It was a bone chilling winter day in Minnesota with the forecasted high temperature struggling to rise above zero. The air seemed chilly in the house, so I bumped the thermostat up a few degrees as I walked down the hallway.
About an hour later, my home still seemed cold. Checking the thermostat again, I noticed the air temperature was 61 degrees even though it was set at 70. Putting my hand over the nearest air vent I could feel that the furnace fan was running, but it was blowing out cold air.
My furnace was broken! “Great”, I thought. As any man would do, my first course of action was to descend into my basement mechanical room. I stared at the furnace hoping some sort of divine intervention would occur to impart wisdom on me as to how the metal giant actually worked.
After a few minutes, and a few choice words that no wisdom had arrived, I decided it was time to attack this problem from another angle. There was no way I was going to call the repairman before I exhausting all my efforts.
If there was a way I could save several hundred dollars by doing the repairs myself, then I was going to do it.
My wife was not so convinced. As I sat down in front of our laptop at the kitchen counter she was already pulling out the phone book to look up numbers for someone who could come take a look at the furnace.
I asked her to give me just a few more minutes to see if an internet search would provide any clues as to why our furnace was refusing to heat our home.
I found a handful of items that an average home owner should investigate:
- Furnace Engagement: Turn the thermostat down low so the furnace turns completely off. Turn it back up, and listen for a “click” that would indicate the furnace engaged. In my case it did click, and the fan started running again.
- Pilot Light: I went back to my furnace room and ensured that my pilot light was lit. Yes, it was.
- Furnace Filter: If the filter is too dirty, it blocks the air flow. The warmer air of the home that’s trapped inside the furnace tells the unit it’s already warm in the home, and thus will not produce more heat.
- Air Intake: If the air intake pipe, located on the exterior of your home is blocked, the furnace will not be able to pull fresh air into the unit and will not run correctly.
That last item on the checklist is when I struck gold. My intake pipe is located just below my deck, and had a massive icicle growing on it, completely blocking the opening.
While it was frigid that specific day, the daily temperatures had been unseasonably high in the preceding week. With the thawing during the day, and the refreezing overnight, snow on my deck had melted and dripped through the cracks onto the intake pipe underneath.
I kicked the icicle off the pipe, and the furnace began blowing hot air almost immediately. What a simple fix!
With a little internet searching, and some good old fashioned homeowner curiosity, I was able to save the $80 (minimum) HVAC service call. My attempts at homeowner DIY solutions don’t always work, but in this case it was a success!
So before calling someone to fix any of your home repairs this winter, do a quick search online (or even call a friend/family member to help) and troubleshoot your problem. You may be able to save yourself a good chunk of change, and the repair guy a bit of time and headache.
Do you have any homeowner fix-it-yourself success stories? How much did it save you?