If you live in an area with harsh winters, you’re likely already familiar with the importance of having a functioning heating system during that time of year. It helps keep your home warm, cozy, and comfortable when temperatures drop. A good heater also protects you and your family from all kinds of health issues associated with freezing weather conditions. All of this and more is why it’s so essential for you to take quick action if your heating system breaks in the winter.

A broken heating system exposes you and everyone in your home to various potential risks, from getting sick from the cold to living in uncomfortable conditions. Certain health hazards also come with having a broken heating system itself. For example, if your heating system becomes a breeding ground for bacteria and other pathogens, it could put everyone in an awful position. Let’s go through the steps you should take if this ever happens to you and give a few tips on performing them correctly.

Find out why your heating system broke

After realizing that your heating system broke, your first step is finding out the cause of the mishap. Although a malfunction of your heating system in the middle of winter can be terrifying, the issue may not be as severe as it appears. You may have a quick DIY fix if the malfunction results from something simple. Let’s go through some things you can do to find out what is causing the problem.

Check your fusebox

Another possible cause of a heating system malfunction is a blown a fuse. Find your fusebox and see if this is the cause of the issue. You can see that a fuse is blown if it looks discolored or cloudy or if you can see damaged metal inside it.

Check it for gas leaks

If you can smell sulfur (an odor similar to rotten eggs), you may have a gas leak. That isn’t the only possibility, so panic is not needed. But it’s better to be safe than sorry. The chemical you’re potentially smelling is called mercaptan. It’s added to odorless hazardous gasses like carbon monoxide to help people notice dangerous gas leaks. If this is the case, you should turn off your heater, shut off the gas lines, extinguish all open flames and evacuate the house. Then, call for help.

Check if the filter is blocked

Check the filter in your heater for excess debris. If your heater is blocked, it can stop the heat from traveling through your vents.

Check your home’s circuit breaker

If your home’s circuit breaker trips after a power spike or outage, it can cause your thermostat to turn off. That messes up the work of your entire heating system.

Check out the pilot light

The pilot light ignites the gas in your heater, producing heat. If it stops working, your entire heater will stop generating heat.

Check the blower motor

The blower motor moves the fan in your heating system. If it’s broken, the fans won’t be able to blow hot air through your home. The most common reasons why the blower motor dies are corrosion and condensation.

Check the fan itself

It’s also possible for the fans themselves to stop working, usually due to excess debris or damage that loosens it.

Check if the belt in your unit snapped

Some HVAC systems have belt-driven motors that move the fans. If this belt breaks because of damage, your fans will stop working. You can usually tell from the smell of burning rubber, although your unit might not even have this type of motor.

Check the heat exchanger

Another possible reason a heating system breaks in the winter is cracking in the heat exchanger. If this is the case, you might also have a gas leak. Remember to take the appropriate steps we discussed above if this happens.

Repair your heating system or call for help

After you’ve determined the cause of the malfunction, it’s time to make repairs. There are some simple things that you can do on your own, but it’s essential to be realistic about your abilities. If you don’t know how to fix something or think you’ll be able to do it properly (and without getting hurt), it’s time to get help from a professional.

When do you need to call for help?

Other than not knowing how to fix an issue, there are some situations where it’s essential to get a professional for your safety:

  1. You notice strange smells – Your heating system shouldn’t create any unpleasant smell. If you notice this when you approach your heater, it’s essential to call a professional immediately since they can be signs of dangerous malfunctions. We’ve already discussed what the smell of sulfur means, but there’s also the smell of burning, smoke, diesel, or oil;
  2. The heating system is making noises – A light sound of air coursing through your heating system is typical. But, if you notice a loud noise while your system operates, you should avoid DIY-ing the fix. Loud sounds are an indication of serious issues, and trying to fix them yourself can create even more damage;
  3. Signs of short cycling – If you see that your heating system is turning on and off intermittently, it’s likely short cycling. That is a sign of a wiring issue, and you should leave those to professionals. Not only is it dangerous to fix electrical issues on your own, but it’s also challenging without formal training.

Make sure to keep warm until you repair the system

Even if you call a professional to help you fix your heating system after it breaks during the winter, you’re still likely to have to wait a little while until they arrive, mainly because you are not the only one with this issue. Heating system repairmen are usually stretched thin during this time of year. That is why you’ll need to do everything you can to keep yourself and your family warm until your heating system is up and running again. If you live where winters are exceptionally harsh, experts from allseasonmovers.com recommend renting out storage space where you can keep some emergency items such as extra blankets, space heaters, etc.

How to keep warm if your heating system breaks in the winter

One of the best ways to protect your home from the harsh cold of winter is to utilize any alternative heat source you can think of. Additionally, you could have everyone in the home dress in layers like you would if you went outside. You could prepare hot drinks like tea. Another great tip is to roll up some towels and place them anywhere you feel a draft and beneath doors.

Some prevention tactics for the future

If your heating system breaks in the winter, there are ways to fix your problem. But it’s always better to work on prevention than to rely on resolving problems after they have already come up. One of the best ways to protect your heating system from possible malfunctions is by having professionals conduct regular maintenance. You can also ask them to show you your system’s weak points and how to properly maintain them by yourself throughout the year.

To wrap up

It’s normal to be frustrated and stressed out if your heating system breaks in the winter. It’s an essential utility, and malfunctions can be hazardous. But, as long as you avoid catastrophizing and start working on repairs right away, you can handle the whole ordeal easily and quickly.