Having a reliable furnace is the key to indoor comfort during winter. Therefore, if your furnace stops working or begins to exhibit unusual signs, you are bound to get worried. Furnaces comprise various components, such as the heat exchanger, burner, ventilation system, ductwork, air supply lines, and filters. Therefore, when there is a sign of a malfunction, you need to establish whether you are dealing with a minor problem or a potential heating emergency. Below are ways to investigate the severity of your furnace issue and determine whether you need professional repairs.
Furnace Not Working
If your furnace is not turning on, you need to check for three issues. First, go to your breaker panel and check whether there's a tripped circuit breaker. An electrical fault in the system may cause the breaker to trip to prevent an electrical hazard. It's not advisable to reset the breaker without fixing the underlying problem, as this could lead to an electrical hazard.
If your breaker is on, check your furnace thermostat to make sure it is on and is recording the correct temperatures. If your thermostat is faulty or off due to battery issues, your furnace won't come on. Replace the batteries to see whether the thermostat starts working. If it doesn't, you need to repair or replace it.
Gas furnaces rely on natural gas to work. If you have run out of gas, there will be no fuel to heat the air in your home. Therefore, check to ensure you are not out of gas. If you are using other fuel types such as oil or propane, make sure you have an adequate supply.
Furnace Blowing Cold Air
Sometimes the furnace may come on but blow cold air into your rooms. When this happens, check the temperature setting on your thermostat. Set the thermostat at a higher temperature than the room temperature to ensure heating. If the thermostat fan is set to "on", switch it to "auto" to turn on the heat.
Your furnace may blow cold air if the pilot light is off. This problem is common in gas furnaces. Without the pilot light, the gas flowing into the furnace won't light. Therefore, there will be no heat to warm the air. Check your pilot light, and if it's off, turn it back on manually.
Furnace overheating can also cause the system to blow cold air. Overheating may occur due to various reasons such as a dirty air filter, failed motor, blocked ducts, short cycling, and old age. When the system overheats, the furnace turns off the burner to prevent failure. If you haven't cleaned or service your furnace in a long time, overheating may be a potential cause of the problem.
Rotten Egg Smell in Your Home
A rotten egg smell in the air in your home signals a gas leak in your furnace. Natural gas is odorless; however, manufacturers add a pungent gas known as methanethiol to natural gas. This way, when there's a gas leak, you can easily detect it. Natural gas leaks expose a household to carbon monoxide, which is a byproduct of incomplete combustion.
Carbon monoxide poisoning kills about 400 people in the U.S. every year. Therefore, a rotten egg smell in your home is both a heating and health emergency. A furnace gas leak may occur due to a cracked heat exchanger or leaking gas supply line. Shut off the main gas supply line and evacuate the house as you wait for your heating contractor to fix the problem.
Furnace Making Unusual Sounds
Your furnace should not make any weird sounds while in operation. Popping, rattling, squealing, and grinding noises signal a problem with the system. Unfortunately, it's hard to pinpoint the problem. The noise may result from the ductwork, loose panels, loose motor components, and worn motor bearings. Most of the potential culprits are difficult to access without professional help.
Most of the issues described above require professional attention. A heater repair contractor can troubleshoot your entire system and identify and fix the faults.