A cold man shivering and burying his face into his sweater. A great concept for HVAC.

We’ve all had it happen.  Normally it will occur on the coldest morning of the winter.  You wake up to find that your home’s furnace isn’t working.  Staying under the covers, where it’s warm, isn’t an option because it won’t solve the problem.  You’re going to have to get up, dive into some warm clothes, and try to find out why your furnace has stopped working.

Whether you have a gas or electric furnace, there are certain steps that can be taken to troubleshoot your heating system and hopefully discover the issue, so that it can be remedied.  Here are steps that can be taken, and the order in which they should happen.

Check the thermostat – The first step is really the most logical step.  Make sure that the thermostat is set properly.  Most are controlled either through an on/off switch, or temperature control.  Once you’ve set the temperature level, and made sure the switch is “on,” if the furnace still isn’t working, there are other ways to troubleshoot the electrical system.

You should check the furnace’s circuit breaker and make sure that it hasn’t been tripped.  Look to see that the furnace access panel is properly closed, as many furnaces have switches that will not allow the furnace to operate if the door isn’t closed properly.  If none of these steps works, then it’s time to move on to the next step.

Is the system blowing air weakly? – Perhaps the furnace seems to be working.  You can hear it but there is little or no air coming through the registers.  Then it’s time to check the filters.  Clogged or dirty filters can severely hamper your furnace’s performance, or damage your furnace.

Is the system only blowing cold air? – Air is blowing through your system just fine, but it’s cold.  If your heating system is gas or propane, then you should check the electric igniter or pilot light.  If the pilot light has gone out, then you’ll need to call the local gas and electric utility, or furnace maintenance professional, to restart your pilot light.  Attempting to relight a pilot light should be left to trained professionals.

Other issues – Once you’ve determined that the thermostat works, there is sufficient air flow, and that the pilot light isn’t the issue, there are a couple more items that can be checked to see if they’re working properly.

It’s important to return the temperature in your home to a comfortable level as soon as possible.  However, unless the problem is a simple one that can be fixed in a safe manner, only a qualified furnace professional should perform repairs.  Complicated furnace repairs, if attempted by an unqualified person, might only prolong or exacerbate the furnace issue.  Treat your furnace with respect and it will provide years of trouble-free service, and comfort, for you and your family.