My Heater Isn’t Working – Now What?

No one likes to be stuck in the cold with a heater that has stopped working. Before you make a call for a repair, it’s very likely that there is a do-it-yourself solution. About one quarter of repair calls are simple fixes that the homeowner can do. So before reaching for the phone, start by checking the power, the thermostat, and finally the air filter.



Look at where the furnace plugs in. It may have come loose. Is the power working in your home? Your furnace runs on electricity too, so don’t expect it to keep working when the power goes out.


For a gas furnace, check that the gas in your house is still working. Then take a look at the pilot light. An extinguished pilot light is one of the most common causes for gas furnaces to stop working. Just press the pilot button and relight it with a match. It may take a few tries. If there are specific instructions for relighting your furnace, they should be printed somewhere near the pilot light.


The thermostat controls when your heater turns on and off and the more sophisticated it is, the more that can go wrong. If it is digital and there is no reading, the batteries might be dead. If you find there is no reading after replacing the batteries, check for loose wires going into the box. Then check the wires going back into the furnace. They might be disconnected or chewed through by a rodent. If they have been broken, simply unplug the furnace, splice them back together, and tape off the wires with electrical tape until you can have the wires replaced.

Make sure the thermostat is on and set to “heat.” If you have a programmable thermostat, it could be that the date and time are wrong, telling the heater to come on at a different time than usual. Override your settings by punching the up arrow until it is 5 degrees higher than the temperature of the room. This should kick the heater on if the problem is the thermostat.

Air Filter

Take a look at the air filter. When the filter is clogged it triggers an automatic shutdown. The furnace may still blow air when you turn it on, but it is cool air. Just grab a new filter at the store for about $25 and replace it.

If, after all that, your furnace still isn’t working properly then it is time to call in the professionals. It might need a minor repair that costs a few hundred dollars. If it is going to cost you somewhere around $1000, you should consider replacing it with a newer, more efficient model. The first quote isn’t always the final word. Ask for a discount, and get a couple opinions if the price isn’t what you are looking for.

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