Noticing that something is amiss with your heater is never a good sign, but it’s always wise to assess the issue to understand how bad it is. Sometimes, a heater problem can involve a simple fix, but others may need immediate attention to ensure you keep your home comfortable and safe.
That said, here are eight signs you have a broken heater and whether it’s something you should have a professional handle for you:
1. A Yellow Pilot Light
Starting with one of the more dire situations on the list, a pilot light burning yellow could mean your heater is filling your home with carbon monoxide. Leave immediately, and if you are experiencing some symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, go to the hospital or call 911.
2. Higher Energy Costs
Damaged furnaces work less efficiently, often pushing into overdrive to keep your home warm. While nowhere near as dangerous as the first entry, higher energy costs still pose a significant issue to you and your loved ones.
While these sorts of issues are worth calling a professional for, you may only need routine maintenance if it’s been a while, and — the furnace is old enough — upgrading and installing a new one might make more sense altogether.
3. Short Cycling
Short cycling (the process in which a heater frequently turns on and off) usually indicates an issue with your thermostat. It’s the first issue on this list that a homeowner can address on their own, as the root of the problem could simply be that the thermostat needs new batteries.
If that doesn’t work, the issue might be more significant, and then calling in the pros becomes the best option to receive a proper diagnosis.
4. Blowing Little or No Air
If you notice your heater is just not pushing out enough warm air, there could be a few things to blame. Sometimes, you may need to replace the filter or a component around the heater is dirty. A routine servicing will usually resolve the issue, and the technician can often clean your system or replace any damaged parts if necessary at the same time.
5. Strange Noises
It’s natural to hear something when your heater is operating, but new or odd noises like bangs or booms are alarming and should raise concern. Many furnaces will start making noise when they’re breaking down, so calling for professional assistance now can prevent you from needing to replace your furnace later.
6. Strange Smells
You shouldn’t smell much when you run your heater, barring the first time you turn it on after it lies unused through summer and fall. However, certain smells, such as the scent of rubber or plastic burning, could mean your heater has suffered electrical damage. A good rule of thumb with strange smells is to change the filter, see if they persist every time you run the unit, and call for help if that’s the case.
7. Blowing Cold Air
A furnace that does nothing but cold air is undoubtedly frustrating, given that the heater does the opposite of what it should do. Start your troubleshooting by ensuring the furnace is getting electrical power. If it is, but it’s still blowing cold air, then it’s a good time to call a professional.
8. Failure to Start
Heaters will often turn off if they have a dirty filter or coil. Heaters that start fine but eventually turn off usually need these elements cleaned, and they’ll generally return to normal. Still, if your furnace won’t start at all, there’s not a chance that you don’t need some professional intervention. Call for the necessary repairs immediately to keep your home safe and comfortable.
When in Doubt, Let Professionals Figure It Out
Of course, the above list is by no means exhaustive of heating system problems. If you notice something off about your heater but can’t pinpoint the cause of the issue, it’s always best to assume that servicing is required and call for assistance. Fixing a furnace is not a DIY task either; working on one is dangerous, so protect yourself by leaving it to the pros.
A great way to keep these issues from popping up is frequent maintenance. If you haven’t had furnace maintenance in a while, consider this your reminder to schedule an appointment! Doing so will keep costly repairs at bay and leave you with a more efficient system that will likely last longer.