Wednesday, June 19

How to Fix a Broken Heater

Were you aware that you can develop hypothermia indoors within just 10 to 15 minutes? It’s a dangerous condition wherein your body can’t generate heat as fast as it loses warmth. As a result, your core temperature drops, putting you at risk of a medical emergency.

All that can occur if your home isn’t warm enough due to a broken heater.

As if that’s not bad enough, a malfunctioning heating system can also be a fire hazard. For example, of the 354,400 US residential fires in 2019, 9.3% were attributable to heating.

All that should be enough reason to address your home’s malfunctioning heater ASAP.

To that end, we created this guide to help you troubleshoot and fix your home heating equipment. So, read on to learn how to keep it safe and functional.

Make Sure the Thermostat Is On

Whenever you have a problem with your space heater, the thermostat is one of the first things you need to check. This device, after all, controls when and how much heat your heater should deliver into your home. So, if it’s not working or someone turned it off by accident, it can’t communicate with the heater.

Thus, you should inspect your thermostat if there’s a loss of warmth in your home, be it sudden or gradual.

If you have an analog thermostat, be sure the dial points to a setting around 68°F and not to the OFF position. 68°F is the recommended temperature for keeping a warm house while saving on heating bills.

If you have a battery-operated digital thermostat, you should also see a reading of 68°F on its screen. If there’s absolutely nothing on it, as in it’s blank, try changing its batteries.

What if you have a faulty hard-wired thermostat? In that case, it may be best to call an electrician or a heating repair expert.

That’s because a hard-wired thermostat involves direct electrical terminal connections. So, it can be trickier to fix on your own, as you’d need to detach it from the wall and disconnect its wires.

Also, with over 30,000 non-fatal shock incidents occurring in the US each year, hiring a pro can be a much safer bet.

Ensure the Heater Is Getting Power

All space heaters, including gas-based systems, have components that require electricity to operate. Those parts include the circuit boards, relays, and blower motors. So, even if you have a gas-fueled furnace, it won’t work if it’s not getting electrical power.

The power disconnect switch is one of the two devices that control current flow to a space heater. The second one is the heater circuit breaker.

The power disconnect switch looks like a regular light switch, often placed on a wall near the heater. This switch must be in the ON position for the heating system to keep your home warm during the winter months. It should only be off if the unit is up for servicing or during severe weather events, such as a tornado.

On the other hand, the heater circuit breaker is inside your home’s main electrical panel. Its purpose is to cut current flow if it detects anomalies, such as circuit overloads. However, in doing so, it also stops electricity from reaching your heating system.

So, if your heater stops working even with the disconnect switch turned on, go to your main service panel. Look for the lever labeled “furnace” or “boiler.” If it’s in the OFF position, slide it back to the ON position.

Make sure the lever for your main circuit breaker is also in the ON position.

Replace or Wash the Furnace Filter

The furnace filter’s job is to trap air contaminants before the air reaches the blower. It’s there to prevent premature dust, dirt, and pollutant build-up inside the system. Residue, after all, can reduce equipment efficiency and drive energy bills.

Because of its job, though, you can expect a filter to develop clogs after about one to three months. That all depends on your area’s outdoor air quality and your home’s indoor air quality.

For instance, let’s say you’re one of the 135 million people living somewhere in the US with unhealthy air. In that case, it can take as little as a month for your filter to get all filthy. The same is true if you have pets or use other gas-fueled appliances, such as a stove.

The thing is, a clogged filter can reduce airflow to your heater, making it unable to produce enough warm air. It can also contribute to the overheating of your furnace’s blower motor. If the latter happens, your furnace may cycle on and off more frequently or turn off and refuse to start up again.

So if you experience any of those symptoms, turn off the furnace disconnect switch. Then, retrieve the filter and give it a good wash or replace it. It’s also wise to clean your air duct grilles and registers, especially if there’s a thick layer of dust on them.

After that, turn the furnace disconnect switch back on. If you have a gas furnace, ignite the pilot light by pressing and holding the reset button. If you’ve resolved the issue, your home should feel warmer after about 30 to 45 minutes.

Call On the Pros for Help

If none of the troubleshooting and DIY fixes above help, it’s time to call a heater repair expert. It’s possible that your system’s motor is dead or its heat exchanger has cracked. The latter is especially dangerous, as it can cause toxic gases to leak into your home.

Besides, a heating repair pro can help you determine whether to repair or replace your unit. For instance, the technician is likely to recommend fixing it if it’s the first time the heater has had an issue. By contrast, the expert may suggest that you replace a heater if it’s over ten years old and keeps breaking down.

Get Your Broken Heater Fixed ASAP

As you can see, there are several things you can do first to fix a broken heater on your own. From checking the thermostat to cleaning the filter, be sure to try these before you call the pros. However, if the system is still on the fritz after doing them, don’t delay getting an expert to come and fix it for you.

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