What to Do Before Placing a Heating-Related Service Call

December 27, 2021 | 1:27 pm

Note: Article originally published on December 13, 2019. Content and graphics revised on December 27, 2021.

Imagine it’s a cold winter morning in Pennsylvania. You wake up to a chilled house or business and make your way to the furnace. To your dismay, you find it has stopped working. Sure, you have a few space heaters to keep you and your family warm in the meantime — but what’s your next step?

Is Something Wrong With Your Furnace or Heat Pump?

If your heating system seems to be on the fritz, don’t reach for the phone just yet. There are a few things you can check before placing a heating-related service call, like:

  • Checking the thermostat settings.
  • Checking the fuel supply (if applicable).
  • Making sure the breaker isn’t tripped.
  • Making sure the air filters are clean.
  • Inspecting the registers, grills and baseboard heating elements.
  • Making sure the heat pump is running (if applicable).

Table of Contents

Six Things to Check Before Calling in the Professionals

By doing some simple troubleshooting on your own, you could potentially rule out possible causes and save some money. If you still find a service call is necessary, these proactive steps can help streamline the process.

1. Check the Thermostat Settings

Though it seems simple enough, your first step should be to check the thermostat. As the seasons change, it is easy to forget to readjust your thermostat for heating instead of cooling. Make sure it is set for heating and turned up to the desired temperature. During the winter season, experts recommend setting your thermostat to 68 degrees during the day while you are awake and then lowering the temperature overnight, while you are asleep.

If you use a battery-operated programmable thermostat, you might need to change the batteries. If you use a smart thermostat, make sure your internet connection and Wi-Fi signal are functioning. If your thermostat is functioning correctly, but the heat is still not on, move on to the next step.

2. Check the Fuel Supply

More than five million households use heating oil as their heating fuel in the United States. If you are one of these people, it’s time to check the gas line and fuel supply. There are a few common fuel supply issues that could be responsible for your loss of heat.

You may be out of oil or propane. Luckily, this is an easy fix. All you need to do is contact your heating fuel servicer and order a refill. In the future, you can prevent this by regularly inspecting your heating fuel level, so you know when you are close to running out. You could also sign up for automatic fuel delivery to ensure your home or business is never without heat.

If you use natural gas rather than oil or propone, it’s possible your gas meter has been shut off by the gas company — this could be because:

  • The gas company has detected a leak.
  • The gas company is performing routine maintenance on the line.
  • Construction is happening nearby.
  • Your gas bill is overdue.

If your natural gas supply has been turned off, make sure to contact your gas company before turning it back on. They can tell you why it was shut off and may be able to give you an estimated turn-on time.

Depending on the type of heating system you have, you may also need to check the pilot light. If the pilot light has gone out, you’ll need to reignite it yourself (if you are knowledgeable and it’s safe to do so) or call a professional to do it.

3. Make Sure the Breaker Isn’t Tripped

If your heating fuel is not the problem, it is time to check the power. Sometimes, the fan can overload a breaker circuit and cause a breaker to trip. Check the electrical panel and see whether a breaker has been tripped. You will know this has happened if:

  • A switch is flipped to the “off” position: Examine the black tabs — also called toggles — and see which direction they are pointing. Most will be directed toward the center of the electric panel — this is the “on” position. If they are pointing the other direction, the toggles are off. If they’re in between, the breaker has tripped.
  • The indicator window shows red: Some electric panels are equipped with an indicator window that lets you know the circuit board’s status via color. If this window is showing red, a breaker has probably tripped.

If the breaker has been tripped, turn it back on and then monitor it closely. If the breaker trips again immediately or over the next few days, you need to have your system checked by a qualified service company like Tuckey Mechanical Services, Inc.

4. Make Sure the Air Filters Are Clean

At Tuckey Mechanical Services, we respond to many heating calls, only to find that a dirty air filter has caused the unit to shut off due to improper airflow. Luckily, this is easily preventable.

Manually inspect your air filters each month to see if they are dirty or clogged. Increase the frequency of these inspections during heavy-use periods, like the winter and summer. At the very least, you should be changing your filters once every three months to ensure clean air and to keep things running smoothly.

If your air filters need to be cleaned, follow these steps:

  1. Turn off your HVAC system.
  2. Locate and unscrew the service panel to access the air filter.
  3. Find the furnace air filter near the intake-outtake blower.
  4. If it’s a reusable filter, wash it and allow it to air-dry before putting it back in place. If your filter is disposable, replace it with a new one.

5. Inspect the Registers, Grills and Baseboard Heating Elements

If your air filters are good to go, it’s time to check your registers, grills and baseboard heating elements to ensure they’re not blocked or shut. Make sure nothing is sitting on top of your registers.

If you have baseboard heating elements, keep them free from obstruction at all times. Keep furniture, plants and other items at least two feet (or more, if recommended by the manufacturer) away from your baseboard heating elements at all times. This will keep your system working efficiently and keep your home or business safe from potentially combustible materials.

6. Make Sure the Heat Pump Is Running

If you have a heat pump, regular maintenance is crucial. Did you know the difference in energy consumption between a well-maintained heat pump and a neglected one can be as much as 25 percent?

To see if your heat pump is running, feel the supply registers or grills and verify that air coming out. If so, check outside to see if the outdoor unit is running. Is it covered in ice? If it is, then you likely have an issue with the defrost control system. It’s also possible the Freon level is low due to a leak. Either of these scenarios require a qualified service technician from Tuckey Mechanical Services to address the problem thoroughly.

Tuckey Mechanical Services Is Here to Help

If your heating system is still not working after making your way through this checklist, Tuckey Mechanical Services technicians are happy to help. We stand ready to serve you, should a service visit from a qualified professional become necessary.

The best way to prevent problems like this is by enrolling in a budget-friendly preventive maintenance program, or PM, for your heating system. If you are a PM customer, we perform regular maintenance checks that cover the main items mentioned above and much more. Regular maintenance prevents costly breakdowns and emergency service visits. Additionally, should you ever require a service visit, PM customers get preferred scheduling and other benefits.

Give us a call at (717) 249-1535 or contact us online for quality residential and commercial services in South Central PA.

DISCLAIMER: This article is provided as a reference guide only. A qualified, professional contractor like the Tuckey Companies should handle all interior design, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, remodeling, metal fabrication, and restoration projects. Information presented here is of a general nature that may not be applicable in all situations. Tips, articles, and accompanying information do not represent an official recommendation of the Tuckey Companies.

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