Regular Maintenance Is Key to Preventing Heating and Air Conditioning Repair
As the saying goes, the best offense is a good defense, and that goes for your HVAC system too. Regular maintenance is critical in keeping your system working well and minimizing failure. Saving heating and air conditioning repair can be as simple as getting a yearly furnace tune-up.
Scheduled, regular HVAC service is important to maintaining a healthy heating and cooling system in your home. Something as simple as having a clean HVAC unit will save you money by keeping your furnace from breaking down.
Sometimes though, regular maintenance isn’t enough, and your furnace will still break down at some point. Luckily, there are some heating and air conditioning repairs you can fix yourself if you have little know-how. But, if you don’t feel comfortable working around electricity or gas, then skip the heating and air conditioning repair DIY, and hire a pro.
Here are the most common malfunctions that can happen with a home’s forced air furnace and some ways to fix the issue.
Don’t delay in dealing with a suspected gas leak! If you smell natural gas in your home, do not light any open flames, turn on or off any electronics or appliances, or turn off or on any switches. If the gas odor is strong, evacuate your house immediately, leaving the door open.
If you are able, turn off the gas supply valve, which is usually located by your gas meter on the gas inlet pipe.You will need a wrench to turn the valve one-quarter turn. You will know the gas is off because the valve’s oblong stem will be perpendicular to the inlet pipe.
Call your gas company or the fire department from a safe distance as soon as possible. Do not return to your home until you get the all clear.
Pilot light is out
To light your pilot, check the inside cabinet of your furnace or the owner’s manual for instructions. Older gas and combustion furnaces have pilot lights. If your older furnace uses a pilot light, and it won’t stay lit, the thermocouple (an electrical device consisting of two dissimilar conductors forming electrical junctions at differing temperatures) may be loose or faulty, the pilot orifice (HVAC speak for pipe hole) may be clogged, or it may be as simple as the pilot’s flame being set too low.
If a clogged orifice is the issues, you can clear it with a piece of thin wire. But before doing this, turn off the gas to the furnace. Also, shut off the main switch or circuit breaker that provides power to the furnace. Then, thread the wire into the tiny hole of the pipe to clear any debris.
You should refer to your furnace’s manual, but your pilot light should burn at a steady one and a half inch to two-inch flame with no yellow in it. If your furnace has a flame adjustment screw, all you have to do is turn it until you achieve a nice blue flame.
If you have an electronic-ignition furnace, turn down the thermostat or turn the power off. Then, turn it on again to reset the ignition control module. Listen for the sound of the spark or watch for the hot surface igniter to glow.
A sensor could also be the culprit, so check and clean the furnace’s flame sensor. Videos are available of the process on youtube. The guy is using a five dollar bill, but you can use an emery board.
If the furnace won’t light or ignites but fails again, call for heating and air conditioning repair.
Heating or cycling problems
If your furnace turns on but doesn’t produce enough heat
- Make sure nothing is blocking the flow of air.
- Check to be sure the thermostat is set properly. Try raising the set temperature by five degrees and waiting a few minutes.
- Check that the room’s heating registers are open.
- Check and replace the filter if necessary. A dirty filter will make the furnace much less efficient.
If your furnace does not heat at all
Thermostat malfunctions are the most common cause of heating system failures. Close behind thermostat failures are interruptions caused by a tripped circuit breaker or blown fuses. And as I stated earlier, in the case of combustion furnaces — a pilot light that has gone out.
Here are some things to check if the heat doesn’t come on even when you adjust the thermostat above room temperature:
- Be sure the heater’s thermostat is set to heat if you have a combined heating and cooling system.
- If a circuit has tripped, reset it by turning it off and on.
- Be sure the furnace’s circuit breaker is on and that its fuse has not blown. Check all electrical panels that supply power to the heating unit — not just the main panel.
- Reset the circuit breaker if it has tripped or blown by flipping it all the way off and then flipping it on again. You might need to replace the fuse if it has gone bad. If the circuit breaker keeps giving you problems and blows again, you probably have a short in the electrical system providing power to the furnace and you’ll need to contact an electrician.
- Be sure the furnace’s power switch is turned on. You can find the switch next to or inside the furnace cabinet. If it’s off, turn it on and wait for the furnace to engage.
- The motor may need to be reset because of an overload. Look for a reset button near the blower motor’s housing and, if you find one, press it. If nothing happens, wait about 30 minutes for the motor to cool, and then try the reset button again.
If your furnace cycles on and off too often
The problem is often with the thermostat — especially if you have a combustion furnace.
If your thermostat has a small lever called the heat anticipator, and not just a heat temperature lever, you can try to adjust this. It moves along a calibrated scale that indicates longer. If the furnace goes off and on too frequently or being one mark away, allows the room temperature to rise too high or drop too low before the furnace goes on or off. Set it one calibration mark closer to the longer setting. It may take several hours for the thermostat to stabilize at this setting, so wait a while and then adjust it again if necessary.
If making these adjustments don’t solve the problem, consider replacing your thermostat. When an electric-resistance furnace or heat pump turns off and on too frequently, the problem may be that the unit is overheating because of a clogged filter or a blower that is malfunctioning. First, try cleaning or replacing the filter. And, if none of this works, it’s time to call in the pros.
If your furnace keeps shutting off after about 5 minutes
This often indicates a problem with a faulty or dirty flame sensor. This youtube video can help guide you on this problem.
The furnace does not blow air
If your furnace’s motor runs but the blower doesn’t move air, then the belt that connects the two is probably broken. To replace it, turn off all power to the unit, and turn off the gas at the valve that serves the furnace. Remove the door on the front of the furnace cabinet to give you access to the blower. The model number should be stamped on the belt. Be sure to purchase an exact replacement.
Blower runs continuously
There are many reasons that can cause a blower to run continuously: the room thermostat or the limit switch located on the furnace. This switch is located just below the plenum box that distributes heated air to all the ducts. The limit switch shuts off the furnace if the air in the plenum gets too hot.
Check the thermostat to see if the fan switch has been turned on. If it has, turn it to off or to auto. If it is set to off or auto, the furnace’s limit switch must be adjusted.
If the limit switch does need to be adjusted, hire an HVAC repair contractor. Or, if you feel confident enough, you can follow the instructions in your owner’s manual to reset the pointers on the fan side of the limit control. Typically, the lower pointer should be set to about 90 degrees Fahrenheit and the upper one should be at about 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
Squealing noises are coming from the furnace
Squealing sounds from a forced-air furnace usually occur from a slipped belt. Tighten the fit by adjusting the motor mount. The belt could also be improperly aligned or worn and may need to be replaced.
Accessing the belt involves removing the access panel, loosening the bolts that hold the blower motor at the proper tension, and adjusting its distance or realigning the belt. It might be best to remove the belt and buy a replacement. It’s important not to over-tighten when reinstalling the belt. You can wear out the motor bearing.
Grinding sounds are coming from the furnace
If the blower is making a grinding noise, shut off the unit and call a furnace repair technician; the motor’s bearings are probably shot.
If you have an oil burner and the furnace is not working
If the oil burner goes on and off too much, clean or replace the filter.
If your oil burner doesn’t work at all, check to see if it’s receiving electrical power, if the thermostat is working or turned off, or if a flame sensor has signaled the unit to shut off.
If replacing the filter doesn’t solve the problem, or if none of the above seem to be the issue, it’s time to contact an HVAC repair professional, because oil-burning furnaces are complex and not a DIY repair.
Air Conditioning Repair
While many problems with your air conditioning are cause for hiring an HVAC contractor, not all are. Some issues are as simple a fix as resetting a blown fuse or a tripped circuit breaker. Before you hire a pro and spend money on heating and air conditioning repair, check out these three common air conditioning problems that you might be able to repair yourself.
Your air conditioner won’t turn on
If your A/C won’t turn on, check the unit outside to see if the condenser is running. Check for the obvious, like the unit coming unplugged or that the thermostat is set properly. Make sure your circuit breaker hasn’t tripped or a fuse hasn’t blown.
Your air conditioner isn’t cooling the air
If your A/C turns on and your thermostat is set properly but your system still won’t cool the air, you may have a blocked air condenser. Check the outside unit for debris that is blocking the air circulation. Also, check your filter to make sure it is clean. A dirty filter can restrict air to the evaporator coil.
Your air conditioner is running, but cot cooling effectively
If your A/C is on and your thermostat is set properly, but it is still not cooling your home to your comfort level, your unit may not be sized correctly for your home. The average A/C system can maintain a 20– 25-degree temperature difference between the outdoor and indoor temperature.
Your air conditioner is not made to keep your home a crisp, cool 68 degrees on a sizzling 98-degree day. But, if it’s a typically warm summer day, and your A/C still can’t keep up, then you may have an issue with a frozen evaporator coil or the charge.
If despite your best efforts at regular HVAC maintenance, your heating or air conditioning systems goes on the fritz, it’s important to hire an HVAC contractor who is qualified to handle the problem.
If you need a heating or air conditioning repair, or if you want to schedule maintenance for your unit, connect with service.com today to get your free quote from the top local pros!