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Homes and businesses rely on their furnaces to provide warmth and comfort during the winter months. When furnaces aren’t working, residents, employees, and customers notice it fast, and the problem can create a huge inconvenience – causing customers and employees to be uncomfortable, resulting in cancelled appointments or early closings, or making a home frigid and uninhabitable.

Understanding a few basics about how furnaces work and common causes of furnace problems can help home and business owners provide better information to heating service professionals if they need to be called in to handle the situation. Quick resolution of heating problems will save you money in terms of labor costs for heating service professionals.

What Are Furnaces?

Furnaces are heat-producing devices used to warm buildings or for various industrial purposes. Furnaces have been used in some shape or form for centuries. One of the oldest examples of the furnace is the Roman hypocaust, which was installed in basements, and used flues in walls to vent heat and smoke upward. Passing through the spaces between the walls, the exhaust from the hypocaust warmed the home without polluting it with smoke.

Modern furnaces for buildings are typically fueled by gas and consist of a number of mechanical parts. Today’s furnaces are highly efficient, and effectively use between 80 and 90 percent of heat generated to warm the building, losing only 10 to 20 percent through the chimney.

Troubleshooting a Malfunctioning Furnace

If you’re dealing with a malfunctioning furnace, the very first thing professional heating services typically do is check whether the thermostat is set to heat. It sounds ridiculously obvious, but often the cause of uncomfortable temperatures in the wintertime is a thermoset that has been incorrectly set. At the very least, checking the thermostat allows elimination of this as a possible cause of your problem.

After checking the thermostat, your next step should be to check your filter. Filter issues are a common cause of furnace problems and are often the culprit when the furnace isn’t working properly. Your furnace’s filter cleans air moving into the furnace and also cleans the hot air discharged by the furnace. Clogged filters reduce airflow, thus reducing the effectiveness of the furnace, and can also cause heat and pressure to build up in the furnace. New high-tech furnaces automatically detect filter problems and shut down before a clogged filter can create more problems.

When checking the filter, look for dirt, and also check to see when the filter was last replaced. Hiring a professional heating repair service like ARS Universal Services to regularly inspect and replace filters can spare you the trouble of having to do it and can also ensure that you get the right filters for your furnace.

Checking for electricity is another important troubleshooting task. When troubleshooting furnaces, turn the switch for the fan on and listen to see if the fan starts to turn. If the fan comes on, the furnace has power. If it doesn’t, your furnace may have an electrical problem. Professional heating services can further isolate the cause of electrical problems with furnaces and quickly resolve the matter.

Another possible cause of trouble to check is the furnace switch. This switch is typically located on the unit or near it and resembles a light switch. To check the switch, throw it, wait a few minutes, and then see if the furnace activates. For further help with the furnace switch, heating services can provide informed, experienced assistance.

Some recently built furnaces (furnaces built no earlier than 1990) may have a small light that can flash a code to indicate a possible cause of the trouble. If you’ve thrown the furnace switch, check the light and pay attention to the sequence of the light. A key guide inside the furnace’s access panel should show a key to codes flashed by the light. Make note of the code and relay it to any furnace repair staff you may call.

You can also check to see if the furnace has a pilot light. Most older models do and, if this light is out, a repair technician will need to relight it. If the light won’t stay lit, you may have a problem with the thermocouple or an electrical problem that you will need to have a heating repair service inspect and remedy.

If all else has failed, check the furnace’s gas valve to see if it has been turned off. The gas valve is typically located within six feet of the furnace and resembles a typical valve.

If the problem with your furnace is that it is running too noisily, you’ll want to check to see if the access panels are securely and properly fastened. If this isn’t the cause, loose belts may be the problem, and you’ll need a professional to check it out.

Last Word

By gathering information that can be gleaned by troubleshooting, you can give your heating repair service a more accurate description of the problem, allowing him or her to more quickly resolve the situation. Calling a heating service for repairs is preferable to trying to fix it on your own, as there may be underlying problems for which a layperson does not have the training or expertise.

No one likes to be in the cold for long, so the quicker your repairman can resolve the issue, the quicker you can relax in your home, or begin focusing on your business, instead of the freezing temperatures in your building.