During the unforgiving Canadian winter, fewer things are worse in the world than waking up and realizing that the appliance responsible for heating your entire house has broken. When you’re left in out in the cold (literally), it can be easy to start to fret about just how much furnace repair can cost you.
Furnace fixes can take a toll on your bank account, but there are some repairs that you can do for as little as $50. That’s pretty cheap insurance for a worry-free winter of cozy, cost-effective warmth.
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For starters, you should be inspecting and maintaining your furnace annually. Once a year, vacuum out the area that is around your furnace’s blower. If you can, slide out the fan unit, thoroughly clean each fan blade with a toothbrush, and then proceed to vacuum using the brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner.
After this, inspect your system for oil ports on the motor. These are typically located near the motor shaft. If you see these, apply two to three drops of non-detergent motor oil into each of the ports. You might have to remove a cover plate in order to do this. Though many modern motors don’t require lubrication, do lubricate your furnace’s motors with oil ports once per year.
Check for Gas Leaks
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If you think you may have a gas leak in your furnace, you need to take action immediately. If you smell natural gas in your home near the furnace, never light a match or turn off or on any switches. If the odour is strong, you need to promptly leave your house and leave the doors open.
Turn the gas supply valve into the “off” position. This is located by your gas meter on the gas inlet pipe. Turn off the gas by slowly rotating the valve one-quarter turn with an adjustable wrench. When the gas is off, the valve’s oblong stem will be pointing perpendicular to the inlet pipe.
Call your gas utility company or local fire department right away and do not re-enter your home until you know it is safe.
Furnaces That Have a Pilot Light
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If your home has an older furnace that uses a pilot light that will not stay lit, the thermocouple may be faulty or loose, the pilot orifice could be clogged, the flame may be set too low, or the safety cutoff valve could be defective.
Your furnace’s thermocouple is a copper rod that the pilot flame heats up. When it gets warm enough, the thermocouple signals that there is enough heat to burn the gas fuel being released into the appliance. This enables the gas to be released by the burners. In some instances, when the pilot won’t stay lit, the thermocouple needs to be replaced or adjusted.
You can easily clear a clogged orifice with a piece of thin wire. Before you do this, turn off the furnace gas. Also be sure to switch off the circuit breaker or switch that controls the power to the furnace. Then, simply poke the thin wire into the small orifice where the pilot flame normally burns to clear out any dirt and debris.
Some older furnaces have flame adjustment screws. Always refer to your owner’s manual, but typically adjusting this simply means turning the flame adjustment screw to achieve a full, steady 1 ½-inch to 2-inch flame with no yellow in it.
Electronic Ignition Furnace
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On electronic-ignition furnaces, turn the thermostat down or turn the power switch to the “off” mode and then switch it on again to fully reset the ignition control module. Listen for the sound of the spark or look for the hot surface ignitor to glow. After you do that, thoroughly clean and check the furnace flame sensor. If it has a pilot light, look for the flame.
Consult your furnace’s owner manual or the instructions posted on the inside of the furnace’s cabinet for the step-by-step lighting instructions. This normally involves turning the gas valve to “off” and waiting for a few minutes. Then, you turn it to the “pilot” mode. Next, press and hold it down while you light the flame. Lastly, wait another minute, release it, and then turn it to the “on” position.
If Your Furnace is Not Heating At All…
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What happens? Thermostat issues can cause a lot of heating system failures. Other causes can include a tripped circuit breaker or blown fuse, or a pilot light that has gone out.
If your furnace’s heat does not come on even when you adjust the thermostat above room temperature, do the following:
- Ensure that the heater’s thermostat is set to the “heat” position.
- Check to see that the furnace’s circuit breaker is on or that a fuse has not blown. Also, check the main electrical panel and all subordinate subpanels that source power to the unit. If your circuit has tripped or blown, reset the breaker by flipping it all of the way off and then on again. You can also replace the fuse.
- See if the furnace’s power switch is turned to the “on” position. The switch can be found next to or inside of the furnace’s cabinet interior. If it is not on, turn it on, and then wait for the furnace to engage.
- Due to an overload, the motor may need to be reset. Look for the “reset” button near the blower motor housing and press it. If nothing occurs, wait for about 30 minutes for the motor to cool down and then try hitting the “reset” button again.
- Turn the power off for the furnace at its main electrical panel. Look for a fuse in the power switch. If you see one, inspect if it has blown. Replace the fuse.
- With a gas furnace, the pilot light could have gone out. Check the furnace’s ignition.
Doing these affordable furnace repairs can save you a lot of money, and can keep you comfortable during the winter.