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Furnace Repair - DIY Steps And When To Call The Pros

Furnace Repair in Sussex, DE and Furnace Repair in Wicomico, MD.

As winter approaches it's time to prepare for the cold season and those bitter cold Nor'easters that we get here in Delmarva that chill us to the bone. That means cleaning out the furnace, replacing the air filters, and checking the thermostat. You might also find that you need to schedule an appointment with a furnace repair technician to make sure your furnace can keep you warm and safe this winter. Here are a few steps that you can take to ensure your furnace is in good shape, or if it is really in need of repair. Enjoy learning and have a happy, warm winter :)

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Steps To Take Before Scheduling A Repair

Furnace Repair

For many homeowners, the immediate reaction to a furnace problem is to call a technician and schedule a repair. The technician later arrives to discover that it was a very simple problem the homeowner could have resolved themselves. If you would like to save money by performing minor maintenance and repairs yourself, then you should consider the following checklist prior to scheduling a repair.

1. Check The Thermostat

This might sound like a trivial problem, but it's actually extremely common. Homeowners often believe that their heating system isn't working so they schedule a repair. When the technician investigates the system they realize that the thermostat was not on the correct setting. For example, the selector switch may still be on “cool” or stuck somewhere between the two options. They might also have the temperature set too low for the furnace to engage.

The last thing you want to do is pay a technician to adjust your thermostat. That's why checking the settings should always be your first step. Make sure that the selector switch is fully moved onto the “heat” option. Make sure that the temperature is set high enough. Finally, make sure the thermostat is set to run immediately and not on a timed schedule.

If the thermostat is not displaying any information at all, then it may be time to swap out the batteries. Replacing the batteries in your thermostat should be as easy as removing the front cover and putting in a few new batteries. If the thermostat does not use batteries, then it is possible that the fuse in the breaker box may be tripped.

If you're comfortable doing so, open your breaker panel (just the door, not actually opening the box with a screwdriver, just sayin) and check for any tripped breakers labeled furnace, heat, AC or something like that. If this happens again, call us immediately. This could be an indication to a larger, more dangerous issue with your furnace!

2. Check For Gas Flow

This is a problem that new homeowners often face shortly after moving from an all-electric home to a house that uses gas. They turn on the heater at night but the furnace never ignites. The first assumption is that there is something wrong with the furnace so they schedule an appointment with a local hvac technician. It turns out that it was not a problem with the furnace at all, but simply that they had not yet called for gas service at their new home. Or if you are using an oil furnace, your oil tank may be empty.

You can avoid this simple problem by ensuring that you have gas at your property. Obviously, this only applies to homeowners with a gas-powered furnace. If the stove is gas powered, then it's very likely that the furnace is as well. You can also tell by simply locating the furnace and reading the information on the labels.

If you have gas at the property, but the furnace is not lit, then it may be as simple as lighting the pilot light yourself. Most furnace units will have clear instructions printed on the furnace about lighting the pilot. You can also find an online manual if you are able to identify the make and model of the furnace. Igniting the pilot light is a very simple task. It's a good idea to learn how it's done so that you don't need to call a technician every time that it goes out.

In fact, next time we're in your home, maybe for your annual furnace tune-up, please ask us how to perform basic hvac tasks like this to prevent future furnace repair visits that you could have remedied yourself and saved a few dollars.

3. Clean The Air Filters

Dirty air filters are one of the leading causes of home heating problems. It can cause a variety of symptoms that seem very serious, but the cause of those problems is extremely easy to fix. It's as simple as taking out the old hvac air filter and replacing it with a new one. It shouldn't take longer than a minute to get the job done.

Some of the problems caused by dirty air filters include increased energy bills, reduced air flow, poor indoor air quality, dirty components, cracked heat exchange, and even an entire system break down if the problem is ignored for long enough. Thus, if you suspect any problem with your heating system you should check the air filters before contacting an hvac technician.

You should be cleaning or replacing your air filters regularly even if you aren't currently experiencing any problems. The problems caused by a dirty filter will often go unnoticed for quite a while. For example, your electricity bill may steadily increase over several months. It could be a year later before you realize you're paying an extra 20 percent more than you were the previous year. Learn some fast, free or cheap energy (money) savings tips here.

The damage caused by a dirty air filter can become quite expensive. The increased energy bill, the cost of hiring a technician, and the potential damage to internal components all add up. You could very well be paying thousands of dollars because of a problem that is extremely easy to fix. In comparison, the cost of a single air filter is usually less than twenty dollars.

4. Check The Safety Switch

Most modern furnaces have a safety switch located on the furnace door. The point of the switch is to prevent the burner and fan from operating while the access panel is removed. The switch will pop out as the door is open. When the door is closed, the switch should be pushed in, thus allowing the furnace to properly operate.

If you recently lit the pilot light manually or performed any maintenance in the area, then it's possible that the door was not fully closed and has since opened. This would cause the safety switch to disengage and the burner to stop operating. It might also be possible that the safety switch has stopped functioning properly because of wear and tear over the years. It will need to be replaced if that is the case.

Replacing a furnace safety switch is not a particularly difficult task. You should be comfortable working with electrical wires if you plan to replace the switch yourself. Otherwise, inform a local furnace repair technician and they can handle the job for you in a short period of time.

5. Clean The Burners - Likely best performed by a professional hvac tech, like us.

A dirty burner is very likely to encounter seemingly random problems that come and go. Luckily, it's fairly easy to tell if your burners are dirty and even easier to clean them out. Most furnaces will accumulate dust over the summer because they are not used often. That's why it's always recommended that you take the time to clean the furnace and burners before the start of winter.

You can often tell if burners are contaminated by looking at the flame it produces. An even, blue flame is a sign of a clean burner. Flames that are yellow or sporadic are burning dust and debris.

To clean the burners, you should disable any gas and electricity going to the furnace. You then use a vacuum cleaner with a hose to suck any dirt, dust, or debris of the burners and in the surrounding areas. It's recommended that you do this at least once a year and it's always a good idea to do it before calling a repair service. Your furnace could return to working normally immediately after being cleaned.

This is an included part of our annual hvac Maintenance Program. It's super great value and will keep you safe and warm, guaranteed.



DIY Furnace Repairs – What You Can And Should Not Do

Most of us love the idea of being able to take care of our homes without the assistance of paid professionals. We try to make every repair job a DIY project. When it comes to furnace repairs, there are certainly many tasks that you can handle yourself as long as you have the right tools, keep safety first, and do your research. However, there are also some furnace repair projects that should be left to the professionals. Here are a few situations from both sides of the aisle.

DO – Replace Your Thermostat

Replace HVAC Thermostat

There are a few different reasons you might need to replace your thermostat. The first of which is that your previous thermostat has stopped functioning properly. They are designed to last a long time, which is why many new homes still have very old thermostats, but eventually, they break down and need to be replaced.

You might also want to replace your thermostat as an upgrade. Modern thermostats come loaded with cool features like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi connectivity, programmable options, and the ability to communicate with smartphone apps. They can save you a lot of money on wasted energy. In either case, you can easily replace your thermostat at home without the assistance of a professional.

The exact details of the process are going to vary from one system to the next. You should always find out as much information as possible about your particular furnace and your new thermostat before proceeding. It's always a good idea to read through any related manuals you can find. However, the overall process is typically very similar regardless of the furnace or the specific thermostat.

The first step is always to kill the power to the furnace by turning off the associated breaker switch. Next, you will need to remove the face of the existing thermostat. You should see various colored wires hooked up behind the face as well as the back cover of the thermostat, which will be screwed to the wall. You should take a few pictures of the wires and where they are connected. It will make it much easier to properly wire your new thermostat.

Now, you use a screwdriver to disconnect the wires from the existing thermostat. Then remove the mount from the wall. You will then attach the mount for the new thermostat to the wall and connect the wires to their appropriate headers. You may also need to add batteries to the new thermostat. Finally, attach the face of the new thermostat and turn the power back on at the breaker box.

Keep in mind that advanced thermostats may require additional steps, such as connecting to Wi-Fi or to a smartphone app. You'll need to read the operating manual to determine exactly how that works.

DON'T – Replace An Inducer Fan

Replacing a fan seems like a fairly simple job for some. You may have replaced a fan in a car in the past. However, there are certain dangers associated with replacing a fan used in a furnace. When professionals install a new inducer fan they utilize special sealants and take extra measures to ensure that no carbon monoxide leaks from around the fan.

A gas furnace produces carbon monoxide as a byproduct. The furnace is designed in a way that carries the carbon monoxide away from the home through fans and venting. When you attempt to repair an inducer fan improperly you could allow that carbon monoxide to continually flow into the home instead of outside where it belongs. It's not a problem that you will notice immediately, but it can have deadly consequences over time. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include confusion, nausea, disorientation, and eventually death.

Any home with a gas or oil appliance or furnace should have a quality carbon monoxide detector installed. This is a must!

DON'T – Replace A Gas Valve

This is another repair that seems very simple for some but leads to bigger problems in the long run. A gas valve must be properly calibrated to the specific gas pressure used by the home and the furnace. If you attempt to install a new valve without proper calibration it could lead to a variety of problems. The heat exchange could burn, the furnace could fill with soot, and the entire unit could stop working.

This is one of those cases where paying a professional for the repair will be more affordable than attempting to fix it yourself. And, as with any repair, you should only attempt those that you feel comfortable with handling. Making a small error on any small furnace repair could lead to costly damage down the road.



In Conclusion

Knowing when to call a furnace repair service and when to make the repairs yourself can be a tricky situation. At any rate, you should always run through the checklist covered above before making the call. Tasks, like replacing a filter and checking the thermostat, are not risky at all and could save you a lot of money. If those steps don't return your furnace to working order, then feel free to pick up the phone and call the pros.



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Testimonials

Hear what others are saying about our heating and ac repairs.

Francis M

Milton, DE

GL gave me the best heater service and repairs that saved me thousands. He now has a new customer for heating service and repairs. I am glad that I made that call. I am a very happy customer.

Craig S

Lewis, DE

Very reasonable fees, seemed sincere and not just after the quick buck. I highly recommend his heating and air conditioning company, and will use him for additional services.

Steven M

Ocean View, DE

Gary arrived on time, was very professional and completed the heating system repair work in a timely manner at a very reasonable cost. I would recommend his company based on his honesty and integrity of service. I had an estimate from a larger company and they said it was very complicated and would take several hours. I knew better and Gary did the installation in 25 minutes and charged accordingly.

Jon S

Milton, DE

Very prompt response. Excellent heating and cooling service & a fair price. I highly recommend. GL will be my default "go to" guy for all future HVAC work & maintenance.

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