There are a host of reasons why your furnace stops bringing warmth to your home. For some problems, you can find the solution yourself. In other more complex cases, you will need to reach out for help from a heating oil service provider.
If your heat stops working and you’ve confirmed that there isn’t a power outage in your neighborhood, your next step should be to check for a tripped circuit breaker or a blown fuse. You also should check to see if the power switches to your furnace have been accidentally turned off.
If you find that the power switches for your heating system have been turned off by mistake, simply turn the electrical switches back to the “on” position and your problem may be solved. If only all solutions were that easy!
Typically, there is a power switch located on the side of the heating system or on a wall nearby. In addition, farther away, often at the top of the basement stairs, there is an emergency switch with a red cover plate that is labeled. People will sometimes turn this switch off by mistake, thinking it is the power switch for the basement light.
If your power switches are not the problem, check your circuit breaker box to see if all circuit switches are still in the “on” position. Flipping the proper switch on again may be all you need to get your system running again.
However, please keep this in mind: a circuit breaker rarely ever trips for no reason. If this happens once and never happens again, it may be just a fluke. But if this happens more than once, contact a heating oil service professional, as this could indicate a serious problem.
Many instances of furnaces not working can be traced to the thermostat, whose job it is to send a signal to your oil furnace to call for heat. But this signal may be interrupted if the wiring of the thermostat has begun to deteriorate. A build-up of dust inside your thermostat is another common reason why your thermostat is not operating correctly. Another thing to look for are weak batteries in the thermostat.
Make sure your thermostat is set to at least five degrees higher than your current room temperature so the furnace “knows” you need more heat. You also want to make sure the fan is set to “auto” instead of “on.” Here’s why. Once your furnace gets your home to the room temperature you want, it will shut off and stop producing warm air. If the fan is set to on, the furnace will continue to blow air—but it will not be warm.
You need to change or clean the air filter in the furnace on a regular basis during the heating season. A dirty filter lowers heating efficiency and if the filter gets badly clogged, it can cause your furnace to shut down. This is a built-in safety measure to prevent your furnace from overheating and causing damage.
To check the filter, remove it from the furnace and hold it up to the light. If no light shines through, the filter needs to be replaced with a new one, or in some cases, cleaned and then returned to the furnace. You can also use your sense of smell to detect a dirty filter. If you notice a dusty/dirty odor coming from your heating vents when the furnace is blowing hot air, this often indicates that the filter needs to be changed or cleaned.
If you call to order your fuel, make sure to check your heating oil tank regularly—especially in the middle of a cold snap. You should not let your oil tank fall below the ¼ mark. To prevent run-outs, see if your heating oil company offers automatic delivery service, which is designed to prevent run-outs.
Like any piece of equipment, your heating oil furnace will eventually have to be replaced one day. A new furnace can be a better option than paying for another furnace repair because you will be able to reduce your annual heating expenses substantially. Research your replacement options and then reach out to your heating oil service company.