Imagine that it’s the middle of winter. Suddenly, your house goes from being toasty to becoming an icebox. After ruling out a power outage, you conclude that your furnace has stopped working. This guide will tell you what went wrong and how to fix it!
First, make sure that anyone you contact for repair can handle your furnace. Some brands may require special treatment.
Second, many modern furnaces have a LED light that blinks red or green. Before you start repairing, write down what that LED light is doing. The light will blink in a code indicating the problem. Record this before turning the power off.
Let’s look at what could be going wrong and what you can do about the problem. Even if you call a repair service, a professional will appreciate the steps that you have already taken towards solving the problem.
Below are the 5 most common furnace problems and how to fix them if you want to DIY. Please remember to record the error code and turn your furnace off before attempting repairs. It is also important to understand that furnace parts can wear out and get dirty just like anything else. This video by John Holland from All Utah Home Repair Services has a quick guide to basic furnace maintenance.
If your furnace turns on for about three seconds, then shuts off, you probably have a dirty flame sensor. This is the most common problem and also one of the easiest to fix. The sensor will be located near the burners, usually opposite the ignitor. It is usually a metal rod. If this rod cannot sense the flame, it will shut the furnace off. Locating, inspecting, and cleaning the rod only requires a cleaning pad.
Beware if your furnace restarts too many times; it will lock itself for three hours. Your furnace is not dead if this happens!
If your furnace does not produce enough heat, it may be time to replace your filter. Your furnace may also turn off because it doesn’t have adequate air circulation. The symptoms are similar to the dirty flame sensor problem, but the solution is different.
If your furnace heats or cools your house at random, or is way too loud, a broken thermostat is probably the culprit. The furnace has stopped regulating both your house and its internal heat. This problem could be as simple as a dead battery, or you may need to replace the thermostat.
If you turn your furnace on and nothing happens, the most likely issue is a faulty inducer motor. If you put your hand on the inducer motor and it feels hot, it is probably the problem. Your furnace may have a diagram for this part; please refer to that when trying to fix this part. More likely than not, something is stuck inside the motor’s blower wheel. If you do need to replace it, the motor might cost $100–400, but installation services may raise that to $650.
If you smell burnt plastic, the problem is probably a bad blower motor. Your blower motor may also be hot to the touch. Unfortunately, the only way to fix a bad blower motor is to replace it. A standard blower motor may cost $600–700 to replace.
This is the epitome of “technical difficulties.” The only way to repair a faulty control board is to get a new one, which will cost around $300 to $650 with additional labor charges. Note the brand and model of your furnace.
If your furnace issue doesn’t match any of these, you can continue looking for your issue online or seek professional assistance.
If your problem goes beyond DIY, you may need to ask a professional. LocalProBook will help you find the right repairperson. A repair costs from $260–$2,500 depending on the damage. It’s important to weigh whatever quote you get against getting a new furnace entirely.
If your furnace cannot be repaired, you must buy a new one. Including labor and installation, this can range from $3,000 to $7,600. The three most common brands are American Standard ($1,600–$6,000), Bryant (~$2,300), and Carrier (~$6,300).
Consider the following when buying a new furnace:
* Size. The size of your house affects what kind of furnace you will need.
* Efficiency. Furnaces have gotten more efficient over time. If saving energy is a concern for you, it may be more expensive and/or risky to buy a newer model, but it could also save you money over time.
* Warranty. Your furnace should come with a warranty. Always read the fine print.
* Air quality. If you have allergies or asthma, getting a furnace with good air filtration is critical.
* Technology. A good UI can help maintain your furnace without needing to call anybody!
This video featuring Bryan of Fire & Ice Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc. in central Ohio covers most of the points that will help you decide if you should repair your current furnace or buy a new unit. A new furnace is a big investment that should serve you for years.
Alternatively, you may want to consider a heat pump. Although more expensive to install ($4,900–$12,000), heat pumps can save you money throughout the year and have no risk of gas leaks.
If you have a furnace issue, the first thing you should do is stay calm. The next thing is recording the brand and light patterns. Then turn the furnace off so you can inspect it safely and decide if you want to attempt fixing it or call a professional. Even if you ask a professional instead of fixing the furnace yourself, they will appreciate your knowledge and initiative.
However the brand should really be your least concern. A good contractor can make any furnace operate great and reliably. A bad contractor can make even the most expensive furnace seem like a piece of junk. Put most of your effort into finding a good contractor and then go with the brand they are selling.
Greg Kummer answered your questions (Greg Kummer profile on quora)
Expertise: 30+ years factory trained HVAC technician.
Education: AOS in Refrigeration & Air Conditioning, Universal Technical Institute (UTI)
Location: Lives in Santa Barbara, CA
Title: Mechanical Systems Lead (from 2015 - present )