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Simple Tips on Troubleshooting Your Gas Furnace and Gas Heater Yourself

With winter on the way, it's time to check our heating systems to make sure they're operating properly. To warm a space safely and effectively, any heating unit you plan to use should be in its best operating condition.

Below are a few troubleshooting tips. If you're having problems getting your heating unit to function properly follow these tips and enjoy a safe and warm winter.

Troubleshooting a Gas Furnace

1. Furnace Won't Turn On

There are a number of reasons why your gas furnace isn't turning on when you want it to.

  • The power might be off. Check for blown fuses and tripped circuit breakers. Go to the primary source of electricity in your home and check all the switches, making sure they're in the on position.
  • It might be overheated. If this is the case, let it cool for 30 minutes and then start the heater again. To prevent overloading the motor set the thermostat to turn on at a reasonable temperature.
  • Check the pilot light. It could have gone out. If this is the case, you need to relight it. Check you user manual for instructions on relighting the pilot.
  • Check the gas supply. Make sure the valve supplying the furnace is open and everything is connected as it should be. Refer to the user guide and follow all directions for using the furnace properly.
Thermostat and accessories

2. Not Enough Heat

If your gas furnace isn't producing enough heat the following reasons might be why.

  • The thermostat might be set too low. Raise it by 5 degrees and see if it turns on.
  • The filter could be dirty. You might need to clean it.
  • The blower could be clogged. Check the heat output assembly and clean if necessary.
  • Check the registers to be sure if they are all open and not blocked by any kind of foreign object.
  • Check the burner, it could be dirty.

3. Pilot Won't Stay Lit

If the pilot won't stay lit there could be a few reasons. Check the following and if this doesn't work check your user guide or talk to a service professional.

  • Check the thermocouple to see if it's loose or defective. It might need tightening or replacing.
  • The pilot flame can be set too low. If this is the case adjust it so it's about 2 in. long.
  • The electric pilot could be faulty. In this case, you'll need to speak with a professional and have it repaired by an expert.

4. Furnace Turns On/Off Repeatedly

If you're having a problem with the furnace turning on and off in a repetitive manner try the following:

  • Check the filter. It could be dirty and might need to be replaced.
  • Check the motor and blower. It might need lubricating. If it's an oil lubricated motor, then it probably needs a little oiling to make it run smoothly.

A Few Tips on Other Types of Heating

If you plan on using portable heaters to keep warm this winter it's important to check elements of the heating system to make sure it's operating properly. Below are a few tips.


Electric Heater

If it's hardwired make sure everything is in good condition and operating properly. You can have a certified electrician examine the wiring to make sure everything is in good condition.

If it's a plug in, then make sure the plug, power cord, and your electrical outlets are in good working condition too. With electric heaters it's important to make sure all the wiring is as it should be.

Once, you've checked all the wiring to be sure it can be used, check the settings to make sure they are working. If there are any safety features you should probably check those too.

Remember this heater's been in storage clean it thoroughly so you can benefit from clean heat circulation. If you have an electric wall heater try the following;

  • Make sure the heater is off
  • Remove the front cover
  • Inspect the inside of the unit for dust and grime. Lightly brush the inside of the fan housing for cobwebs and dust. Brush the base to remove any dead bugs etc. Wipe the base with a damp cloth to remove any other debris.
  • Using diluted dish soap and a damp cloth, wipe the fan blades on both sides to remove dust. Continue this process until they are clean.
  • Once done, prepare a fresh bucket of water following the same process, wipe down the louvers from the top to the bottom. Wipe the cover again with a dry cloth to remove dampness.
  • Replace the cover, tighten knobs and secure it as it was.

Gas Heater

If you plan on using a gas heater this winter to keep spaces warm, then make sure it's operating properly. First, check for leaks.

  • The propane tank must be fitted with a supply cylinder that is compatible with the connector that comes with your heater. Check your manual for specifications.
  • Make sure the connection to your propane heating unit is tightly fitted.
  • Visually inspect the hose assembly for signs of wear or abrasion. If you detect any damage, contact a supplier to purchase manufacturer specified replacement parts.

Next, check the burner

  • Disconnect the propane tank from the heater.
  • Some units have electrical components. If yours does, make sure it is unplugged from the electric socket.
  • Inspect the burner and valves for debris, soot or potential clogs of bugs and insects.
  • Use a vacuum, pressurized air or a soft bristle brush to clean the exterior of the pilot and burner. Never
  • Use a toothpick, needle or other sharp object to clean the pilot fixtures, as they could break off and cause clogs.
  • If necessary, use a flashlight to inspect the burner inlet to check for blockages. Use a vacuum to clear the primary air openings.

Contact a service professional and have it examined by a certified expert, if you're still having problems with your heating system.

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