Tips for Handling Heating System Failure in Cold Weather

January 8, 2024




There's nothing worse than experiencing a heating system failure when the temperatures start to plummet. There are many factors that can lead to heating system failure, and unfortunately, it can happen when you least expect it. Getting caught off-guard by a broken heating system in the middle of winter can be a nightmare, and it can be stressful and overwhelming. In this blog post, you'll learn more about what you can do to ensure your comfort and safety during cold winter months when your home heating system fails you.


Heating system problems during cold weather are an all too common occurrence. As the mercury drops, our reliance on our heating systems increases, putting them under immense strain. The added demand can exacerbate underlying issues previously unnoticed during milder weather, causing total system failures in some instances. This is why heating systems often seem to pick the coldest days of the year to break down. Consequently, servicing and regular maintenance of your heating system are of paramount importance to identify and rectify any potential issues before they become serious problems during the winter months. And if you need a new heating system installation, you want to do this before you really need the heating on in your home.


Heating systems are designed with the primary goal of providing comfort by maintaining an optimal temperature in your home during colder months. The design of the system can vary widely, from traditional furnaces powered by natural gas, oil, or electricity, to modern heat pumps that transfer heat from the outside air into your home. Some homes may even utilize hydronic systems that circulate heated water through radiators or underfloor heating pipes.


The lifespan of a heating system largely depends on the type of system and how well it's been maintained. A well-maintained furnace can last anywhere from 15 to 20 years, while heat pumps typically have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years. Hydronic systems, on the other hand, can last for over 20 years if they're regularly serviced and maintained. It's crucial to note that a heating system's lifespan can be significantly reduced without regular maintenance. Hence, to ensure longevity, it's advisable to schedule regular check-ups with a professional who can spot potential issues early and keep your system running efficiently.


If your heating system suddenly fails in the colder weather, here are some things you should consider.


Check Your Thermostat

The first thing you should do if you are experiencing heating system failure is to check your thermostat. Ensure that the batteries are working, and the settings are set correctly. If your thermostat has a wireless connection to your furnace, check this link has not been broken, or if you need to re-pair devices. Sometimes, issues with the thermostat can trick you into thinking that the heating system is broken when it’s not. If you’re still not getting any heat, consider using an alternative form of heating such as an electric space heater while troubleshooting your heating system.


Inspect Your Furnace Filter

Dirty or clogged furnace filters are a common cause of heating system failure. Furnace filters should be cleaned or replaced every three months. If you have pets or a large family, you may need to clean or replace your furnace filter more frequently. A dirty furnace filter can cause the furnace to overheat, short-circuit or even shut down completely.


Check for Blocked or Disconnected Ductwork

Blocked or disconnected air ducts can cause heating system failure. Check that all air ducts are open and unobstructed. If you experience uneven heating, a blocked air duct could be the culprit. Additionally, if you have recently had any renovations done to your home, check for disconnected ductwork. It's not uncommon for ductwork to become disconnected during a renovation project.


Maintain Your Heating System

Regular maintenance of your heating system can prevent heating system failure. Schedule a maintenance appointment with a reputable HVAC company every year to ensure that your heating system is running efficiently. During the appointment, a technician will inspect and clean your furnace, check for any signs of damage, and replace any worn-out parts. Regular maintenance can prolong the lifespan of your heating system and prevent unexpected breakdowns.


Keep Your Heating in Check During Warm Months

During the summer months, it may be tempting to completely shut off your heating system. However, it's advisable to switch on your heating system once a week. This practice ensures that the valves in your heating system retain their mobility and don't get stuck from lack of use, which could lead to serious problems when winter arrives. Remember, a heating system that remains inactive for an extended period may experience mechanical troubles, including valve seizures or blockages in the system. Therefore, turning on your heating regularly can help identify and rectify potential issues before they escalate and keep your system in optimal condition all year round. It also means that you don't only discover a problem when you really need it during a cold snap.


Make a Plan for Emergencies

Even with regular maintenance, sometimes heating system failures happen. It's essential to have a plan for emergencies such as electric space heaters, blankets, and warm clothing. If you have elderly or disabled family members, ensure that they are equipped with everything they need to keep warm in the event of a heating system failure. Additionally, have a backup plan in case the power goes out. Make sure you have an alternative heating source like a generator or a wood stove.


No one expects heating system failure, but with the right information and preparation, you can be ready to handle unexpected situations. By keeping your heating system well-maintained, regularly changing your furnace filter, and planning for emergencies, you can ensure your comfort and safety during the cold winter months. Remember to get in touch with a reliable HVAC technician if you experience any heating system failures. By following these tips, you can save yourself from the headache and stress of unexpected heating system failure.



Urban Splatter

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