It’s the middle of winter and our phone lines hum with calls from homeowners who don’t have enough heat or no heat at all. Our knowledgeable technicians will diagnose precisely what’s wrong with your furnace or heat pump and the first step in any diagnosis is to look for simple things first. Here are some of the most common problems we find when troubleshooting.

1. Dirty or clogged filters: The most important thing you can do to ensure adequate heat in cold weather is to change filters regularly. Dirty filters restrict air flow. This means your furnace has to work harder to circulate warm air throughout your home. This puts an unnecessary strain on your furnace and may result in a breakdowns, excessive utility bills and diminished equipment life.

Change filters at least every three months. Changing monthly is not excessive if you have a pet that sheds. Filters are cheap. You can buy a year’s supply for less than the cost of a single service call.

2. Ignition problems: Today’s heating systems typically have one of two types of ignition systems: hot surface ignition or intermittent pilot. Hot surface ignition uses a heating element, kind of like a filament in a light bulb, which is controlled electronically to ignite the gas burner. This element wears out over time. The intermittent pilot is also controlled electronically but uses a high voltage electric spark to ignite the gas pilot and then the main burners. A pilot may burn out due to drafts or clogs in the heating equipment or problems with the thermocouple.

3. Other mechanical issues: Modern heating systems are complicated machines with a variety of electro-mechanical moving parts, including belts, bearings, fans and motors. Over time all of these components are subject to normal wear and tear.

4. Thermostat malfunctions: Your thermostat regulates when heat is to be produced and how much. So-called “smart” thermostats can be programmed to set different temperatures at different times, depending on whether residents are at home and their comfort preferences. Whether you have an automated or manual thermostat, problems can develop that lead to no heat or inadequate heat.

Many thermostats are powered by batteries, and one of the first things our troubleshooting technician will check is whether those batteries need replacing! Modern thermostats give a readout warning when batteries get low. It’s surprising how many homeowners don’t notice or don’t heed the flashing reminders to change thermostat batteries.

The best way to assure that your heating system functions during the coldest winter days is to have your unit serviced regularly – at least once a year. Give us a call to ask about our economical service plans that include full system inspections and maintenance.

Regular maintenance is easy to overlook in the hustle and bustle of daily life. One of the great things about a service plan is that we will call to remind you when it’s time for your annual or twice-annual check-ups.