10 Signs You Need to Repair Your Home Heating System

Only the cozy…

It’s that time.

Cold weather is here, and it’s vital that your home heating system works as expected. Not only do you want to keep your family comfortable and cozy in your home, but it can be unsafe to be without heat in frigid temperatures for an extended period of time. In the interest of staying warm and healthy when the temperatures outside are dropping, it’s a good idea to know what’s what with your furnace or boiler. With that in mind, we’ve compiled this list of the 10 most common signs that you might need to have your heating system repaired before it goes out.

1. Your Heating System Doesn’t Turn Off
Your thermostat could be at the heart of a number of your heating system issues. Start troubleshooting there to see if there is a simple fix.

While you want your heating system to run, it should turn off periodically to maintain the ideal conditions in your home. If your heating system continues to run and blow hot air, this could be a symptom of several different problems.

The simplest solution may lie with the thermostat; if you have it set to “On” instead of “Auto,” it will run continuously. If it’s set to “Auto,” it will turn off when it reaches the maximum temperature.

(BTW – “Auto” is the one you want.) If everything is set correctly, your thermostat may be wired incorrectly, or just plain broken, and need to be replaced. However, the issue could also lie with your system’s blower. If you have a blower issue, you’ll need an HVAC professional to diagnose and repair it.

2. Uneven Temperatures in Your Home

If your home’s temperature is not uniform throughout, this could be caused by a variety of issues, ranging from a dirty filter to ductwork problems to the fan motor, bearings, or belts. Leaky ductwork or fan motor problems can’t be solved on your own – you’ll need to call an HVAC repairman or a company that does duct sealing to fix these. Note: All American Heating can handle all of these.

Uneven temperatures can be an indication that the air flow in your home is not following the specified route, which can mean leaks in your system. Having your ducts cleaned and sealed can even out temperatures in your house.
3. Pilot Light Won’t Light or Stay Lit
If your pilot light won't stay lit, it could indicate an interruption in the gas supply. Call a professional to find and repair the interruption.

Whether you have a boiler/hydronic heating system or a forced-air furnace, if your pilot light won’t stay lit, this is a sign of trouble. Older boilers and furnaces have constant pilot lights that should always be lit. If the pilot light won’t stay lit, it might not be getting gas from the source. It could be that there is a draft blowing the light out or that the gas valve is turned off. In the case of boilers, you could have a faulty thermocouple. Or there may be a deposit of build-up that is interrupting the gas supply.

In any case, you can attempt to relight the pilot light yourself, but we urge extreme caution in doing so. Follow the instructions in your heating system’s guide carefully or contact your gas company or an HVAC professional for assistance.

Finally, newer gas furnaces and boilers have intermittent pilot lights that don’t stay lit indefinitely. Rather, these are controlled by electronic ignition. Sometimes, the sensors that control this ignition can be faulty or need to be cleaned, which would also cause issues with your heating system.

4. The Fan Isn’t Working

If the fan doesn’t seem to be working, first check the thermostat to see if it’s set correctly. If it is, then check your air filter. Sometimes, a filter long overdue for change will prevent the fan from working. Finally, look to see if your breaker switch is off. If it’s not, turn it off and back on. Don’t flip back and forth quickly, as this can cause an electrical fire. If none of these solves the problem, you’ll need to call a professional.

A malfunctioning blower fan can be a symptom of several things, including a thermostat that's not functioning as it should, or a filter that needs changed. Check with a professional if neither of those is the problem.
5. There’s a Burning Smell Coming from Your Heating System
A burning odor or smell of smoke when you first turn on the heat is normal. If it persists, you should contact an HVAC professional.

It’s normal to smell a burning smell when you turn on your furnace for the first time. That smell is dust and dirt that has accumulated since the last time you ran the heat burning off.  However, it should go away in short order. If it doesn’t, check and change your furnace filter. If the problem still persists, turn off and unplug your heating system (if applicable). Take off the cover and vacuum out the dust and dirt that has built up. If that and a new filter don’t solve the problem, it’s time to call in the pros.

6. Cool Air Is Coming Out of the Vents

Leaky ducts are the leading cause of cold air blowing from the vents in a forced-air heating system. But there are some other things you should consider, too. First, check your thermostat. Again, make sure it’s set to “Auto” rather than just “Fan On.” The fan will blow unconditioned air if the thermostat is not set right. If that is not the problem, next check your air filter to see if it’s dirty or needs to be replaced. A dirty air filter can make your system work harder or not perform as it should. If the air filter is OK, check to make sure the pilot light is lit. If not, there may be an interruption in the gas flow, such as the valve being turned off.

Cold air coming from your vents can be a sign of a number of different issues. For furnaces, it likely indicates a leaky duct system. For boilers, it's likely something in the system is broken. Call a professional HVAC technician or plumber to help you diagnose and repair the problem.

If everything else checks out, it’s likely the air ducts. You can find out if you have leaks by going to your crawl space or attic and feeling along the ductwork, especially at joints, to see if you can feel air blowing. You can also light a piece of incense to see if smoke gets blown away when it’s held by the ductwork at the joints.

If you have a boiler, the problem may be a faulty motorized valve, broken system diaphragms and airlocks, low boiler pressure, or even a broken thermostat (like what we mentioned above with regard to furnaces.) If the thermostat seems to be working properly, check your pressure gauge. If it’s below “1,” it may need re-pressurized. If neither of these checks finds the problem, you’ll need a trained engineer to help you solve it.

7. Leaky Boiler
If you see leakage around pipes or the boiler, itself, this is a definite sign of a problem. Call a boiler engineer or a plumber ASAP for repairs.

If you have a leaky boiler, it’s pretty obvious that you have an issue that needs correction by a professional. Boiler leaks can be caused by internal components including pressure valves or pump seals. If the problem is with the pressure valve, your boiler will experience elevated pressure. A leaky pump seal usually occurs when the seal has worn out.

Leaks around the pipes can be caused by corrosion or by improper installation. If your system is not installed properly, it’s likely that you’ll need a new boiler. A trained engineer can recommend the best solution for your system.

Caution: When trying to find the source of a leak, do not remove any casings from the boiler. If you don’t find a leak, you can try repressurizing your boiler, or you can call someone to do it for you.

8. Frozen Condensate Pipe

Your system’s condensate pipe carries the condensed moisture from your boiler to an outside drain. In colder weather, it’s common for this pipe to freeze, which may cause a blockage – particularly if the pipe is located in an unheated garage or outdoors. If the system is blocked, the condensate can run back to the boiler and may cause a breakdown. If you can defrost the pipe yourself (check online for guides), you may be able to solve the problem on your own.

If your condensate pipe or heating exhaust is frozen or blocked by snow the condensate can run back into the system and cause a breakdown. Keep this opening clear of snow, and consider insulating exterior points or pipes located in unheated garages.

Otherwise, call your heating system specialist for assistance – especially if your boiler has broken down.

Note: Add exterior insulation to this pipe before the cold weather arrives to help solve the problem before it starts.

9. Gurgling, Banging, or Whistling Noises Coming from Your Boiler
Some noise from your boiler is normal. Excessive noises like banging, gurgling, or whistling can indicate a problem called "kettling." When this happens, it's time to call an HVAC expert or boiler engineer.

It’s normal for your system to make some noise, especially when you turn it on for the first time each year. However, it’s important to recognize the difference between normal sounds and ones that indicate a larger problem. The cause might be as simple as air in the system, low pressure, or as serious as a faulty pump or “kettling” – a condition caused by a build-up of limescale. Regardless, unusual or excessive gurgling, banging, or whistling sounds mean it’s time to call someone who can fix it.

10. Lack of Regular Maintenance

Your heating and cooling system needs to be cleaned and inspected at least once a year. Twice is better – once in the Spring, and once in the Fall. If you haven’t kept up with your furnace or boiler maintenance, your system is likely not in premium working order. And this means you might be on the hook for higher energy bills, expensive, premature repairs, or even replacement. Make sure you schedule your regular system maintenance services to avoid these problems.

It's very important to have your home heating system serviced at least once, if not twice, per year. Not keeping up with your maintenances can lead to bigger, more expensive problems and require significant repairs, emergency charges, discomfort, and stress.

All American Heating is at your service to provide Honest, Fair, and Dependable heating and cooling services, including annual maintenance inspections for boilers, furnaces, and air conditioning units. We also offer maintenance agreements at reduced costs that will help you remember to schedule your service calls and save you money on other services over the course of the contract year. Call us at 970-453-6640 today to schedule your Fall heating maintenance service.

5 thoughts on “10 Signs You Need to Repair Your Home Heating System”

  1. It got me when you mentioned uneven heating in the home could be caused by several issues ranging from a dirty filter to problems with the fan motor. My brother mentioned some parts of the pump looked visibly damaged. I’m not sure if this has anything to do with it, but it’s clear we need an HVAC contractor to check.

  2. I’m glad you mentioned that it’s not normal to smell something burning when you first turn on your furnace. My husband and I turned the furnace in our new apartment on for the first time last night, and we noticed a burning odor. We’ll have to get an HVAC professional to inspect and repair our furnace in the next few days.

  3. It’s nice to know that if the temperature in your house is not consistent throughout, there might be a number of problems to blame, such as a clogged filter, ducting issues, or problems with the fan motor, bearings, or belts. This sucks because our furnace isn’t warming our house as much as it should anymore probably due to a leaky boiler. If I don’t want to freeze tonight, I should go call a heating repair expert to work on our unit ASAP. Thanks.

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