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By MyPros Staff

Brrrr!  It’s cold outside and it’s almost as cold inside your house.  Why isn’t your furnace doing what it’s supposed to do?  How come you’re shivering instead of enjoying a nice, warm, comfortable house?  A little knowledge and inspection can help you figure out the answers to these questions, and help you determine if your electric furnace has a relatively simple problem or if it needs repair service.

How your electric furnace is supposed to work
Let’s start with a quick look at how, exactly, your electric furnace is supposed to work.  It’s a pretty simple and straightforward process that heats air and distributes it throughout your home to maintain a set air temperature in your rooms.  The entire process begins with the thermostat that is typically located in a central part of the house.  You set the thermostat to the desired temperature.  When the air temperature falls to a certain level it triggers the thermostat to send a signal to the electric furnace.  This signal tells the furnace to start heating air and distributing it through the house.
Inside the furnace, when the start up signal is received several things occur: 

  1. The heating elements get hot and start heating the air around them
  2. When the elements and air are hot, the blower turns on
  3. The blower circulates warm air by blowing it through the ductwork to the various rooms in the house
  4. The blower action also causes circulation of cool air back through the return air ducts, where it is filtered before passing across the heating elements once again 

Sounds pretty simple, right?  The concept is pretty simple, yes, but making it all work the way it is supposed to is a bit more complicated.  When your electric furnace does not work it’s time to do some troubleshooting to determine if the problem requires professional furnace repair services.
Troubleshooting your electric furnace
When your furnace doesn’t work, it’s tempting to pick up the phone and call for repair service right away.  However, you can save yourself a lot of time and money by doing some basic troubleshooting first.  This will help you figure out if the problem is something simple or if it is more complex.  Here are some troubleshooting steps to follow:

  • Is the thermostat set correctly?  The thermostat temperature may be set too low and all you need to do is bump it up to a more comfortable temperature level.
  • Is electricity getting to the furnace (Part 1)?  Sometimes the breaker (or fuse) for the furnace will have tripped off for some reason, so check the main electrical panel for the house.
  • Is electricity getting to the furnace (Part 2)?  Some electric furnaces have a separate breaker panel built right into them, so even if the main electrical panel is working the furnace still may not be getting any electricity if the built in breaker is off line.  Check for a built in panel and see if any of the breakers have tripped.
  • Is the blower working?  In some cases your electric furnace might be heating air okay but the blower motor is not coming on to circulate the warm air.  Check to see if the blower turns on when the thermostat signals the furnace to kick in.
  • Are the heating elements working?  In some cases your electric furnace might be blowing air just fine, but the air itself is not warmed up as it should be.  Check to see if the heating elements are working by feeling the air duct where warm air is supposed to exit the furnace.  DO NOT reach into the heating elements with your hand or poke around them with a tool or object; you can be seriously injured if you do this.

If, after going through these troubleshooting steps, your electric furnace is still not working then it’s time to call a qualified and experienced repair service.
More troubleshooting for your electric furnace
Sometimes your electric furnace might be working, but for some reason it is not working as well as it should.  Maybe it is not heating the air as it should, or perhaps it isn’t blowing enough air into certain rooms in the house.  It may even become noisy enough that it’s distracting and annoying when it does turn on.  These situations also call for some basic troubleshooting to determine if the problem is something simple or if you need professional repair services.

  • Not heating the air enough.  Check the thermostat settings; try bumping the thermostat up five to eight degrees to see if that gets the heating elements working at full capacity.
  • Not blowing enough air.  Check the air filter inside the furnace to make sure it is not clogged.  Even if it does not appear too dirty, pull it out and clean it according to the directions because sometimes even a minor dirty filter can be enough to block airflow.
  • Noisy and annoying.  Check to see if any panels on the furnace have come loose because this can cause them to bang.  If you hear squeaking, look for the marked lubrication points on the blower and other moving parts and lubricate them accordingly.
  • Air not reaching some rooms.  Check to see that the heat registers are fully open in the room so that air flow can occur unimpaired.  Trying closing off the heat registers in rooms that are not in use.
  • Airflow and heating uneven.  Unless you have one of the advanced zone and control heating systems, sometimes the airflow and the heating can be uneven in different parts of the house.   If this happens unexpectedly, check to be sure all of the heat registers are fully open.  If this happens regularly, however, consider having a professional come in to check the ductwork for any blockages, leaks, or similar problems. 

The bottom line when it comes to knowing if your electric furnace needs repair is to go through some basic troubleshooting first.  Many times you’ll find the problem is as simple as a tripped breaker or a thermostat set too low, so troubleshooting will save you the expense and hassle of calling for repair service.  If you find the problem is not so simple and you do need to call for repair service, it will help the repair person to look for the problem if you have done your basic troubleshooting and can let him or her know what you found.


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Filed under: Furnace Repair

ronnie   Sunday, January 03, 2010, 7:59:09 PM
we have a electric furnace ,and it trips the breaker to the main panel ,but not on furnace itself about once every 2 days ,when its cold outside it seems to hardly blow hot air ,can you give me some advise ,we changed the filter thinking that would help it didnt thanks

Carrie   Monday, February 08, 2010, 10:32:38 PM
There is a burnt smell coming from my air vents . . . . it looks like the blower is not working properly. I am guessing that the belt may be fried . . . . any other ideas of what may be causing the problem?

It is an electric furnance and there is heat being produced btw.

nancy   Monday, October 11, 2010, 6:41:32 AM
we have a electric furnace when its cold outside it seems to hardly blow hot air ,can you give me some advise ,we changed the filter thinking that would help but its the same .it blows warm air all the time and that cause the furnace to cut in more often just to keep the temp. in the house.

travis   Tuesday, January 11, 2011, 8:38:25 PM
WE have a electric furnace in our condo and when the furnance kicks on the air feels so cold coming out. we have it set on 68 degrees and when i checked the air coming out of the vents it was 68 degrees. should it blow warmer to warm the place up and now blow what its set on? setting the thermostate is just to kick the furnance off when the air in the condo reached that temp correct? is the furnance bad or heating element bad?

Becky   Sunday, January 30, 2011, 4:51:22 PM
the heating elements heat up but sometimes the blower doesn't turn on usually about once or twice a day and the colder it is the more often it does it. what do you think the problem its.

Tammy   Monday, January 09, 2012, 7:57:17 AM
We have an electric furnace with A coils on the top. The blower motor does turn and blows warm air however it's gets hot to the touch and if not shut off will have a burnt smell producing smoke. Please help!

Marilyn Kearns   Sunday, January 15, 2012, 10:51:43 AM
The last couple of days, our electric furnace turns on, runs for about 1 minute, then turns off. After about a minute, it turns back on and runs normally. Sometimes, it turns on and off twice before it runs normally. Please help!

Ryan Martin   Friday, January 20, 2012, 5:54:16 PM
The thermostat turns the unit on, the fan seems to come on, but no air whatsoever comes to my vents. What might be the problem?

R. Heny   Sunday, February 12, 2012, 7:41:53 AM
Nothing above helped me. My elect. furnace blower motor won't shut off, has ran for over a year. The thermostat has no control, it maters not where I set it. Only to way to shut off blower is at the circut box....any ideas where to look?? Thanks

clint   Thursday, February 16, 2012, 9:32:53 AM
my electric furnace wont do a thing seems to have power the thermostat seems to be working but blower wont come on ??? nothing looks wrong with the wiring inside nothing burnt or anything just seems to have stopped for no reason any ideas??

b.j. stace   Saturday, February 18, 2012, 8:55:07 PM
blower works fine on fan setting, but when you set it on auto, heat element starts getting hot but blower wont kick on and unit shuts off after afew seconds.

Amanda   Friday, March 02, 2012, 12:58:20 PM
We have an electric furnace and our electric bill is astronomical!! We have a small 3 bedroom house that has recently been remodled with all new insulation and windows and haven't noticed any drafts. The furnace is also brand new. We always have the heat set at 74°. Can u please give me some advice on why our bill is so high?

Arnel   Monday, March 26, 2012, 1:37:38 PM
We have an electric furnace and my electrical bills are very high, its about $950.00 for two months. This is our third time having a bill this high. The house consist of 3 bedrooms in the upstairs and then a basement suite of 2 bedroom. The house is about 2,600 square feet and we usually set our temperatures to 21 degrees Celsius. Please give me some advise, why our bills is so high? Thanks.

beau   Wednesday, May 09, 2012, 12:39:51 PM
i have an electric furnace and its warm to the touch even if it hasnt been on all day,like when i walk past it i feel heat radiating off of it is that normal only way to keep it from getting warm is i turn off the breakers some one please help thank you

Amanda   Monday, September 24, 2012, 3:13:41 AM
I have an electric furnace and I went an turned it on and its blowing out cold air... everything seems to b working ok on the furnace the blower and the breakers r both fine... As soon as I move the thermostat to auto it shuts off completely when its on fan it blows cold air I hope u can help me figure out what the problem is....

chris   Wednesday, October 10, 2012, 3:17:40 PM
beau whatwas the out come mine is doing this

Bruce   Friday, November 02, 2012, 12:36:03 PM
I have an electric furnace. I install a new thermostat this summer. The air and heat work fine when I tested it out. Now that the temp has drop the heat want work. When the heat came on my tenant said it smell like smoke. I have rewire the thermostat to make sure nothing was loose. This unit does have a heat pump. The blower motor is working fine. I did find that she had not change the filter for 4 months. The filter was nasty. I tried the emerencey heat and that didn't work either. Don't the outside unit fan run when in heat mode.

Rick   Monday, November 05, 2012, 3:43:55 AM
Heater comes on heats air blower comes on heats room,comes to room temp.Flame goes out ,blower continues to run.Heat will not come on again until the unit is shut off&restarted.

Jorge   Tuesday, November 06, 2012, 4:28:44 PM
I change the electric bill to my name and its going to take about a week and my furnance wont turn on without electic is there a way I can turn it on ?.....its a gas furnance

charles brown   Wednesday, December 12, 2012, 7:41:19 PM
my electric furnace is blowing out cold air,at one time we turn it up to 90 and it popped on not any more.when i put it on auto it clicks on correctly but blows cold air

Izo   Monday, December 17, 2012, 11:26:23 AM
I have "orbit or norbit" little airheater fan, and it should heat up like one room , or as long as it needs to. But when i turn it on the little motor doesn't spin, but the meten springs are working fine, they get red and hot., (and that little fan should be blowing at those string to circulate the air flow,. but it doen't starts at all) and then after 2 sec, it (heat part ) shuts off, except the little orange light.

Stan   Friday, December 21, 2012, 5:16:11 PM
I was puting new termostat and trip the braker. After i turned the braker back on,my electrical furnece was not responding. Tryed connecting red and green wire on termostat to turn on fan ( fail) Looked in the furnece didnt see any burned wires. Can you tell me please, what i got to do now? And i dont see any fuses in the furnece

Mark   Saturday, December 22, 2012, 9:50:50 AM
I have two electrical furnances. They both were working last winter. The themonstate works, blower comes on, but is not heating. I checked breakers and electrical hookups. What is my problem?

Ronnie   Sunday, January 13, 2013, 9:11:09 AM
Furnace comes on and won't shut off. I can remove the thermostat from the wall and it will still come on as long as the breaker is turned on. The only way to turn the furnace off is to flip the breaker in the garage. I replace the fan control relay and it made no differance. Where do I look next?

Rick   Tuesday, January 29, 2013, 5:37:05 AM
For about the first 5 minutes after the furnace turns on there is a burning smell that eventually goes away. Whats strange is it doesn't happen every time but seems to be happening more frequently. Noticed it for the first time a couple weeks ago. Removed the panel when noticing the smell and nothing smells by the furnace and everything looks normal. The furnace is 17 years old. Any ideas as to what may be causing this? Thanks.

Luis   Tuesday, February 05, 2013, 11:54:53 AM
Wednesday, May 09, 2012, 12:39:51 PM i have an electric furnace and its warm to the touch even if it hasnt been on all day,like when i walk past it i feel heat radiating off of it is that normal only way to keep it from getting warm is i turn off the breakers some one please help thank you

Roger   Thursday, February 14, 2013, 4:06:29 PM
I have a electric heater and it cycles on and off every eight minutes.

Audrey   Sunday, March 10, 2013, 12:44:52 PM
We rent a house that is three bedroom, poor electrical, poor insulation, however recently we told the landlord that the heat was going out and he had his guy come out and they replaced the thermostate, now the eletric furnace kicks on, then kicks off then back on again and the same cycling once the heating cycle is done. Our electric bill is mind blowing to say the least before the replacement of the thermostate and now within 10days we have used 1000kilowatts, we are paying out the same in rent as we do for electric, what is causing this type of cycling to happen?

brent   Thursday, May 16, 2013, 11:41:03 PM
I live in a 800 sq ft apt and my electric bill has been crazy so I turn my thermostat to off and my electric bill is still over 100 dollars. SoiI turn the breaker off for two months and it goes to less than 50 dollars each month what could be wrong

Nora   Sunday, June 09, 2013, 1:49:13 PM
We have a electric heating and air cooling system with elements on the front. Our unit began to give off a smell and smoke. Any ideas to what can be done? Or what do you think is the problem?

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