pads
  • Use an electric blow drier around head and neck to add an occasional blast of warmth
  • Move everyone to the warmest room with rugs and shut doors to other parts of the house
  • Find somewhere warm you can go, perhaps a friend’s house or a business open 24 hours

Step-by-step guide to managing a furnace outage

First Things First: Is it Turned On?

Checking the power switch for your furnace is the first place to start when your furnace goes out. Some furnaces are controlled by a switch on the unit while others are controlled by a box on the wall, which looks similar to a light switch. Either may have been unintentionally bumped during cleaning or the roughhousing of children or pets. Wall switches are the most common cause, due to their similarity to light switches. If a switch is off, turn it back on and wait a couple minutes. There is often a delay between the switch and the furnace kicking on. Wait, listen and hope this brings an easy fix.

Check the Circuit Breakers

Both oil and gas-fueled furnaces require electricity to operate. It’s important to check your circuit breaker box. While you may have electricity flowing fine through the rest of your house, there could be a tripped breaker directly affecting your furnace. If you find the breaker has tripped to the “off” position, simply flip it back to “on.”

Don’t Forget the Safety Switch

Your furnace may also have its own circuit breaker or “safety switch” on the unit itself. If there is a power surge or outage, these can automatically pop to the “off” position and will need to be reset. Check your manufacturer’s guide for instructions. However, it may be as simple as pressing and holding the safety switch button for 3 seconds which allows the furnace to reset.

If youve reset one or both of these breakers once and they pop a second time, do not reset them again. There is likely good reason that your furnace is tripping, and it could present a safety hazard, so call the HVAC professionals at HeatSource Mechanical to schedule a repair. Continuing to reset the furnace could cause more damage to your system, costing you additional time and money.

Check the Pilot Light

Most newer furnaces have electric starters, rather than pilot lights, but they’re common in older systems. If your pilot light goes out, please check your furnace’s owner’s manual and following the manufacturer’s instructions. Click here to find a few tips on how to re-light your pilot light.

Is the Thermostat on and Set Properly?

Check the Thermostat

The problem may not be with your furnace at all, but with your thermostat, which controls the heat settings. Like power switches, thermostats are susceptible to being bumped and reset. A flipped switch can make the difference between cozy or cold in a matter of minutes.

Old School Thermostats

Thermostats have become more advanced in recent years and vary widely between manufacturers. Old school, mechanical thermostats use dials or simple levers that gently glide from heat-to-off and adjust the temperature. These older models may include mercury and should be marked with an “Hg.” We strongly recommend using caution to help avoid contact with mercury, a dangerous neurotoxin. We recommend you consider updating your thermostat to a safer, more modern device, like the Lennox Ultra-Smart iComfort S30It’s safer, it provides much more even heat inside your home, and it can sync with your Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant and more so you can control it remotely.

Programmable Thermostats

Digital and electronic programmable thermostats provide a safe and convenient alternative to their mechanical predecessors. However, programming is often the culprit when heating systems appear to have failed, and may or may not necessarily be the result of someone tampering with it. If you’ve had a recent power outage or power surge, it’s possible that your thermostat may have returned to its default setting causing your furnace not to kick on as expected.

Easy Steps to Resolve Thermostat Issues

  • Make sure your thermostat is turned on and set to “heat” rather than “cool.”
  • Some thermostats require batteries and may have an alert to signal when the batteries are getting low. Other models will simply go dark leaving a blank screen. Don’t panic! A simple change of batteries may be an easy and inexpensive fix.
  • Adjust the temperature setting to at least 5 degrees higher than the temperature in the room. Wait and listen to know if the furnace kicks on again.
  • Open the thermostat box and gently blow to help remove any dirt or debris.
  • Make sure all wires are connected and have not become loose. Reconnecting or tightening wires with a small screwdriver may help you resolve the issue.
  • Double-check programmable settings and refer to the manufacturer’s instructions. Programs often include daily, weekly, weekend and even hourly settings. If one has been neglected or incorrectly programmed, your heat may not come on when you expect it.

Is the Furnace Receiving Fuel?

Furnaces require fuel to produce heat. If fuel lines have been disrupted or tanks depleted, other appliances in the home may be affected too. A great place to start is to check those other appliances, such as a gas stove, to see if they are working properly.

If both your furnace and your gas stove aren’t working, check your gas valve to make sure it is in the “on” position. In most cases, the handle will be parallel to the pipe if it’s on, and perpendicular if it’s off. If the gas valve is on and your furnace still won’t turn on, you may need to call your gas company. For propane-fueled furnaces, check the gauge on your tank; whereas for diesel or heating, use a dipstick to check fuel levels. You may need to call your local fuel provider to schedule a refill.

Read the Manufacturer’s Guide

Manufacturer guides can be a helpful resource in troubleshooting repairs, whether your heat system uses natural gas, electric or propane. Regardless of whether your system is water-based, oil-fired or forced air, the manufacturer guide will have steps that are unique to their proprietary system. Nonetheless, the best trouble-shooting system of all in the Wasilla/Mat-Su Valley area is HeatSource Mechanical!

Schedule Regular Maintenance

 It goes without saying that the best time to call is BEFORE your furnace goes out. Regularly scheduled maintenance can help extend the life of your furnace and help prevent emergencies. Join our Comfort Club and save 10% off ALL repairs and provide priority scheduling to club members, and more.

And remember, if you have an HVAC emergency outside of regular business hours, our professionals offer emergency services 24/7 so you will never worry about getting an answering machine.

Worried about your furnace? Don’t hesitate to call.

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