It’s now late January. We’ve survived the great deep freeze of 2017 and it seems like the mid-winter thaw is in full swing. Over the past few months a lot of homeowners have found themselves in a situation where their heating system fails to function. It’s a frustrating situation, but not an impossible one. So, I thought I would share some answers to the question: What are some things that one can do before calling in The Professionals?
- Do you have fuel? Any homeowner with a heat source in their house (furnace, boiler, fireplace, whatever) needs to burn something to make heat. If you burn wood, you already feed the fire regularly, so you can relax for a minute. If you rely on fuel oil or propane, you are probably dependent on a company to keep your tanks full. Problems arise, however, when the weather changes, the delivery folks get busy, or you have a cottage property that sees infrequent use. Anything that interrupts the schedule could leave you cold. Before calling a heating pro, take a look at the gauge on your oil or propane tank. If you are out of fuel, then your heating pro can help with that problem. If you have fuel but are still cold, then we can keep searching for a solution.
- Do you have power? I know this sounds stupid, but is there power going to the unit? If you look at the furnace and no lights are flashing, the power switch may have been turned off. Flick it on, and you may save yourself an expensive service call. The same goes for your thermostat. Check that the switches are in the “Heat” position.
- Is anything frozen? This one applies to propane users. When temperatures drop below about
- -15C, the propane regulator on the outside of your house/cottage may be frozen. This occurs when moisture gets inside the regulator and stops the diaphragm from moving. If you’ve checked items 1 and 2 and it’s cold outside, close the valve at your propane tank, take a hair dryer/heat gun/micro-furnace and gently warm up the regulator for about 10 minutes. This will melt the ice and allow the propane to flow. Avoid using hot water as this can make the problem worse. Then restart the furnace and it should work fine. If you have a teenager at home, it is best to send them out with the heat gun because, why should you get cold?
- Are your pipes clear? A heating unit needs to breathe. Older furnaces and boilers had a large, metal pipe to send the hot exhaust outside and they sucked air from the room to burn. They were generally unaffected by the cold. But in the search for greater efficiency, newer furnaces and boilers exhaust cool, moist air through small, plastic pipes which have the irritating ability to form an ice dam as soon as the weather gets cold. This causes the unit to lock itself out because it can breathe properly. Go outside, or better yet send your son/daughter, and look into the white or grey exhaust pipes on the outside of your house. If they are dammed up with ice or snow, clear it out and then try to restart your heating unit.
If, however, these things don’t solve your problem, your favourite heating professional will get the system wrestled into shape.
There you have it. These are 4 easy things a homeowner can do to save themselves a service call, and look like a superhero to their spouse/partner/dog/etc.