Fix Your Furnace 5 Common Problems and How to Solve Them

When winter chills settle in, a properly functioning furnace becomes essential for maintaining a comfortable home environment. However, even the most reliable furnaces can encounter problems. Fortunately, many common furnace issues can be diagnosed and addressed by homeowners themselves, saving on furnace repair costs. Here’s a look at five frequent furnace problems and solutions you can try before calling a professional.

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1. The Furnace Starts, Then Shuts Down Immediately

This scenario often points to a dirty flame sensor. The flame sensor is a crucial component that detects the presence of a flame within the furnace. Grime buildup on the sensor can prevent it from functioning correctly, leading the furnace to shut down for safety reasons.

Solution: Turn off the furnace’s power supply completely. Locate the flame sensor, typically situated near the burners. It’s usually a metal rod. Clean the sensor gently with a Scotch-Brite pad or a dishwasher scrub to remove any buildup. Once clean, reinstall the sensor and turn the power back on. If the furnace ignites and stays lit, the problem is likely resolved.

2. The Furnace Isn’t Keeping Up with Heating Demands

If your home feels chilly despite setting the thermostat higher, a clogged air filter might be the culprit. A dirty filter restricts airflow, hindering the furnace’s ability to distribute warm air efficiently.

Solution: Locate the air filter, usually housed within a compartment near the furnace. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations for replacement frequency. Most filters require replacement every 1-3 months, especially during heavy use. Install a fresh filter and observe if the furnace performance improves.

3. The Furnace Doesn’t Turn On at All

A complete lack of response from the furnace could stem from a few issues. First, check the thermostat settings to ensure it’s switched to “heat” mode and set to a desired temperature above the current room temperature. Look for any error codes displayed on the thermostat, which might provide clues about the problem.

Solution: If the thermostat seems to be functioning correctly, consider resetting the furnace’s power supply by switching the breaker off and then back on after a few seconds. This can sometimes resolve minor glitches within the furnace’s control system.

4. The Furnace Makes Strange Noises or Smells

Unusual noises like grinding or humming might indicate failing components such as the blower motor or inducer motor. A burning plastic smell could point to a malfunctioning blower motor.

Solution: If you suspect a failing motor, it’s best to call a qualified furnace repair technician for diagnosis and replacement. Attempting to replace motors yourself can be risky, especially if you’re unfamiliar with electrical components and proper safety precautions.

5. The Furnace Short-Cycles Frequently

Short-cycling refers to the furnace repeatedly turning on and off in a short period. This rapid cycling can reduce efficiency and strain the furnace’s components. A clogged air filter, dirty flame sensor, or a faulty limit switch (which monitors the furnace’s temperature) can all contribute to short-cycling.

Solution: Address the potential causes mentioned above. Replace the air filter, clean the flame sensor, and consider consulting a professional to diagnose a faulty limit switch, which might require replacement.

Remember, safety first! Before attempting any troubleshooting steps, always ensure the furnace’s power supply is off. If you’re uncomfortable with any aspect of furnace repair, don’t hesitate to call a licensed HVAC technician. They can diagnose the problem accurately and provide a safe and lasting solution.

By familiarizing yourself with these common furnace issues and their potential fixes, you can keep your home warm and comfortable throughout the winter season. Remember, early detection and intervention can often prevent minor problems from escalating into major furnace repair needs.


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