If you are a homeowner, you almost certainly will have to deal with a heating repair problem at some point in time. Please keep in mind that today’s modern heating systems are complicated and should only be worked on by a qualified professional. If you try to fix anything that has stopped working, understand there are potential hazards not only in damaging your heating system, but you run the risk of personal injury if you try to repair it yourself. For your own sake, please leave this type of work to the professionals!
This article is meant to familiarize you with common heating issues. This way, you are better prepared to get an estimate, and you may even be able to identify a dishonest contractor.
Checking Your Heating System for Problems
In all cases with electrically run systems, the first place to check for a failure is the breaker or fuse box. If a breaker is flipped or a fuse is blown, your solution could be as simple as flipping the breaker or replacing the fuse.
If that does not fix the problem; whether your breaker/fuse is flipped or blown, or if it immediately flips or blows after you close it, you at least have some information to provide to the contractor about your heating system.
Thermostat and Filters
If the problem could not be solved at the breaker or fuse box, the next place to check is your thermostat. Sometimes friends and family will change your thermostat’s settings or even turn it off and forget to tell you. If your thermostat settings are not out of the norm, then you should check your air filters.
Unless you have specialized electrostatic filters, this is an issue you can take care of yourself. Filters should be changed once a month as a general rule. A filter that has gone longer than this without being changed can dramatically affect the air flow in your system, which can cause problems with it working effectively.
Over a long enough period of time, inadequate maintenance on your filters can cause even more pressing problems with your system. If changing your filter does not fix your problem, it is definitely time to call a professional.
Identify Your Heating System Type
Not every heating system is the same, and different systems have different needs. To narrow down heating problems, you need to know what kind of heating system you have. These come in 3 types: Heat pumps, furnaces,and boilers.
Heat pumps are becoming more and more popular. Simply put, heat pumps move warm air to cooler areas, and cool air to warmer areas. These are outdoor units for the most part, but there are also some that operate indoors.
Furnaces are easy to find, but telling them apart from boilers can be slightly more tricky. Both can be found indoors, and usually in “out of the way” places such as the attic, garage, basement or (in the case of furnaces) in a dedicated closet. The main way to identify furnaces is that furnaces heat the air directly and blow it into ventilation ducts.
Boilers, on the other hand, heat water contained in pipes and radiators, which can then either heat rooms specifically, or provide heat that can be blown through duct work. Few homes use room radiator heating anymore. In either the case of boilers or furnaces, and sometimes with heat pumps, natural gas is the usual fuel that is used for heating your home.
Finding The Problem
There are two primary causes of heating repair problems. One is that it’s a result of a faulty installation; the other is bad maintenance.
If you have already had someone working on a furnace repair recently it is possible that they did not adequately fix your heating problem, or they may have inadvertently caused another problem.
When your contractor makes his estimate, he will probably ask you if you have checked the breaker/fuse box, the thermostat and the filters. Having already done this, you will have saved a lot of time and effort in the estimation process. He can then go on to check the duct-work, look more in-depth at the thermostat, and at the heater itself.
Once you find a few heating companies you feel can do the work to your satisfaction, ask them for a quote. You might be surprised to discover that these quotes vary substantially. Once you have a birds eye view of the perceived quality of work verses the amount you have been quoted, you can make a better decision on who to hire.