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What To Do When Your Furnace Won’t Turn On

There’s a moment of heart-stopping tension for any homeowner with an aging furnace– the first time she throws the switch and the furnace won’t turn on. Or maybe he’s kept the thermostat at 68 for the past 100 years and suddenly he realizes that the house is cold– and growing colder by the hour.

Before calling your heating contractor, there are a few obvious possibilities.

furnace won't turn on*  Was your thermostat somehow turned down or turned off the last time the heat was on? It may still be in the ‘off’ or ’55 degrees’ position.

*  Has the emergency switch somehow been turned off so your furnace won’t turn on?

*  Do you have fuel? It’s easy to forget such matters when the mercury hovers in the 80′s for months on end.

*  Is the red light on, indicating you are overdue for a service call? Filters could use changing, maybe? Or seasonal maintenance is due?

After you’ve checked those items off your list and the furnace won’t turn on, it’s time to give your HVAC a few moments of serious consideration.

First, start the search for a certified HVAC contractor by zip code.


After you’ve done your homework (jotting down notes, taking numbers), ask yourself:

  1. Do you recall how much you paid for heat last year? (Your fuel company can provide you with that information.) How did it compare with the year before? Are you seeing ever-higher bills with a lower return on satisfaction and/or comfort?
  2. Was your central heating system included when you purchased the house? If so, and if that was 15 years ago, you might want to consider replacing it. High-efficiency equipment (boiler or furnace) will not only keep you warmer; it can shave 5-15% off your energy bills. So you’ll see a payback, year after year.
  3. Does it seem like you’re always calling your heating contractor? Repairs not only cost you money, but they may be making your unit less efficient.
  4. How satisfied are you with this HVAC system? Does it feel like some rooms are never comfortable– too cold, too hot, too humid, too dry? Are you freezing in the bathroom while someone feels like they’re taking a sauna in the kitchen?
  5. Are there drafty places in the house? Are there spots everyone avoids when they choose a seat in the evening to watch TV or get online?
  6. Is there no one home for 12 hours a day, yet you can almost hear that furnace wheezing while you’re at work, 30 miles away? You might need a programmable thermostat– a smart device that has been set to warm the house just in time for the residents’ homecoming.
  7. Do you notice a lot of dust in the house? Does it seem worse this winter even though there’s no new construction in the neighborhood? If your ducts are leaking, you could be pulling particles– not particularly healthful ones– from insulation in your attic, basement or crawl space.
  8. Does the furnace turn off and on, all night long? That is not simple insomnia; it’s a sign that the system isn’t cycling properly– and it’s fixable.


contractor repaired furnace that won't turn onBy now, you have the names and numbers of a couple of good HVAC contractors. When they come to inspect your home heating system, you can tell them about the problems you’ve just identified. If you have questions about what they’re telling you, probe a little! Check the ‘Get educated’ section. Ask for clarification.

Now you are well on your way to a better night’s sleep, lower fuel bills, and a cozier winter. Where else can you get that kind of return on your time and money?

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