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Home Heating Emergencies: Dealing With a Dead Furnace in the Dead of Winter

Winter landscape

Nothing is worse than having your furnace quit on you during the bitter cold of winter. The heat that you have in your home can escape very quickly, leaving you and your family feeling the chill.

A dead furnace isn’t just an uncomfortable experience: it can also be a dangerous one. Many people are rushed to the hospital each year because of low temperature inside their own home. Whether you choose not to fix your furnace because you think you can last without it, or you just can’t for financial reasons, it’s imperative that you do whatever you can to get it running once again. Here are some tips for keeping your furnace going all winter long and what to do if it stops working.

Now, if none of these solutions below work, then you should contact a professional as soon as possible. More urgent information can be found here at AcademyAir.com/services/residential/emergency/.

Keep Up With Maintenance

The single best thing you can do to keep your furnace in tip-top shape is to get it checked out by a professional every year before the winter weather hits your area. If you are handy enough, you can even check it out yourself once the air starts turning cool, but there are some precautions.

First, make sure that the entire system is turned off. This will protect you and whoever is helping you from injury. Next, you should clean out the combustion chamber. This is where the fuel is ignited to make heat, and soot can build up on the chamber walls, decreasing efficiency. You can use a wire brush to loosen any excess soot and clean it up with a shop vacuum.

Check for holes or tears in the flue pipe leading to the rest of the house, as these will cause a drop in efficiency. You can patch small holes with duct tape, but if they are too large, you may need to replace it altogether.

You can read about other tips on furnace maintenance here.

If your furnace quits on you, check out these three things:

Fuses and Circuit Breakers

Furnaces can use a lot of electricity when they are running, so hopefully when yours dies on you it’s an easy fix. It could be that it drew too much electricity and blew a fuse or tripped a breaker.

Breaker boxes are much easier to work with than fuses, and unless you own an older home, this is what you will have. Just open the breaker box — usually located in the garage or a utility closet — and look for a breaker that has “tripped” either to the off position or that has a red line on it. Reset all breakers that have tripped and see if the furnace starts working again. Here’s a video that can help.

If resetting the breaker doesn’t work, or none of them were tripped in the first place, then you have another problem on your hands.

The Emergency Shutoff

All oil furnaces have an emergency shutoff switch for safety. This is installed in case of an oil leak or a fire that starts outside of the furnace. If it was installed correctly, it should be at the top of the steps or near the entrance to whichever room your furnace is in. This is because in the case of an emergency, you shouldn’t need to go into a smoke-filled room to search for the cut-off switch.

This switch will not shut off automatically, so if the furnace cuts off in the middle of the night while running, then it’s more than likely caused by something else. However, if you find that the furnace won’t turn on at all, then this may be the culprit. Someone may have accidently brushed against the switch earlier inthe day, turning it off. So check it and maybe that’s the case.

Reset Button

If neither of the previous solutions worked, then you can try to hard-reset your furnace. For whatever reason, maybe something went wrong with your furnace and it just needs to be reset in order to fix the problem.

The reset button is usually located on the front panel of the furnace. Press the button down for three seconds and then release it. If it fixes the problem, the furnace should start working again after a few seconds. If it doesn’t work, do not hit the reset button again as this can damage the equipment, costing you more money in the long run.

Amelie Jordan likes to think she can turn her hand to most things, especially with the help of Youtube! She is a stay-at-home Mom who writes articles on a range of homeowner and parenting topics.