11 Common Heating Problems to Sort & Enjoy a Cozy Holiday Season
Heating problems aren’t uncommon in the winter. As sturdy and reliable as your heating system maybe, you’ll still need to do a little troubleshooting along the way.
Winters are a splendid time! Building snowmen, setting up Christmas trees, basking in the winter sun, or just sipping hot chocolate by a crackling fire – the joys of winter are boundless!
But imagine if your home wasn’t heated so well? Would winter still be as fun? We thought not!
Heating problems around your home are more common than you might admit. And while these issues are often fairly easy to resolve, they can still take the fun out of winter for the time they exist.
So, what are these common heating issues, and how can we resolve them?
Let’s go over them one by one.
1. Cold Spots Around Your Home
One of the most common heating problems is having uneven temperatures around your house. The most likely culprits behind this can be an undersized or oversized HVAC system, dirty air filters, improper thermostat placement, or an older heating system. Additionally, if your home has a central heating system, the ductwork might be obstructed, leaking, or uninsulated, making it ineffective at the transfer of air.
Living in a multi-story home can also lead to cold and hot spots on various floors of your house.
How To Resolve: If you suspect that your HVAC unit might be too big or too small, you can call in a professional for an assessment or check out this guide on air conditioner sizing. Regularly clean and maintain the air filters and ductwork to remove excess dirt or debris obstructing airflow. HVAC zoning is also an effective way to make temperature on different floors even.
2. High or Low Indoor Humidity
Humidity can make summers hot and uncomfortable. While we may yearn for slightly more moist air in winters, excess humidity isn’t a desirable situation because it can lead to excess condensation, leading to mold and mildew growth.
Winter air is generally very dry, but poor home ventilation, water leaks, humidifier or dehumidifier problems, and inefficient exhaust fans can cause high humidity indoors. On the other hand, drastically low humidity levels aren’t ideal either since they can make your home feel extra cold. As a result, you’re more likely to crank up the heat, leading to higher bills and other heating problems such as system failure.
It’s very important to maintain ideal home humidity levels all year long.
How To Resolve: You can resolve low humidity by adding houseplants and running a humidifier in the drier months of the year. However, high humidity in winters is slightly complicated to fix since the underlying causes are more complex. For instance, if water leaks or a broken humidifier causes the issue, you’ll likely need a professional to check it out.
3. Your Heating Bills Are High
Heating bills can soar to terrifying levels in the winter season. While the cause for this issue might sometimes be straightforward – such as someone leaving the windows and doors open leading to lost heat, other reasons can be more complicated.
Firstly, your HVAC air filters might be up for maintenance. Grimy air filters can block airflow, causing your system to work harder and increasing your heating costs. Another possible reason is that you’re using an old and inefficient furnace, which can cause a multitude of other heating problems too. Furthermore, your ductwork could be uninsulated or leaky, leading to lost heat; your furnace might be cycling on and off too soon, or your thermostat settings might not be right.
How To Resolve: Regularly checking for issues with your heating system will ensure that it runs efficiently. Insulating your home’s ductwork and fixing any leaks will prevent the loss of conditioned air, which can normally drive your bills up. Additionally, if your furnace or heating system is old or outdated, you might want to consider a replacement.
4. Heat Pump Not Warming Home
Heat pumps are a great way to keep your home warm in moderately cold climates. There are several different heat pump types, and although they all work well, you can still face some issues over time.
First off, if your heat pump isn’t running at all, there could be damaged components such as a bad starting capacitor. If your heat pump does run but isn’t working as well as before, you might want to check out the air filters since dirty air filters can prevent the heat pump from operating properly. Sometimes cool air blows from vents even when the furnace is operating, or the heat pump is set to heat mode.
How To Resolve: Having your heat pump checked by a professional before the season will keep it from shutting off in the dead of a cold winter night. Remember to clean the air filters and the outdoor unit to ensure no debris or dust prevents the system from working properly. Also, ductless heat pumps can only work in moderate temperatures, so they might not be the right solution for you if you live in an extremely cold climate. In case of cold air from vents, there might be a problem with the ignition. Also, check and set the blower motor to “On” instead of “Auto.” If all else fails, you might have forgotten to refuel your furnace.
5. Thermostat Not Turning On
Thermostats tell your heating systems when to turn on and off. If these devices malfunction, you’ll be left with no way to control your home’s heating. There are several reasons why your thermostat might not be working.
The primary cause for thermostats not turning on is a lack of power. If your thermostat is battery powered, the batteries might have drained. For hardwired systems, tripped breakers or blown fuses might be the culprit.
Other possible causes for this heating issue could be loose internal wiring or connections, tripped float switches caused by a buildup of water in the system, lost or open access panels, or a damaged device. Without a properly working thermostat, your home will likely face a lot of other heating problems.
How To Resolve: Call in a professional to check for tripped breakers, loose wiring, or other electrical issues with your thermostat. If you’re using a battery-powered device, replace the batteries regularly to ensure the thermostat is never out of power.
6. Furnace Producing a Burning Smell
Since your furnace remains unused in the summer season, it can lead to dust buildup in your system. Consequently, when you fire up your furnace at the start of the season, you’ll smell a slight burning odor from the dust being burnt off.
However, if the burning smell persists throughout the season, it can indicate other heating problems with your furnace. First off, the electric wiring could be faulty, causing it to burn the insulation around wires. Another possible culprit can be an overheating motor, which is generally caused by worn-out bearings or clogged air filters. Dirty furnace filters can create an unpleasant odor even if they aren’t making the motor overheat.
How To Resolve: Before you turn off your furnace for the summer, clean it thoroughly. If you suspect that the issue isn’t a dirty furnace, ask an expert to check the electric wiring and the motor.
7. Furnace Is Noisy
Like all other appliances around your house, furnaces and air conditioners generate some sounds when in use. However, if the noise is loud enough to keep you up all night or if you notice new noises, it’s time to call in a professional to check it out.
Some common reasons your furnaces might be noisy could be that the panels are out of place, the ignition may not be starting; which will produce a clicking sound, the fan belts may have slipped, causing a squealing sound when you run the furnace, the ball bearings may have become damaged or run out of lubrication. Additionally, you may hear banging or explosion sounds from the system, which is generally caused by unburned fuel and needs immediate attention.
How To Resolve: Noisy furnaces are one of the most common heating problems out there but will mostly require a professional to come in and sort the issue out. Pay special attention to clanking or explosion sounds because those indicate unburned fuel problems that can be pretty dangerous if ignored.
8. Heating System Short Cycles
Your heating system should cycle 2 to 3 times per hour, or the heating session should be around 10 to 15 minutes per cycle. If it isn’t, the system could be short cycling for one of many reasons. The most common culprit with this heating issue is an oversized HVAC system that will quickly heat the air close to the furnace/heat pump and then cycle off. Other probable causes could be poor airflow, improper thermostat placement or dirty temperature sensors on the device, or damaged components in your furnace.
Short cycling of your heat pump or furnace can lead to multiple heating problems in the long run, such as high energy bills, and can also shorten the life of your system, so this issue is best addressed as fast as possible.
How To Resolve: An oversized HVAC system uses more energy than needed and short cycles in smaller spaces. If you have a device too big for your room, you’re better off replacing it with a more appropriately sized one. Also, check the location of your thermostat. Place it in an area of the house where the temperature is consistent, such as in the lounge and away from direct sunlight.
9. Airflow Problems
Heating and cooling systems rely on a healthy airflow from vents that deliver conditioned air to your home. If these vents don’t provide enough air, your home will likely suffer several heating problems. There are a few common causes of this issue.
First off, it’s likely that the louvers on the vents are closed or partially closed. If so, you can open them if they’ve been shut by accident, or you can replace them if they’re stuck shut. Other causes for airflow problems are a lack of sufficient return vents, clogged ductwork, damaged or dirty blower motor, leaks in the ductwork, clogged furnace filters, or issues with the damper system.
How To Resolve: Remember to clean air filters and ducts to allow air to flow more easily. However, if you believe that you don’t have enough return vents or that the blower motor might be faulty, you’ll need to consult an expert. These repairs will likely be more costly.
10. Trouble With Air Filters
Air filters need regular maintenance or replacements to keep your HVAC systems running efficiently. The normal time to replace different types of air filters is generally three months, although this time can vary based on several reasons. If you have to change your filters more often than that, you may have to call a professional to check for one of the following issues.
The most common cause can be having debris or other contaminants enter your system through gaps or holes in your ductwork. Another way excess dirt can get into your system is if the space around the return vents is very messy. Also, if there are high levels of indoor air pollutants or contaminants, the furnace filters will clog more easily and result in heating problems for your home.
How To Resolve: HVAC filters need regular maintenance to keep your indoor air quality up to the mark. Keep the area around return vents clean and tidy to prevent the ducts from sucking in debris. Also, call in a professional to check for holes in your ductwork, especially if you find contaminants like insulation or insects on your air filters.
11. Heating Equipment Needs Frequent Servicing
Like all other appliances around your home, your heating system needs frequent checkups and maintenance. However, if you’ve had to call the HVAC professional more this season than ever before, you have a reason for concern.
The most common cause for frequent system failure is that you’ve been slacking off on annual maintenance. These yearly checkups by a professional involve checking all the components for damage, cleaning the system thoroughly, and looking for other critical issues. In addition, some parts require maintenance more regularly. The air filters, for instance, need replacing every few months.
Your furnace may also be breaking down more because it’s at the end of its useful life. A good heat pump will last you about 12 years, while a furnace can go from 15 to 20 years. If your system is approaching the end of its lifespan, you may want to consult a professional on getting a new heating system. While it might be a costly investment upfront, it will sort many of your heating problems out.
How To Resolve: Conduct yearly maintenance checks on your HVAC system to keep it in top shape and repair any issues before they become serious. If you have an older system, consult an expert and start looking into replacement options.
Winters are a truly wonderful time. This season is full of delights, from playing with snow to enjoying a cup of simmering hot chocolate by the fire! But, unfortunately, heating problems around the house can take many of these joys away. While there are many different heating issues you can face, such as having uneven home temperatures, inefficient heating, noisy furnaces, and more, these issues are often easy to tackle. Regular maintenance and checkups before the season starts are a great way to curb these issues before they can ruin your holiday season!