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Proceeding With Caution If Your Furnace Fails

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If you go to turn up your thermostat and your furnace won't turn on, your first reaction is wondering how to get warmed up. Furnaces can malfunction or fail at any time—even newer models. While there are several reasons why your furnace isn't working properly, the best way to find a safe solution is to contact a heating and cooling professional. Because you are dealing with heating, plumbing, and electrical components, if you're not familiar with HVAC, you should proceed with caution. Here are some tips on playing it stay safe until your furnace is serviced.

Igniting The Pilot Light

If you have a gas furnace, one of the first troubleshooting indicators is if the pilot light on the gas burner is lit or burnt out. The light may have been snuffed out, or it could be missing due to a malfunction of the ignition module or burner. If you see no flame at the base of the unit:

  1. Turn the gas knob to line up the arrow with the "off" indicator. This will allow extra gas fumes to dissipate.
  2. Turn the gas knob to line up the arrow with the "pilot" indicator.
  3. Press the knob inward and hold for at least 30 seconds.
  4. Use a match to ignite the pilot while still holding the knob inward.
  5. Once lit, release the knob and turn it over to the "on" position. The furnace should ignite.
  6. Make sure the furnace is working properly.

Keep in mind that you should not try to light the pilot if you're not familiar with the function of the furnace. If in doubt, wait until the heating repair technician arrives. 

Using Portable Heaters

Grabbing small electric heaters to heat your space will get you by until the HVAC repairman can arrive. Never leave portable heaters running without someone being present, however. Older models sometimes pose a fire risk, as they can tip over or overheat easily. Using the kitchen stove is also not recommended for home heating purposes. Continual use can cause the stove to malfunction and increase your risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. Whether it's a kerosene heater, fireplace, or electric heater, always use it in a well-ventilated area free from debris and clutter. 

Avoiding Frozen Pipes

With no heat, you may also be at risk for frozen water pipes, especially if the temperature outside is below 32 degrees. Water that remains shut off and frozen for several hours can cause pipes to expand and burst. This can be dangerous because it can lead to appliances getting wet and increasing your risk of electrical shock. Make sure the pipes are well insulated and have thermal heat tape wrapped around them to prevent freezing. If they freeze, contact a certified plumber or HVAC specialist for assistance.

Replacing Parts Yourself

If you're not 100 percent sure about what is wrong with your furnace and the internal mechanisms inside of it, you shouldn't repair it yourself. You do irreversible damage to the motor and electrical components of the unit and put your health at risk with electrical shock and inhaling dangerous gas fumes. An HVAC specialist can troubleshoot and repair the problem for you. 

Replacing The Fuse

If the unit won't switch on or you feel there is no power going to it, check the circuit breaker. In many cases, the fuse needs to be switched back over to the "on" position and power will be restored. If the furnace repeatedly trips the circuit breaker, it could indicate a bigger electrical issue. If this happens, don't replace the fuse until you have consulted with a heating professional or electrician.

Staying warm during the winter months means having your furnace serviced by a reputable HVAC business to fix issues and prevent problems from occurring.