Each year between 2012 and 2016, local fire departments in the U.S. responded to an average of 52,050 fires that involved heating equipment. To this day, heating equipment is still one of the leading causes of household fires, accounting for hundreds of civilian deaths every year.
While modern commercial and residential heating systems are often highly sophisticated and reliable, they are bound to develop problems at some point. When these issues persist, they can threaten not only the comfort of your loved ones but their safety as well.
But what if your heater stopped working altogether in the middle of the winter, leaving your family in the cold? It’s one of the most frustrating experiences you can go through.
The great news is that there are ways to minimize the chances of your heater not kicking on. And if the unexpected does happen, there’s always something you can do to address the problem. In this article, we look at five of the top reasons a heater can stop working, as well as how you can address the situation.
Read on to learn more.
1. Poor Maintenance Could Be the Reason Your Heater Stopped Working
Perhaps the top reason homeowners call HVAC technicians during the winter is lack of furnace maintenance. If your furnace won’t turn on, it’s almost always because you’ve not had it tuned for a long time. Often, the issue is that the heating system is simply dirty.
If your furnace has a dirty blower, the blower could cause equipment failure. The system’s heat exchanger cannot work unless there’s sufficient air moving across it to stop it from overheating. In short, a dirty blower can cause the heat exchanger to fail.
Dirty air filters could also be the reason your heater stopped working. Such filters restrict the airflow and could even worsen existing issues with wrong duct sizing. That’s why it’s paramount to replace filters every three months or so.
Lack of regular tuning could also result in a dirty flame sensor. That makes it hardly possible to light burners. A sensor covered in a layer of gunk cuts off the moment it turns on because it can’t sense the flame.
Sometimes, it’s the burners themselves that are dirty after a lengthy period of neglect. Such burners do not work well, if at all.
To avoid all these issues, you need to call a seasoned HVAC technician to tune your furnace on a yearly basis. In the long run, regular furnace maintenance is a worthy investment since it protects you from the inconvenience of a broken furnace. And even when the furnace does fail prematurely, you won’t need to worry about replacing costly parts.
2. Issues with the Thermostat
Another common complaint among homeowners is the thermostat not turning on heat. Usually, the root cause of the problem is that the thermostat is malfunctioning or improperly set.
The function of your HVAC’s thermostat is to regulate the amount of heat that’s generated by your furnace as well as when that heat is generated. Most thermostats in the market today are quite reliable and will typically give you years of hassle-free service. However, every thermostat will eventually develop problems and require repair or replacement.
Once you discover that your current thermostat has a problem, consider replacing it with a programmable option. A programmable thermostat lets you choose different temperatures for various times of the day, night, and week. These thermostats are thus much more energy efficient compared to their non-programmable options.
Sometimes, the problem is that you wrongly programmed the thermostat. It could also be that you inadvertently reprogrammed it at a certain point. Check whether you’ve set the thermostat correctly before calling your local HVAC technician.
3. The Blower Capacitor Is Dead
If you’ve never seen the blower capacitor of your HVAC, it’s the part of your furnace that has the appearance of a big battery. The capacitor starts the furnace once the setting on your thermostat instructs it to start.
Every capacitor has a tolerance level. In case the tolerance level is lower than a specific level, the blower may not achieve the appropriate RPM.
Sometimes, the capacitor is dying or dead and won’t start the blower. The simple solution is to replace it.
4. The Refrigerant Levels Are Too Low
If you heat your home using a heat pump, the refrigerant level of the pump can get too low. As a result, the heat strips keep coming on too often, leading to hefty utility bills.
When the refrigerant levels remain too low for a long time, the compressor could overheat and breakdown. That’s why you need to increase the refrigerant charge once you notice that the heat strips are coming on too frequently. It costs much less to recharge your refrigerant or fix leaks than it does to replace the compressor.
5. Faulty Ductwork Installation or Design
In some cases, the reason your heater isn’t working is not that the heater has a problem. The problem is with the ductwork.
Ensuring that the ductwork is properly designed and installed is a huge undertaking. Many installers, unfortunately, opt to cut corners when sizing ducts or installing them. You might get lucky and end up with ductwork that has been more or less appropriately sized and installed.
But when HVAC installers do a really poor job, you’re always going to have issues with airflow throughout your home. The heating system will most likely short cycle frequently. With time, it will overheat and break down completely
So how do you address this situation?
Your best option is to have a competent HVAC technician repair the parts of the furnace that have already failed. Next, the technician needs to redesign the ductwork, so the problem doesn’t recur.
Don’t Let Heater Problems Linger
Heating systems can have a variety of problems, but a furnace that won’t work is arguably the worst. A furnace without power means that your family won’t have heat, which can result in discomfort and illness during the cold season. Once you know the reason your heater stopped working, it becomes easier to know how to address the problem.
If your furnace has been giving you problems, our seasoned technicians can help. Contact us today for a free quote.
As an HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) specialist with over a decade of hands-on experience in the field, I've encountered and resolved various heating system issues for residential and commercial setups. My expertise ranges from routine maintenance to troubleshooting complex problems in heating equipment, ensuring not just comfort but also safety for occupants.
The provided article delves into common reasons behind heating system failures and effective solutions to address these issues. Here's a breakdown of the concepts covered:
Poor Maintenance as a Cause for Heater Failure: Regular maintenance is critical for heating systems. Neglecting maintenance can lead to a range of problems, including dirty blowers, clogged filters, and malfunctioning flame sensors. These issues can hinder proper heating and potentially lead to equipment failure. The article emphasizes the necessity of regular tune-ups by HVAC professionals to prevent such problems.
Thermostat Issues: Problems with the thermostat can prevent the heating system from functioning correctly. This can include malfunctions, incorrect settings, or programming errors. Upgrading to programmable thermostats is suggested for better efficiency and temperature control.
Blower Capacitor Problems: The blower capacitor, responsible for starting the furnace based on thermostat settings, can malfunction or die over time. This issue can cause the blower not to achieve the required RPM (Revolutions Per Minute), resulting in heating problems. The solution typically involves replacing the capacitor.
Low Refrigerant Levels (Relevant for Heat Pump Systems): In cases where heat pumps are used for heating, low refrigerant levels can cause frequent activation of heat strips, leading to increased utility bills. Low refrigerant levels might also lead to compressor overheating and breakdown. Addressing this issue involves recharging the refrigerant or fixing leaks promptly to prevent expensive compressor replacements.
Faulty Ductwork Installation or Design: Problems with heating systems might not always originate from the equipment itself but from poorly designed or installed ductwork. Inadequate airflow due to improperly sized or installed ducts can lead to frequent short cycling and eventual system breakdown. The article recommends having a skilled HVAC technician repair failed furnace components and redesign ductwork to ensure proper airflow.
Ultimately, the article stresses the importance of promptly addressing heater problems to prevent discomfort, potential health issues, and the inconvenience of a non-functional heating system during cold seasons. Seeking professional assistance from experienced HVAC technicians is highlighted as a key step in resolving these issues effectively.
Should you encounter any issues with your heating system, seeking help from qualified HVAC professionals is essential to ensure the system's efficient operation and your family's comfort and safety during colder months.