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What to Do if You Lose Heat During Winter

October 22, 2021

With the harsh conditions of winter, the last thing you want to deal with is losing heat. Unfortunately, your heater could fail in the middle of winter, so it is crucial to be prepared. At Jacob Heating & Cooling, we have put together some tips for staying safe and warm if your furnace breaks during the cold winter months.

How to Safely Handle a Furnace Break Down 

Shut Off the Gas

If your heating system uses natural gas as its fuel source and it breaks down, be sure to pay attention to any odors that you smell and make sure you shut off the gas immediately.

A rotten egg smell could indicate that you have a gas leak. This is because natural gas contains mercaptan, a chemical that gives the methane in natural gas a sulfuric smell to make it easier to detect.

The residential natural gas you use consists of 85% to 95% methane, which itself is odorless and colorless but also flammable, and exposure to it can cause health issues such as nausea, suffocation, and headaches.

If your heater stops working and you begin to smell rotten eggs in the home, be sure to open the windows, if you can, and exit the home. Call your natural gas provider to inform them that you may have a gas leak.

How Can I Stay Warm While My Heater is off?

No one wants to suffer through the cold of the winter, so to help stay warm when your heater breaks down, you can try some of the following tips:

Utilize Your Fireplace

If you have a fireplace, it can be used as an efficient heat source while your heater is broken down. Whether it is wood or gas-powered, it will allow you to create at least one warm space for yourself and your family until the furnace is repaired.

Use a Portable Heater

Portable, non-electric heaters work great for situations where your heater has broken down. Be sure to check that your propane heater is safe for indoor use since many of these types of heaters are strictly for outdoor use. Using an outdoor heater indoors can lead to a dangerous carbon monoxide buildup.

Close all Windows and Doors

One major thing you need to do when your heater stops working is to keep your home airtight. This can be done by keeping all windows closed and make sure there are no air leaks prior to closing the drapes. You also want to roll up towels and place them at the bottom of your doors to keep out a draft. Additionally, close the doors to any rooms that you are not using.

Bake Some Tasty Treats

If the heat goes out, you may consider doing some baking. This will give you warm cookies or pastries to eat, and with the oven on, you can heat up your home a bit.

How to Troubleshoot Your Furnace

If you don’t smell gas and plan to remain in your home, there are some ways you can troubleshoot your furnace to see if you can resolve the issue:

Check Your Thermostat

The thermostat is the control center of your furnace, instructing the unit to either cool or heat the air in your home. Since this plays such a major role in your HVAC’s operation, some furnace issues can be tied back to a faulty thermostat. Inspect your thermostat to make sure it is set for heat and not on auto or cool settings. You will then want to switch out the batteries for fresh ones and then set the thermostat to heat. If bad batteries were the issue, you should notice your home warming up within a few minutes.

Inspect the Filter

You may not be getting heat from your system because of restricted airflow caused by a dirty filter. This can prevent the heat from exiting the vents and ducts if there is a lot of debris and dirt trapped there. If your filter is clogged and it is washable, be sure to clean it and replace it or purchase a new filter to see if that resolves your heating problem.

Check to See if Your Circuit Breaker is Tripped

If your home’s main circuit breaker was tripped, it could have caused your thermostat to shut down. Incidents like power outages can cause your breaker to shut off automatically to prevent electricity overloading. If an overload does occur, you will need to switch the breaker for your heater back on to restore power to your thermostat.

When to Call for Professional HVAC Help

If these troubleshooting tips don’t work, you may have more serious heater issues such as:

  • A faulty thermostat
  • Damaged blower motor
  • Failed fan
  • Cracked heat exchanger
  • Broken belt

All of these are more complicated to repair and will likely require the tools and skills of a professional heating repair and maintenance contractor to resolve. At Jacob Heating & Cooling, we offer expert 24/7 emergency furnace repair to ensure you aren’t left out in the cold this winter. Contact us today.

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