Top 9 Most Frustrating Furnace Problems (and Their Fixes)

As cold weather settles in, Boston residents may notice that their furnaces aren’t working as well as they should. This can be inconvenient at best, or even deadly if your furnace isn’t working on a frigid day and you have vulnerable individuals in your home.

Here are the top 9 most common furnace problems and how to fix them.

Furnace Problems

1. The Furnace Isn’t Getting Power to It

The first thing to check when troubleshooting any potential issues with your furnace is to make sure it’s getting power. This may seem obvious, but it’s actually quite common for HVAC customers to mistake an interruption in the power supply for a malfunction with the furnace itself.  

What’s the Fix?

Check to make sure your furnace is plugged in and if so, that the breaker didn’t trip. If it did, flip the breaker back to its ON position. If the breaker continues to trip and the switch is flipped back to the OFF position often, you may have an electrical wiring issue that requires the assistance of a skilled electrician.

2. The Thermostat Is Set Incorrectly

Another common but easily remedied problem is a thermostat that has been set incorrectly. Perhaps you’ve accidentally set the heater to air conditioning or have turned the fan on low. If someone has bumped into the thermostat, they may have accidentally changed a setting without knowing it.

What’s the Fix?

Even if you’re absolutely sure that your thermostat is set properly, double check before you make a call to your HVAC technician. This can save you time and money if the issue ends up being a fluke change in your thermostat’s settings.

3. The Furnace Is Squealing or Shrieking

Imagine you’re relaxing with a book on a Saturday evening when suddenly, your furnace starts to shriek or squeal out of nowhere. Perhaps it’s a minor squealing that can only be heard when the house is completely quiet, or it may be loud and jarring. If this happens, it may be because your blower belt has slipped out of place or has become too worn to function as intended.

What’s the Fix?

Don’t attempt to repair or replace your furnace’s blower belt on your own. Although this may appear to be a relatively simple adjustment if you’re mechanically inclined, using the wrong type of belt or replacing it incorrectly can cause even more problems. Contact an HVAC professional to have a new blower belt installed.

4. You Hear a Scraping or Grinding Noise

Another less common noise that you may hear coming from your furnace is a grinding or scraping sound. This is more serious than a blower belt issue and means that your furnace’s ball bearings may have worn down too far to the point where continued use will damage the inside of your furnace.

What’s the Fix?

Turn off your furnace as soon as you hear any grinding or metal-on-metal sounds and don’t use it again until you’ve reached out to an experienced technician.

5. The Pilot Light Won’t Stay Lit

Are you having trouble keeping your pilot light lit? You’re not alone; this is a common issue experienced by many furnace owners. It’s seen most often in older furnace models, but can occur in any type of furnace that uses a pilot light.

There are several potential causes of a fickle pilot light, such as a clogged or dirty pilot orifice, a malfunctioning thermocouple, a flame setting issue, or more seriously, a defect in your furnace’s safety switch.  

What’s the Fix?

Turn the gas off to your furnace and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for relighting your pilot light. If you have any questions or concerns, contact an HVAC service provider for assistance. At N.E.T.R. Inc., we can stop by and quickly double check that your pilot light has been properly relit and there are no issues with gas buildup or leakage.

6. There’s No Air Coming Out of Your Vents

You’ve turned your thermostat up and you’re still freezing – what gives? If you check around your vents and notice there’s little to no warm air coming out of them, there could be a few issues at play. More often than not, this is either due to dirty air filters or a malfunctioning blower belt.

What’s the Fix?

If your blower belt has snapped or become worn beyond repair, have it replaced by a skilled heating and air conditioning technician in your area.

7. Your Furnace Filters Are Clogged

One of the most common – and easily resolved – issues with a furnace that doesn’t seem to be heating your home or business as well as it should is dirty or clogged filters. The filters that are responsible for purifying the air as it comes through the ducts and vents into your home do so by pulling out dirt, dust, debris, and other allergens. Over time, this can build up and prevent any air flow from coming through your filters at all.  

What’s the Fix?

A rigorous cleaning of your furnace filters and related components is usually necessary to remove caked on dirt and debris. While routine filter maintenance is something you can typically do on your own from time to time, you’ll likely need a deep clean if your furnace is no longer working adequately as a result of clogged filters.

8. The Furnace Air Blows Continuously

The opposite problem to furnace air that doesn’t blow at all is equally as frustrating; when the air blows continuously, it can be difficult to control the temperature and comfort level in your home. Your electric bill is also bound to suffer if your furnace never cycles off.

What’s the Fix?

First, check that your fan hasn’t accidentally been switched to the ON position. If it has, this is a simple explanation for a furnace that won’t shut off, even after the programmed temperature in the space has been reached. If the fan is in the AUTO position, check the weather; sometimes when it’s bitterly cold, your furnace has to work overtime just to keep up.

If neither of these issues appear to be the cause of a continuously running furnace, you may have a malfunctioning limit control switch. Your limit switch likely needs repair or replacement – a job for an experienced HVAC service provider.

9. There’s Debris on the Burners

A furnace creates heat by releasing enough natural gas to facilitate the process of combustion. However, the burners that do this can become dirty or caked with debris, which can impact the overall performance of the furnace and its ability to heat your home or business.

If your burners are clean, you’ll see bluish-colored flames; if they’re dirty, you’ll see other colors depending on the chemical makeup of the debris. The most common indicator of dirty burners is orange or yellow flames.

What’s the Fix?

Although “how to clean dirty furnace burners” is a popular search query in Google and YouTube, we highly recommend that you do not attempt to do this on your own. You need the assistance of a qualified heating, air conditioning, and ventilation technician to ensure the repair is done safely and without damage to your property.

Furnace Problems? N.E.T.R., Inc. Can Help

At N.E.T.R., Inc., we know how frustrating furnace problems can be, especially when the cold New England winter starts to bear down and your heat is suddenly out of order. Contact us today for an appointment to have your furnace repaired or serviced by calling 781.933.NETR (6387).

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