furnace repair

Greater Richmond is Getting Cold, but My Furnace Wont Turn On

Figuring out a furnace-related problem might feel like an intimidating task when your heat won’t work. But it doesn’t have to be like that.

There are a few time-saving, reasonable fixes you can do by yourself to avoid a furnace repair call.

If your furnace won’t turn on, won’t stay on or won’t ignite, try the troubleshooting list below before contacting an HVAC professional.

If you find you need help from someone who is experienced and live in Greater Richmond, Herman Allen Plumbing, Heating & Cooling can help you. We repair most types of heating systems.

If it’s time for a new heating system, we also offer furnace replacement in Greater Richmond.

While you’re talking with us, think about a routine furnace maintenance plan from Herman Allen Plumbing, Heating & Cooling that might help you avoid problems in the future. We can tell you how regularly your furnace should be examined by one of our NATE-certified specialists.

Go through our easy guide below to start troubleshooting your furnace. Most of these steps don’t require mechanical skills.

Steps for Furnace Troubleshooting

Check the Thermostat

To start, make sure your thermostat is signaling your furnace to start.

If you have a digital thermostat:

  • Swap out the batteries if the screen is blank. If the digital screen is jumbled, the thermostat may need to be replaced.
  • Make sure the switch is set to “heat” instead of “off” or “cool.”
  • Ensure the program is showing the correct day and time and is set to “run.” If you’re having a hard time overriding the program, set the temperature by using the up/down arrows and press the “hold” button. This will force the furnace to turn on if thermostat programming is causing trouble.
  • Increase the temperature setting to 5 degrees warmer than the room temperature.
Digital Thermostat

If your furnace hasn’t turned on within few minutes, make sure it has power by toggling the fan switch from “auto” to “on.” If the fan doesn’t begin to run, your furnace could be without power.

If you have a smart thermostat—like one made by Nest, Ecobee, Lux, Honeywell or Bosch—troubleshooting is very model-specific. Check the manufacturer’s website for help. If you still can’t get your Wi-Fi thermostat to work, contact us for assistance.

Lennox Smart Thermostat

Examine Breakers and Switches

Next, you will need to check if your breaker and furnace switch are on.

  • Find your house’s main electrical panel. If you have no idea where it is, look for a gray metal box in your basement, garage or closet.
  • Make sure your hands and feet are dry before touching the panel or breakers.
  • Look for the breaker labeled “furnace” or “heat,” and make sure it’s switched “on.” If the breaker has tripped, it will be in the middle or “off” position.
  • Using one hand, firmly switch the breaker to the “on” position. If the breaker immediately trips and pops back to “off,” don’t touch it and contact a professional from Herman Allen Plumbing, Heating & Cooling at 804-302-6657 right away.

Regardless of your furnace’s age or brand, it has at least one standard wall switch located on or close to it.

  • Make sure the switch is flipped up in the “on” position. If it was turned off, it could take your furnace up to five minutes to ignite. (If you don’t know where to find your furnace, look in your basement, garage or utility closet. It could also be in a crawl space or attic.)

Replace Your Furnace’s Air Filter

When it comes to furnace issues, a filthy, clogged air filter is often the top culprit.

If your filter is too dirty:

  • Your furnace won’t stay on, or it could overheat from restricted airflow.
  • Your energy bills could be higher because your furnace is turning on more often.
  • Your furnace could stop working too soon because a dirty filter causes it to work overtime.
  • Your furnace can lose power if an excessively dirty filter causes the breaker to trip.

Depending on what make of furnace you have, your air filter can be found inside the blower compartment of your furnace, an attached filter case or wall-mounted return air grille.

Replacing a furnace filter

To replace your filter:

  • Turn off your furnace.
  • Take out the filter and angle it toward the light. If you can’t see light through it, get a new one.
  • Install the new filter with the arrow pointing toward the furnace to avoid damage.

Flat filters should be replaced monthly, while pleated filters should last about three months. You can also use a washable filter that will last about 10 years. If you have children or pets, you may have to put in a new filter more frequently.

To make the process easier in the future, use a permanent marker on your furnace housing or ductwork to show the airflow direction and filter size.

Examine the Condensate Pan

Also known as drain pans, condensate pans catch water your furnace pulls from the air.

If water is seeping out of your furnace or its pan has standing water in it, follow these steps.

  • If your pan has a drain (look for a PVC pipe), check that it isn’t full. If it needs to be drained, use a special pan-cleaning tablet you can buy at home improvement or hardware stores.
  • If your pan has a pump, inspect the float switch. If the switch is stuck “up” with standing water in the pan, contact Herman Allen Plumbing, Heating & Cooling at 804-302-6657, because you will possibly need a new pump.

Peek Inside Your Furnace

If malfunctions continue, take a look inside your furnace’s plastic window to check the status of the blower motor. Depending on the model, the light could also be mounted on the outside of your furnace.

If you see anything except a steady, colored light or blinking green light, call Herman Allen Plumbing, Heating & Cooling at 804-302-6657. Your furnace may be emitting an error code that requires professional service.

Clean the Flame Sensor

If your furnace tries to start but turns off without distributing heat, a dirty flame sensor could be at fault. When this occurs, your furnace will try to turn on three times before a safety feature turns it off for about an hour.

If you feel comfortable with opening up your furnace, cleaning your flame sensor is something you can do yourself. Or, one of our HVAC experts at Herman Allen Plumbing, Heating & Cooling can do it for you.

If you want to clean the sensor yourself, you’ll need:

  • A 1/4” hex screwdriver or wrench
  • Piece of light grit sandpaper, steel wool or emery cloth
  • A dry, clean paper towel

Next:

  • Disable the furnace’s power by using its wall switch or breaker. If your gas valve is not electric, you will need to shut off the gas as well.
  • Lift off the furnace’s front panel and trace the wire to the flame sensor.
  • Unscrew the rod and use your sandpaper, steel wool or emery cloth to gently rub the metal rod.
  • Wipe off the rod with a paper towel.
  • Remount the sensor.
  • Replace the furnace doors.
  • Turn the furnace’s power back on. It could run through a sequence of checks before continuing usual operation. If your furnace doesn’t ignite, the sensor may need to be replaced or something else might be wrong. If this happens, call Herman Allen Plumbing, Heating & Cooling at 804-302-6657 for assistance.

Relight the Pilot Light

If you are using an older furnace, the pilot light could be turned off. To relight it, find the instructions on a label on your furnace, or follow these steps.

  • Find the switch on the bottom of your furnace labeled “pilot,” “on” and “off.”
  • Turn the switch to the “off” position.
  • Wait at least five minutes to avoid possibly sparking a fire.
  • Turn the knob to “pilot.”
  • Press the “reset” button as you bring the flame of a long lighter to the pilot light opening.
  • Release the “reset” button once the pilot light is lit.

If you have followed the instructions twice and the pilot light still won’t light or stay lit, contact Herman Allen Plumbing, Heating & Cooling at 804-302-6657.

Check Your Fuel Source

Try switching on another gas appliance. If it doesn’t work, your natural gas service could be turned off, or you could be out of propane.

Herman Allen Plumbing, Heating & Cooling Can Help with Furnace Problems

Followed our troubleshooting guide but your furnace still won’t work?

Call us today at 804-302-6657 or use our online scheduler. We’ll come out and diagnose the problem.

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