Home Improvement Published November 22, 2011 By Mauri Wills
Furnace Problems: How to Quickly & Easily Fix Issues

If your gas furnace is acting up or not working at all, it doesn’t help to know there are hundreds of things that could possibly be wrong—especially if the furnace hasn’t been maintained properly. But very often the problem with your home heating turns out to be a simple one, which needs only a minor fix.

Before you freeze up at the thought of furnace troubles or you call up a service technician too soon, check your furnace over for common malfunctions, many of which can be easily fixed.

Being aware of common furnace problems puts you in greater control of the comfort, upkeep and safety of your home. With a little knowledge, you will soon be troubleshooting simple issues at little or no cost, with the motivation to plan preventive maintenance.

Check the Power Switches for the Gas Furnace
If your furnace doesn’t run at all, the problem could be as simple as the electrical switches being turned off.

Check that the circuit breaker controlling the furnace is switched to the on position—(found inside the electrical panel or fuse box, which is located usually in a garage, utility room or basement).

Check also that the electrical service switch for the furnace is turned on—located usually near the furnace, at the bottom of the stairs or somewhere in the basement.

Check Pilot Light on Older Furnaces
Older gas furnaces have standing pilots, which maintain a continuously burning flame that ignites the furnace. The pilot must be lit with a match or lighter. (The pilot light control should be turned off in summer when the furnace is not running).

Check to see if the furnace pilot light is lit or needs to be relit. If the pilot will not light, it is quite possible you need to replace the thermocouple—an inexpensive metal wire, which controls the gas valve supply and prevents dangerous gas leaks. Take extra precaution working around gas valves.

Check the Thermostat
A faulty or improperly set thermostat is another typical block to getting gas furnaces going.

The thermostat, a switch for regulating heat flow and temperature, should be set to the heat position. If no heat or fan kicks on when you adjust the temperature setting, then you could have a thermostat malfunction. You can try replacing programmable thermostat batteries or testing terminals to see if the thermostat needs to be replaced.

Change Clogged or Dirty Furnace Filters
Dirty filters are one of the most common furnace problems—blocking heat flow, polluting indoor air and also causing furnace parts to run harder and burnout sooner.

Check or change furnace filters monthly or semi monthly, depending on the age of your furnace, how often you run it and the level of impurities being circulated, like pet dander. If the size of your furnace allows, get a reusable, washable filter to save money and simplify maintenance.

Be sure the furnace door is closed after changing filters or the furnace will not run.

Check for Low Air Flow
Little or no air flowing from indoor vent registers could be a sign of damaged fan, motors, belts or bearings, which strains and overheats the furnace.

Check the outside vents for blockages like leaves or snow (first turn off power to the furnace before you clear any outside vents).

If airflow blockage persists in the overall vent system, consult with a professional.

Don’t Delay Furnace Maintenance
You can save yourself money and trouble just by knowing what problems to look for. But for more complicated issues with your furnace, call in a certified contractor or trained furnace repair specialist. You can seriously hurt yourself or damage the furnace by attempting fixes beyond your skill level.

Schedule regular furnace maintenance to prevent system breakdowns and promote energy efficiency, while ensuring safety with important checks like carbon monoxide levels.

Whether you have lived with your furnace for years or you just inherited it, get cozy with maintaining common furnace problems so you can feel more at home.


  • Often, furnace problems boil down to minor issues as simple as a dirty filter.
  • A furnace not running could be something as basic as electrical switches turned off or a flame out on a pilot light.
  • Schedule regular maintenance for your furnace so you can feel safe and keep your home running efficiently.
  • Take extra care when replacing parts, like wiring a thermostat or installing a thermocouple in older gas furnaces.
  • If you do not feel confident after checking common furnace problems, always consult with an experienced professional—but ask lots of questions so you don’t get overcharged.



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About Author

Mauri Wills is a modern-day Renaissance man with extensive experience in a variety of areas. His broad range of knowledge is truly an asset to the National Fix and Flip Network.

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