As much as we try to provide do-it-yourself tips, it's just a fact of life that sooner or later you'll be at the mercy of an HVAC professional. After all, HVAC systems are complex equipment requiring in-depth knowledge of electricity, plumbing and mechanical systems, specialized diagnostic equipment, state licensure and EPA certification. When it comes to HVAC trades people, there are basically two types: the "parts replacer" and the "service technician."
The Parts Replacer
This individual knows how to replace parts, but may not have the necessary advanced trouble-shooting and engineering skills or may not want to put forth that extra time and effort that may be required for your situation. Has this ever happened to you? You spend money to replace a part, only to have similar trouble just a week or two later, so they come out and replace a different part. This could be a sign that no in-depth trouble-shooting was done initially to determine the exact cause of the problem, and the technician merely replaced the "most likely" part hoping that might fix it. The parts replacer mentality can be very costly for the consumer! You wind up buying things you might not need, and the real preventive maintenance is not done on the systemâ€¦because it is just easier to let it fail and replace it later.
Tip: Any time a part is replaced, make sure you see the old part that is removed, and the new part being installed. You may not have a clue about the parts themselves, but at least you'll be assured that if you paid for a new part to be swapped out with old part, that it actually was! Then, hang on to the old part, and if it turned out not to be the problem after all, ask for it to be reinstalled and demand a refund for the cost of its wrongful replacement.
The Service Technician
This individual takes the word "service" seriously. They spend the time and effort necessary to investigate the problem and find the best solutionâ€¦ and they know the best solution is not always to replace parts. This individual takes the word "technician" seriously, too. They are not afraid to tackle a difficult repair or to fabricate a part or to engineer a more optimal solution. They realize that there is more to being an HVAC service technician than simply being able to replace parts. Listening to the customer and being sensitive to their needs is just as important as the technical skills they possess. These types of people actually protect your investment in your HVAC system and save you money in the long-run by keeping your system tuned and by preventing the need for parts replacement. Sure you can replace a failed part, but not fixing the underlying cause of what made that part fail in the first place means you'll be spending more later. This is why the lowest bid on a job may not always be the one you should choose.
Tip: Always seek out a second opinion if a major expense is proposed, and don't be quick to opt for the lowest price. Ask questions about what will be done: what parts will be repaired or replaced and the amount of time it will take. Ask also if they will guarantee their work. If they hem and haw at your questions, that's not a good sign!
In short, a parts replacer is reactive, while a service technician is proactive. Service technicians will use their advanced technical knowledge and equipment to correctly diagnose the problem and repair it the first time. While parts replacers keep swapping out parts hoping to stumble across the correct solution. Which type of HVAC professional do you want working on your systems?
It always seems your heat will go out on the coldest day of the year! Why spend money when you may be able to fix it yourself? Here are a few examples of do-it-yourself easy fixes:
Is the display on your thermostat blank? It could be because it needs a battery, or that the circuit breaker to it has been tripped or you've blown a fuse. Reset the tripped circuit breaker, replace the fuse, or replace the battery. Other thermostat tips:
Make sure all the wires going to the thermostat are connected and not loose.
Check that the thermostat is in heat mode. This switch can easily get accidentally bumped while dusting.
For programmable thermostats, check that it is set to the correct day and time, including the AM or PM designation. One customer bought a programmable thermostat to save money, with the intent to have the heat backed down while the customer was away at work, and have the heat cranked up at night when the customer was home. When the customer started freezing at night, they mistakenly thought something was wrong with the heat, when the real culprit was they had the AM/PM designation backwards on their thermostat!
If you had a recent power outage, it could be that all of the settings on your programmable thermostat have been wiped out. Often there is a battery backup in these units, so you may need to change the battery and then re-enter your settings.
If the heat is out and you do not even hear the fan coming on (no air coming out of the supply registers), there may be no power to the furnace. This is often due to someone flipping the switch accidentally while cleaning out the attic or basement (areas where the furnace may reside). The switch often looks similar to a light switch and easy to mistakenly turn off. Just flip the switch back, and you should hear the furnace start up within 3-5 minutes. Other furnace tips:
Many thermostats get their power from the same electrical circuit that feeds the furnace system, so if your thermostat is blank, turning on the switch by the furnace may be the solution.
If the fan runs, but the air coming out is cold, you have a problem with the furnace (or heat pump) itself, and may need a service call.
Some furnaces have emergency cut-off switches that are activated when a door or service panel is removed. If the furnace door is not closed properly (such as after a filter cleaning), or has been accidentally bumped open, the cut-off switch will prevent the furnace from coming on. Verify all access doors are properly closed.
If the switch is on to the furnace and it still doesn't come on, it could be that the circuit breaker or fuse to the furnace (or heat pump) is tripped or blown. Reset the breaker by turning it all the way OFF, then back ON. If the fuse for the furnace is blown, replace it with the same size and type of fuse. Important electrical tip:
If a breaker keeps tripping or a fuse keeps blowing, contact a qualified electrician to inspect your system to determine why you are having problems.
A dirty air filter restricts air flow, and the system will work harder and build up pressure. Newer, more efficient furnaces are sensitive to this pressure build up and turn off before the dirty filter can cause further damage. At the very least, a dirty, clogged filter will reduce the heat output of your system. The simple solution is change the filter! Important tip:
Don't try to just vacuum the existing filter and re-insert it. The material inside the filter will still be saturated. Just place the old filter in the trash and insert a new one each timeâ€¦ at least every 3 months.
If none of these DIY fixes addresses your problem, give us a call. We're always here to help!