What to do when your furnace goes out

Furnace inspection

It’s getting cold outside here in Indiana, and your home is a warm refuge from winter weather, thanks to your furnace. But what if something goes wrong and your furnace breaks? What do you do if your furnace goes out this winter? It seems like appliances always break when you most need them, and the worst time for problems with your furnace is during the cold of late fall and winter. 

There’s no need to suffer through the cold. You can take action to get your furnace fixed and keep yourself warm in the process. These tips will walk you through what to do if your furnace goes out this winter.

When You Suspect a Broken Furnace

It’s a winter morning, and you wake up early and get out of bed—and realize it is so cold that you just want to hide under the covers all day. If the heat in your home suddenly stops working, you might wonder if there is a problem with your furnace. It may be something simple you can take care of on your own, or you may need to bring in professional help for a serious problem.

The first thing to do when your house gets cold is to check for simple problems with a simple solution. When you suspect the furnace has gone out, take these steps:

  • Make sure your furnace is turned on—most furnaces have a switch mounted on their side (it may look like a light switch) that is easily bumped. Turn it back on and see if that fixes the problem.

  • Make sure your furnace is set to “heat mode” on the thermostat. If not, set it to “heat” and wait to see if your home starts to get warmer.

  • Reset your furnace.

  • Check your thermostat to make sure some other setting wasn’t accidentally bumped or changed. If you have a smart thermostat, it might have an alert about a potential problem with your furnace.

  • Your thermostat may be broken: set it to different temperatures and see how the temperature in your home responds.

  • Check your electrical panel to make sure you didn’t blow a fuse or trip a breaker. You can fix these at home.

  • Make sure that the pilot light isn’t out or that the gas valve is not shut off. If it is, you can relight the pilot light.

If none of these seem to be causing the problem with your furnace or if you feel uncomfortable dealing with them on your own, the next step when your furnace goes out is to call a professional such as Meldon HVAC. We can take a look at the gas and electrical components of your furnace to see what the problem is.

How Long Do Furnaces Last?

Like any appliance, furnaces do not last forever. Even with ideal conditions and regular seasonal maintenance, a furnace is an appliance with moving parts that will fail or have problems eventually. The average lifespan of a quality home furnace  in our climate is anywhere between 15 and 18 years. Some of the highest quality models can last as long as 30 years. If your furnace is older than 15 years, it might be worth it to have it inspected and cleaned. This way you can have an idea of how much longer it will last and get any repairs needed to prevent your furnace from going out unexpectedly.

Keep Warm When Your Furnace Goes Out

When your furnace goes out, check for easy fixes and then call in a professional. While you’re waiting for your repair person to arrive, your priority should be to keep yourself, your family, and your home as warm as possible until the furnace can be fixed. 

Use a Space Heater

If a power outage wasn’t the cause of your furnace going out, use a space heater to stay warm. Plug it in a central room and try to stay there with your family most of the day until your furnace is up and running again. Gathering everyone together into one room will keep all of you warmer. If you don’t have a space heater, try borrowing one from a neighbor. Make sure to place it on a level, flat surface and don’t sit on or drape anything over the heater. Space heaters should never be left unattended.

Use Your Fireplace

If you have a gas or wood-burning fireplace, it’s time to turn it on. You can use your fireplace to warm up parts of your home. Make sure you use all safety precautions when starting a fire in your fireplace.

Insulate Against Outside Air

To keep cold air from getting in from outside, close all your windows and doors. Shut the blinds, curtains, and drapes. Hang towels over windows that don’t have a window treatment. Close the doors in rooms you aren’t using, including the basement and guest rooms. If your family is able to stick to one room until it warms up, hang up blankets in the doorway to try to keep the room as warm as possible.

Stay Inside

Every time you open the door, heat escapes and cold air comes inside. Until your furnace is fixed, limit the number of times you go out and come back in. Consider just having everyone stay home for now.

Dress Warm

Pull out the winter gloves, hats, scarves, sweaters, coats, fluffy socks, and even snow pants and boots. Dress in layers and cover up in blankets to stay warm. 

Keep Moving

If you have little kids (and even if you don’t), have a dance party. The movement will warm you up and keep everyone in good spirits. If you prefer, do a workout, yoga, or anything to keep moving and warm up your muscles.

Get Cooking

You should never turn on the stove or oven by itself for the purpose of warming up the house—that is a dangerous fire hazard. But that doesn’t mean you can’t bake or cook something delicious to pass the time and warm up the kitchen in the process. Try making soup to help you stay warm, or cookies, pie, bread, or a hearty dinner casserole. 

Slumber Party

If your furnace goes out at night and you need to wait until morning for a repair, have everyone in the house sleep together in the same room. Take the precautions listed above, and call it a slumber party to raise morale. Pile on as many blankets as you can find, and use the space heater in the room if you have one, making sure to use all safety precautions.

Can Pipes Freeze If My Furnace Goes Out?

Many people worry about their pipes freezing as their home gets cold after a furnace breaks. This is definitely a concern—going without heat for even a few hours can cause your pipes to freeze. Along with taking steps to keep your house warm, you can do these tasks to reduce the risk of frozen and burst pipes:

  • Turn the faucets on to keep the water running on a low drip.

  • If you have them, place space heaters where pipes are vulnerable, such as in the basement—but never leave them unattended!

  • Open cabinets, closets, and other spaces that contain plumbing to circulate warm air.

Call Meldon HVAC

Do you suspect your heater has gone out? Don’t suffer in the cold for too long. Call Meldon HVAC today, and we’ll send out a technician to repair your furnace and warm your home back up.

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