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San Diego Furnace Repair: 5 Troubleshooting Issues Before You Call a Pro

Mar 30, 2017

San Diego County is known worldwide for amazing beaches and fun in the sun, but it also has mountain resorts and deserts. So, air conditioning is desirable in the summer months…

And, it has its share of cold nights too. While many furnace repair issues are easy to discover, don’t be the guy who doesn’t know when to call in your professional San Diego furnace or air conditioner repair expert.

Don’t be like Elaine’s husband:

As the first winter storm of the San Diego season rolled in, Elaine cranked up the furnace. She didn’t want her newborn catching a cold. Sensing something didn’t smell right, she called her husband, away on business, who laughed, calling it “new mother paranoia.” Unable to shake the feeling, she shut down the furnace, and bundled her baby up for the night.

In the morning, she called a San Diego County furnace repair professional. When the technician pulled the access panel off, it was obvious Elaine wasn’t paranoid. The intake compartment was somehow bent and distorted, causing the gas furnace to suck the pilot flame up and blow it like a torch, scorching the surrounding walls. It was apparent that this young mother’s instinct was spot on.

Whether you are just moving into your new home or have lived there for years, gas furnace maintenance and repair does more than make your home energy efficient. It saves lives.

But does every furnace heating issue require calling in a San Diego furnace repair professional? No.

Here are 5 troubleshooting items before you make the call for San Diego heating help.

1. No Pilot Flame

You’ve probably lit it a million times. But, this time, no flame pops on. Assuming the gas is flowing into the house (check your water heater), the orifice where gas is released might be clogged with dust or debris.

Cleaning is always a good first step. Turn the gas off and the circuit breaker, if you have an electric ignition. Vacuum the area with a shop vac to pull out whatever loose debris might be there.

If the pilot light still won’t ignite, the gas level might be set too low.

If the pilot light doesn’t remain on, there may be a bigger issue requiring you to call a heating or plumbing service.

Your gas furnace has a safety component called a thermocouple. For the non-HVAC savvy, a thermocouple is a fancy term for that “thingy” that will prevent a fire. It shuts the gas off if the pilot light goes out or an igniter fails.

A pilot light that won’t stay on might be the result of a failed thermocouple or something deeper into the system.

This is a good time to call your heating air conditioning expert.

2. Heat Pump Failure

Some heating and air conditioning design components rely on a heat pump to move hot and cold air around to help keep a particular area of your home just the right temperature. While you might not be familiar with your heat pump, a problem here often manifests itself with the thermostat.

We’ll start with the thermostat by first making sure it is set to the correct setting. Once you confirm that the thermostat is set to heat, check the circuits on the electrical panel. Is a circuit tripped?

If it is tripped, reset it and try the heat pump again. If you experience the same problem, this might be a call to the heating and air condition repairman.

If the system was running and suddenly stops, you may have put the motor into overload by working it too hard, too quickly. As part of the safety features of the air handler, when the motor gets too hot, it will stop to cool off. Inside the air handler cabinet, usually near the base of the motor, is a reset button.

Check the air registers in rooms, confirming they are open and without obstructions. You will also want to check the heat pump filter.

A clogged filter can lead to irregular cycles of the heat pump or cause it to overheat. Regularly changing the filter not only alleviates this problem but also helps keep allergens and germs from spreading throughout your home.

Daylight savings time is a good reminder to change all air conditioner and furnace filters in your home, just as you hopefully do with the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

If you’ve tried these troubleshooting items, but still have issues with consistency, call your local heating and plumbing service expert to further troubleshoot the issue and get your heat running efficiently.

3. Furnace is Running but Home is not Heating

If you’ve checked the furnace and all circuits are going, the pilot light is on and the system sounds like it is blowing, it’s time to check the ducts to make sure the heat can be released into the appropriate rooms.

Go through and again make sure there is nothing obstructing registers. While the interior of the registers may have been cleaned out, if you have a sofa or curtains in front of them, you not only will prevent proper air flow, you are creating a potential fire hazard.

After you confirm all registers are clear, you may want to double-check your air ducts. You might be losing your heat in your attic with ducts not properly sealed.

If you find the ducts are allowing hot air to escape into the attic before hitting the registers and rooms, you can reseal them yourself. Be sure to use aluminum foil tape to get the proper seal.

While checking the duct seals, make sure you have enough insulation around the ductwork. Without insulation, cold air in the attic will cool the ducts themselves, forcing your furnace to work harder from start to finish, potentially overloading the system.

4. Furnace Cycles Too Often

Maybe your furnace is working just fine, in terms of heating your home, but it cycles on more often than you think it should. This could be something as simple as someone accidentally flipped the switch on the thermostat to “on” instead of “auto” and you just need to flip it back.

Make sure there isn’t something near the thermostat to give a false reading, like an open window or fan. This may seem obvious, but you never know when your teenager decides that they are too hot on a chilly night.

Some thermostats have a secondary lever that calibrates the length of time between the furnace cycling on and off.

If this doesn’t solve the problem, give your furnace repairman a call. The thermostat may need to be replaced or something else within the system may need to be fixed. Call a San Diego furnace repair provider.

5. Gas Leak

Any home using any gas appliance or heater should have a carbon monoxide detector along with a smoke alarm. If the carbon monoxide detector goes off, immediately exit the building and call 9-1-1.

This is an odorless gas and not detectable without the carbon monoxide detector. It’s a by-product of burning carbon-based products (wood, paper, coal, etc…) and binds to red blood cells preventing actual oxygen from being transported throughout the body.

Natural gas is another very serious concern. Some homes use methane, ethane or propane to heat water, ignite stoves or light fireplaces. A leak may result from a pilot light being out, improperly sealed gas hoses or other damage to the line.

A smell of rotten eggs may be indicative of this type of gas leak. Gas leaks literally suck the oxygen out of the room, leaving nothing useful for you to breathe. They also create a highly combustible situation.

What to do?

Vacate all people and animals from the area, keeping any doors and windows open to allow the gas to ventilate out. Call the gas company to come out and investigate. If it’s the furnace or another appliance, call a pro to fix the problem before you turn the gas back on.

San Diego County is earthquake country, with many homes having gas shut-off valves. If you suspect a gas leak, you will want to shut gas off as soon as possible. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the gas shut-off valve and have the correct wrench readily available.

The gas company is also happy to help (preferred over the fire department sirens). But, we’re confident this is something you can do even in the few minutes it takes the professionals to arrive.

Look at the valve. Gas on means the valve is parallel to the pipe. Gas off means the valve makes a “T” across.

Needless to say, but we’ll say it anyway: don’t use any lighters, matches or anything else when there is a suspected gas leak.

At Anderson Plumbing, Heating and Air, our goal is to help prolong the life of your furnace and keep you cozy and warm all winter long. But safety is our first priority.

Our technicians are trained not only with HVAC system issues but also with air conditioning system components.

We service all of San Diego: North County, South County, and East County – from San Marcos and Rancho Bernardo to Otay Mesa; we are here to help with your HVAC system and air conditioning repair needs.

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