Did you try your heater for the first time this year only to find it is not working? If so, do not worry.
We can help! In this heater troubleshooting guide, you will learn:
- What should you do if your heater is not working?
- How do you troubleshoot a heat pump?
- When should you call an HVAC specialist?
- How can you troubleshoot your car heater?
If you are testing your furnace or heater now in preparation for colder weather, that is wise. The colder it gets, the harder your heater will have to work to make the temperature in your home or automobile comfortable.
When heating systems are under stress, they are more likely to fail. So, read through this guide to get your heater working before you need it.
What's In This Guide?
What Is The Best Way Of Troubleshooting Your Electric or Gas Furnace?
The best way to troubleshoot your heater is to start with the basics. There are a few DIY maintenance tasks homeowners can complete ensuring that the system can function properly.
After checking the basics, you might need to call a furnace repair specialist so they can do a full assessment of your heating and cooling system. However, many furnace problems are simple to fix.
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Here are the things you should look at when your heater is not keeping the room temperature comfortable.
Check The Thermostat
Anytime your air conditioner or heater is not working, you should first check the thermostat. It is not uncommon for someone else to change the settings without your knowledge, but other things can cause the thermostat to malfunction.
If you have a programmable thermostat, you should make sure the settings are correct. You also need to check the connection and batteries.
Most new thermostats detach from the wall so you can replace the batteries. On the back, there are prongs that fit into the wall connection.
Make sure all of the prongs are there, and none of them are bent. You also need to check the batteries to make sure they are good.
If the batteries are low, the thermostat may not work properly. When you put it back, make sure that the screen turns on, and there are no connection problems.
Change Your Air Filters
Your HVAC system uses air filters to reduce the contaminants that enter into your air handler and ductwork. If dust is clogging the filter, the airflow will be restricted.
That means there will not be enough cold air entering your heating system, which can cause your gas furnace to overheat. If you have not changed your air filter in the past 30 to 60 days, you need to replace it.
After replacing your furnace filters, you can try your heater again. If it was an airflow issue, the heater should work when it is no longer overheating.
Check The Pilot Light
If you have a gas heater, a pilot light must be lit for your heater to work. So, if you just moved into a new house and recently had the gas turned on, you likely need to re-light the pilot light.
You can do it yourself if you feel comfortable. You can find the instructions in the owner’s manual or look them up online.
If your home is new, it is good to have an HVAC professional look at your heat pump to ensure that it is functioning correctly, anyway. When they are going over the system, they will light the pilot light for you.
Give It A Chance To Warm Up
You should feel hot air coming out of your air vents within a few minutes of turning on your heater, but it might take a little while for the temperature in your home to get comfortable, especially if it is very cold outside.
So, if you feel warm air coming out of the vents, give your system a chance to raise the temperature in your home. If warm air is not coming out of the vents and the temperature inside does not rise, it could be a cracked heat exchanger, broken furnace blower, or a number of other things.
For more information on troubleshooting some of the top furnace problems, check out this video:
Schedule A Tune-Up With An HVAC Contractor
Suppose your system is still not working after performing routine furnace maintenance, replacing your dirty air filters, and checking the thermostat. In that case, you might have a more severe problem that requires an HVAC technician’s expertise.
How Do You Troubleshoot a Heat Pump?
Some homes use a heat pump to capture heat from outside and pump it indoors. If you have a heat pump instead of a traditional central heating system, this is what you need to do.
Set The Thermostat
You will want to check the thermostat for batteries and ensure that the connection is good like you would with traditional gas or electric heaters. However, you want to set the temperature to just 2 to 4 degrees higher than the room temperature.
Your heat pump system has an emergency electric element, as well. You do not want that part of the system to turn on. Setting the thermostat to just a few degrees higher should trigger the pump without turning on the emergency heating source.
After you set the temperature, make sure that the fan switch is on. If your heat pump does not turn on after a few minutes, it is unlikely that the thermostat is the problem.
Check To Make Sure The Fan Is Running
If the fan does not turn on after you set the thermostat, you will need to check to ensure a circuit breaker was not tripped. If it was, there could be:
- A bad blower motor
- Faulty wiring
- A malfunctioning control board
If the circuit breaker was not tripped, it could be:
- A bad thermostat
- Improper wiring voltage
- A bad fan relay
If your fan is running, you need to set the temperature in your home 5 degrees higher than the temperature in your home and set the thermostat to emergency heat.
After about five minutes, you should feel warm air blowing out of the air vents. If you do, there is an issue with the outdoor unit. If cold air is coming out instead, you might need a new thermostat, or there could be an issue with the indoor air handler.
Check The Outdoor Unit
If you think the problem might be your outdoor unit, you need to switch the unit from emergency heat to regular heating. Then, put the temperature back down to 2 to 4 degrees above your home temperature.
Next, you need to check the outdoor unit for ice buildup. If there is a lot of ice, your system’s automatic defrost might not be working. Follow instructions in your owner’s manual to manually defrost the unit.
If, after defrosting the unit, the outdoor fan is not running, it could be:
- A bad sensor
- A wiring problem
- A bad defrost control board
- A malfunctioning run capacitor
- A bad fan motor
If the fan is running and the unit is still not working correctly, you need to check the refrigerant lines. The larger one should be warm to the touch.
If it is not warm, your unit might be low on refrigerant, the compressor or run capacitor could be bad, or there could be a wiring issue. In any case, you will need to schedule a service call with an HVAC repair company.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires any completing repairs that involve the use or handling of refrigerants to have a license.
How Do You Troubleshoot Your Car Heater?
Car heaters are similar to your central heater. While most auto heater repairs need to be done by a mechanic, there are a few things you can check before you take your vehicle in.
Step 1: The first thing you need to do is make sure your radiator coolant levels are correct.
Step 2: Turn your car heater and fan to the highest settings and listen to see if the fan turns on.
Step 3: If the fan does not turn on, check the fuses to ensure they are good. If there is a blown fuse, replace it.
Step 4: Check the red and black heater core hoses to make sure they are hot. If they are not hot, your heater core is likely bad.
A broken heater core is not the only thing that can cause your car heater not to work. It could be a worn hose, weak water pump, or a short in your car’s electrical system.
If one of these components is malfunctioning, you will need to bring your vehicle to a mechanic to have the part replaced.
Final Advice When Your Heater Is Not Working
Heater problems can be challenging to diagnose. So, it is a good idea to have an air conditioning and heating professional perform a system tune-up biannually.
You might also want to think about investing in a home warranty plan that covers your HVAC system. A quality home warranty will help you pay for costly AC and furnace repairs so your home is safe and comfortable year-round.