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:
- The heating elements get hot and start heating the air around them
- When the elements and air are hot, the blower turns on
- The blower circulates warm air by blowing it through the ductwork to the various rooms in the house
- 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.