My Heat Won’t Turn On: What Do I Do

Presidential Heating & Air Conditioning

Gaithersburg HVAC Contractors


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It is the middle of winter, and just when you need it the most, your heat won’t come on. You start worrying that the system has died and wondering how you will pay for it.

man checking thermostat because his heat wont turn onBefore you panic, know that the problem frequently is not your furnace. Often, the problem is something simple that you can fix yourself. If the problem is not something you can remedy yourself, it may be an inexpensive heating repair by a professional HVAC technician.

Here is a list of simple steps you can take before you call in an HVAC contractor:

1. Check Your Thermostat

Issues with the thermostat are the cause of most heating system failures when the system simply will not turn on. Has someone has changed the settings on your thermostat? Make sure it is set to the heat mode.

Thermostat Installation Problems

Have you recently replaced or repaired your thermostat? If so, it is quite possible that you have a problem with the installation. The thermostat must be one that is compatible with your type of heating system. For example, if you have a heat pump, you need to buy a thermostat that was made for use with heat pumps. The problem could also be that the thermostat was not wired properly when it was installed. An improperly wired thermostat can stop the heat pump from turning on.

Operating Programmable Thermostats

woman adjusting programmable thermostatAnother issue is the learning curve some homeowners face in operating newer more complicated thermostats. As more people switch to programmable smart thermostats, they have to learn how to operate them. These thermostats can become re-programmed inadvertently if someone does not know how to set it correctly. The thermostat can be programmed to refrain from operating the heating system at the time you are home, such as in the middle of a work day.

Heat Pump Thermostats

In a heat pump system, check to see if the fan is running. If so, set the thermostat to emergency heat. If you feel warm air coming through the vents, the problem is probably in the outdoor unit. If you feel no warm air, the problem is either the air handler or the thermostat. I

If your thermostat is battery operated, try changing the battery.

2. Check Your Electrical Circuit Breakers

Sometimes the circuit breaker is tripped. Check your breaker box and reset the circuit breaker if needed. The circuit breaker itself could be broken and needs replacement.

3. Check the Power Switch on the Furnace

It should be located on the side of the furnace box or inside the cabinet. If it is off, switch it to the on setting and wait for it to come on.

4. Locate and Press the Motor Reset Button

If nothing happens, wait about thirty minutes and press it again.

5. Turn off Furnace and Main Electrical Power

Check for a fuse at the power switch and determine if it has blown. Replace it if you have a replacement fuse, following the manufacturer’s directions.

6. Check the Pilot Light and/or Igniter

furnace pilot lightTurn the system off completely for about five minutes. Turn it back on and watch to see if the pilot light and igniter are functioning. If your gas furnace has an older style pilot light that won’t stay lit, the problem could be that the pilot orifice is clogged. You can try to clear it by referring to your owners’ manual and following the steps outlined there.

Lighting the Pilot Light

To light the pilot light, follow the owners’ manual or the instructions posted inside the furnace cabinet for step-by-step lighting instructions. Usually this involves first turning the gas valve to Off and waiting a couple of minutes. Then you turn it to Pilot. Next, press and hold it down while you light the flame. Last, wait a minute or so, release it, and then turn it to On.

In some cases where the pilot light won’t stay lit, adjustments may be needed to internal components, generally a job for a professional.

7. Check the Furnace Motor

If the motor runs but the blower is not moving air, the belt that connects the two probably has broken. Replacing it is an easy fix for a capable DIY’er or an HVAC technician.

Diagnosis and Repairs Requiring a Professional HVAC Technician

If you have done all of the DIY steps above and your heat is still not on, do not despair. The problem may be a minor repair that your professional HVAC contractor can handle.

Heat Pump Problems

For heat pump systems, common problems are a shorted controller board, a bad connection, or a seized blower motor. If both the circuit and the fuse are fine, the wiring may be the issue. The contractor can tighten and repair the wires.

Gas Problems

For gas heat, the problem can be in the electronics or a broken gas valve. If you smell gas, you need to call a professional immediately and follow the instructions they give you for your safety.

Air Filter Replacement

Another important step in addressing your heating system issues is to replace your system’s air filters regularly. Dirty air filters can cause your system to become clogged, which overburdens your system, increasing the risk that you will experience a major malfunction in the middle of winter.

Include a Maintenance Agreement

One way to minimize the odds of heating system failures is to have a maintenance agreement with a professional HVAC technician. Under a maintenance agreement, the contractor will inspect your heating system in the fall before the cold weather sets in. The contractor can identify and repair these problems before they become major problems. A maintenance agreement will also reduce the amount of time you have to wait for a technician to do the repair.

Contact an Experienced HVAC Contractor for Help

If you have been unable to safely diagnose or repair the problem you are experiencing with your heating system, call a professional HVAC contractor for help right away.
Whatever problem you’re having with your heating system, an HVAC contractor can correctly diagnose the problem. Schedule your free estimate appointment right away to address and solve the heating system problems you are experiencing.

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