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Safe & Healthy Home Series: What to do if your furnace breaks down

It’s cold – and it’s about to get colder. Your heart sinks along with the temperature inside, as you realize your furnace has just stopped running. Don’t panic and call the pros right away.

Renowned American handyman Bob Vila says you can often save yourself the expense of a service call if you check these things first.

  • Is the thermostat set to “cool” and not “heat”? As obvious or ridiculous as it sounds, it’s worth checking in case something got moved.
  • Are the thermostat batteries working? Check while you’re there, because some do use batteries.
  • Now, switch the thermostat to Fan. If nothing happens, there probably is a problem.
  • Head down to the furnace itself. It will normally have an on/off switch on the wall near it, as well. Flick it. Maybe someone turned it off accidentally.
  • No? Well, then, is it a case of a filthy furnace filter? Most pros in Canada recommend changing them once a month in our frigid winters.
  • Go to your circuit breaker, find the circuit for the furnace, and make sure it’s on.
  • If you have a gas furnace, check the gas valve. It’s usually within six feet of the furnace and has perhaps been turned to the off position. If you don’t want to touch it or check it – and that’s understandable – see if the other gas appliances in your house are working.

If none of these leads to a resolution, it’s probably time to make the call for service. Remember that having your furnace checked once or twice a year, especially if it’s ageing, is probably worthwhile to extend its life and reliability.