Furnace Troubleshooting Tips For The Savvy Homeowner

Furnace Troubleshooting Tips for the Savvy Homeowner

Your furnace is a vital component of your home’s comfort and well-being, especially during the cold winter months. It’s responsible for keeping you and your loved ones warm and cozy. However, like any mechanical system, furnaces can encounter issues from time to time.

Knowing what to do, when dealing with a faulty furnace can save you time and money. In this blog post, we will explore:

  • What a furnace does
  • Common furnace problems
  • Furnace troubleshooting tips
  • When to call a professional
  • The average cost of repairs

Armed with this knowledge, you can better understand and maintain your furnace, ensuring it performs efficiently and reliably.

What Does a Furnace Do?

man repairing furnace

Before we delve into furnace troubleshooting, let’s start with a basic understanding of what a furnace does. A furnace is a central heating system that works by heating air and distributing it throughout your home via a network of ducts and vents. Here’s a simplified overview of the furnace’s operation:

  • Heat Generation: Most residential furnaces use either natural gas or electricity to generate heat. In gas furnaces, a burner ignites the gas to produce heat, while electric furnaces use heating elements to generate warmth.
  • Air Circulation: Once heat is generated, a blower fan circulates air over the heating source. This air becomes warm and is then distributed throughout your home.
  • Distribution: The heated air is pushed through ductwork to various rooms in your house via vents. This process maintains a comfortable indoor temperature.
  • Thermostat Control: A thermostat, typically located on a wall in your home, monitors the temperature and signals the furnace to turn on or off to maintain the desired temperature setting.

Now that we have a basic understanding of how a furnace works, let’s explore some common furnace problems you might encounter.

Common Furnace Problems

Furnaces can experience a range of issues over time. Here are some of the most common problems you might encounter:

  • No Heat or Insufficient Heat: If your furnace isn’t producing enough heat or none at all, it could be due to a faulty thermostat, a malfunctioning pilot light or ignition system, a clogged air filter, or a malfunctioning blower motor.
  • Strange Noises: Unusual noises like banging, screeching, or rattling coming from your furnace could indicate issues with the blower motor, fan, or other internal components. Ignoring these sounds can lead to more significant problems down the line.
  • Frequent Cycling: If your furnace turns on and off frequently without adequately heating your home, it might be due to a clogged air filter, a malfunctioning thermostat, or improper sizing.
  • High Energy Bills: A sudden increase in your heating bills might be a sign of an inefficient furnace. This could be caused by a dirty or clogged filter, ductwork issues, or a malfunctioning component.
  • Pilot Light or Ignition Problems: Gas furnaces rely on a pilot light or electronic ignition to ignite the gas. If you have a gas furnace and the pilot light keeps going out or the electronic ignition system fails, it can result in a lack of heat.
  • Airflow Issues: Restricted airflow can cause uneven heating in your home. It may be caused by blocked vents, dirty air filters, or issues with the blower motor.
  • Carbon Monoxide Leaks: A malfunctioning furnace can potentially leak carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas that can be deadly if not detected. Symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure include headaches, dizziness, nausea, and confusion. If you suspect a carbon monoxide leak, evacuate your home immediately and call a professional.

8 Troubleshooting Tips

While some furnace problems may require professional assistance, there are several troubleshooting steps you can take before making that call. Here are some tips to help you diagnose and address common furnace issues:

1) Check the Thermostat:

Make sure your thermostat is set to the desired temperature and is functioning correctly. Replace the thermostat batteries if necessary.

2) Inspect the Air Filter:

A dirty or clogged air filter can restrict airflow and reduce furnace efficiency. Check and replace the filter regularly, typically every 1-3 months.

3) Verify the Pilot Light or Ignition:

If you have a gas furnace, ensure the pilot light is lit. If it’s not, follow your furnace’s instructions for relighting it. For electronic ignition systems, check for error codes and reset the system if needed.

4) Clear Obstructions:

Ensure that all vents and registers in your home are open and unblocked by furniture or debris. Proper airflow is essential for efficient heating.

5) Check the Circuit Breaker:

Make sure the circuit breaker for your furnace is in the “on” position. If it has tripped, reset it and see if that resolves the issue.

6) Listen for Unusual Noises:

Pay attention to any unusual sounds coming from your furnace. Try to pinpoint the source of the noise and consult your furnace’s manual for troubleshooting guidance.

7) Inspect the Pilot Tube and Flame Sensor:

For gas furnaces, a dirty pilot tube or flame sensor can cause ignition problems. Clean these components carefully if they appear dirty or corroded.

8) Examine the Blower Motor:

Listen for the sound of the blower motor running. If it’s not operating, it may need to be repaired or replaced.

When to Call a Professional

close up to man repairing furnace

While DIY troubleshooting can resolve many furnace issues, there are situations where it’s best to call a professional HVAC technician:

  • Gas Leaks: If you smell gas around your furnace, do not attempt to diagnose or repair the issue yourself. Evacuate your home immediately and call your gas company and a professional technician.
  • Carbon Monoxide Concerns: If you suspect a carbon monoxide leak or experience symptoms like headaches and nausea, evacuate your home immediately and call a professional. Carbon monoxide is a deadly gas that requires immediate attention.
  • Electrical Problems: If you’re not comfortable working with electrical components, such as circuit boards or wiring, it’s safer to leave these repairs to a qualified technician.
  • Complex Repairs: Some furnace issues, like a malfunctioning blower motor or a cracked heat exchanger, require specialized tools and expertise to diagnose and repair.
  • Frequent Problems: If your furnace experiences frequent breakdowns or issues, it may be a sign of a more significant underlying problem. A professional can conduct a thorough inspection to identify and address the root cause.

Average Cost of Repairs

The cost of furnace repairs can vary widely depending on the nature of the problem and the region in which you live. Here are some approximate cost ranges for common furnace repairs:

  • Thermostat Replacement: $80 – $250
  • Air Filter Replacement: $10 – $30
  • Ignition System Repair: $100 – $350
  • Blower Motor Replacement: $300 – $600
  • Pilot Light Repair: $150 – $250
  • Ductwork Repair: $200 – $1,000 (depending on the extent of the damage)
  • Heat Exchanger Replacement: $500 – $1,500
  • Gas Valve Replacement: $150 – $350

It’s important to note that these are rough estimates, and actual costs may vary. Additionally, some repairs may require additional fees for emergency or after-hours service.

Get Help With Your Furnace Problem

When in doubt or when dealing with complex problems, it’s always best to call your local HVAC technician. Regular maintenance and prompt repairs will help ensure your furnace operates efficiently and keeps your home warm and cozy for years to come. Not sure where to start?

Aquarius Home Services is the area’s leading HVAC system expert. From furnace repair to furnace replacement, we can help you find solutions that fit your budget and lifestyle. Contact us today to book your appointment! 

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