There are hundreds of different ways a heating system could break down, in varying degrees of severity. However, some problems are far more likely to occur than others. The more you know about these common heating issues, the better equipped you’ll be to know when to call an HVAC professional. Let’s examine 3 of the most common heating repairs you’re likely to deal with.
Short-cycling is a behavior in which your heating system keeps rapidly turning itself on and off throughout the day. Though this may seem only a minor annoyance, short-cycling can actually dramatically limit the lifespan of your heater by locking it into the most stressful part of its cycle. This wears out the heater very fast, causing more breakdowns and damaging vital parts of the system. Short-cycling is caused by the system overheating, which activates a safety measure and shuts the heater down in order to prevent a fire. Once the system cools off, it restarts and overheats again and the cycle repeats endlessly. If you notice your heater short-cycling, you should call a professional immediately.
Ignition failure is a very common problem with heating systems, especially among older combustion systems like furnaces. Any time your heater fails to start, that’s ignition failure. Ignition failure is often caused by a failure with the pilot light, whether standing or intermittent. In a standing pilot light system, the problem is usually the thermocouple. The thermocouple is a flame sensor that opens the gas valve to keep the pilot light lit when subjected to the initial flame. A bad thermocouple will fail to open the gas valve, causing the flame to die from lack of fuel.
Electric and intermittent pilot lights often fail due to burned out parts, like the electrode or heating element. These are a bit harder to diagnose, because they’re a lot more complex. Either way, however, if your system is simply not starting you should call an HVAC technician.
Air Handler Breakdown
Every forced air system has a section called the “air handler.” The air handler is what is responsible for actually circulating air throughout the house. Occasionally, a part in the air handler can break down and render the heater unable to circulate heat. If your heater is on, but air isn’t coming out any of your vents, then it’s a safe bet that your air handler is broken.