“My Furnace Won’t Work!!”
At the beginning of each heating season, we get flooded with calls from people who have turned up their thermostat but the furnace is not warming up their house. One of our technicians goes out right away, as “no heat” calls are taken seriously and prioritized above less urgent matters. During this time (September to November) most of these issues are solved within 5 minutes of entering the home. There are a few main causes of these calls.
First, the thermostat is not the only switch to turn on/off your furnace. There is generally a switch high on the wall beside or near the furnace, which is usually (but not always) labeled. Many homeowners turn this switch off in the late spring as there is no need for the furnace for the rest of the season. This gets forgotten in many cases, and when we come to determine the reason for the lack of heat, we walk in, flip the switch and ‘Voila!”…. Heat.
On many older furnaces, there is a pilot light that must remain lit in order for the furnace to operate. This tiny flame uses such a small amount of gas to remain lit that if you even noticed a difference on your gas bill as a result of turning it off, the reduction would be negligible and – in my humble opinion – not worth the headache when its time to use the appliance again. It’s a small and simple thing, but often gets overlooked by the homeowner when it’s time to fire up the furnace. The pilot light will go out when you turn off the gas shutoff on the gas pipe at the appliance, or turn off the switch at the gas valve in the furnace. I’d advise just leaving the pilot light running.
On newer units, there is nearly always a troubleshooting diagnostic light inside which can be viewed through a small window in the front cover. In the event of a problem, this light will blink a combination of dots and dashes which correspond to a list of problems and possible causes which is usually on a sticker affixed to the front of the furnace, or inside the owner’s manual. If you need to call a service person, you can save time and money by letting us know the possible issue before we come, to ensure that we bring the appropriate part if needed, so we don’t have to leave to pick up material.
It’s important to keep in mind that – even if a service person fixes the problem in thirty seconds – any company must charge for the call. There are people on payroll to book the service, technicians earning a tradesperson’s wage, and the gas for a van full of expensive specialty tools coming to your door. We always feel some regret over needing to charge for calls like this, and we’d rather the homeowner checked these basic things before calling so we can make sure that you are only paying for a tradesperson when his or her skills and tools are needed.