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Douglas Cooling & Heating Blog

What Are the Most Common Heating Problems?

Heating systems across the Birmingham, AL area are taxed with a heavy load when outdoor temperatures fall and households demand heat. When your heater is functioning properly, it can handle this hefty task without flaws – but when common heating problems exist within the system, your furnace or heat pump isn’t able to keep up. The heating repair professionals of Douglas Cooling & Heating share the 8 most common heating problems that occur over the winter and explain how they are corrected.

1. Dirty Air Filters

Over the course of normal heating system use, the furnace’s air filter will fill up with particle matter it extracts from circulating air. Once the filter is full, it basically becomes a blockage inside your heating system rather than a helpful component. Running your furnace with a dirty air filter inside can cause the system to overheat, which can damage components and forces system parts to consume extra energy as it struggles to pass air through the system properly.  This extra consumption of energy increases wear and tear on the furnace or heat pump while causing energy waste. As a result, a dirty air filter can leave your living areas without sufficient heat, as air movement is severely restricted. 

Avoid common heating problems that stem from dirty or clogged filters by making filter maintenance a regular priority. Filters can fill up faster than you expect over the winter due to an increase in use, so it’s best to inspect the filter about once per month so you can check its condition. If the air filter’s surface is full of matter, replace it. Many air filter manufacturers recommend replacing your air filter every 90 days, but if you’re new to your furnace or heat pump, it’s a good idea to check once a month to get an idea of how fast your air filter fills up. 

2. Short Cycling

If your furnace or heat pump turns on and then shuts off again within just a few minutes, or you notice it is running more heating cycles than it usually does without generating any heat, this is called short cycling. It is a common heating problem that can be caused by a number of issues and should be addressed quickly. Short cycling accelerates the wear and tear damage, wastes energy with frequent starts and stops, and prevents your home from heating evenly. 

Short cycling can stem from blocked airflow and the resulting overheating, dirty air filters, malfunctioning sensors, a faulty thermostat, or a system that is simply too big for your home. Airflow blockages and overheating can result from dirty or clogged filters or closed air vents around the home. If you’re experiencing short cycling, try checking these areas first. Faulty flame sensors and thermostats should be repaired by a professional. If your furnace is too large for your living space, it will need to be replaced with a heating system that fits your home better. 

3. Mold in HVAC System

Though winter air is typically dryer, a moist indoor environment can contribute to common problems with your home heating system. If your home’s air is too moist, you may experience mold growth within your duct system this season. When that moisture makes contact with cold metal ducts that circulate air to unheated areas of the home, it can condense and settle inside the duct. The moisture, dust, and other matter in a dark, damp duct system create a perfect environment for mold to thrive.

Mold growth can be caused by dirty ductwork, clogged ducts, or a malfunctioning whole home humidifier. To fix these underlying issues and eliminate the mold in your system, contact an experienced HVAC company to inspect and clean your air ducts. Duct cleaning can rid your ducts of existing mold growth as well as remove debris to prevent further mold development. Your technician can inspect the duct system and correct issues causing blockages in the ducts so they function properly. Your HVAC technician may also troubleshoot problems with your humidifier to see if it is producing too much humidity for the house.

4. Air Leaks in the Home

If your home seems inconsistently heated, air leaks are a common home heating issue that may be causing you to waste money.  Air leaks in your home can be found in several places, such as around windows, doors, recessed lighting, attic hatches, and even in your ductwork. A technician will inspect your ductwork for any air leaks during a service call. If air is leaking out of cracks and holes in your air ducts, they will either be sealed, or the damaged section will need to be replaced.

5. Blower Fan is Running Nonstop

Another common heating system problem is a constantly running blower fan. You might have a problem with your fan limit switch. Or, the fan switch on the thermostat may be set incorrectly. A malfunctioning thermostat could be sending the wrong signals to your heating equipment, causing the blower to run continuously. 

Improper blower fan settings are the most common reason for this heating system issue. First, it’s always a good idea to check your thermometer to learn how blower fan speeds your heater is set to. Make sure the fan switch on the thermostat is set to AUTO and not ON. The AUTO setting tells the blower to operate only as the furnace cycles, while the ON option keeps the blower running around the clock.

Inside your furnace, there is a component called the fan limit switch, which controls the blower’s operation. If this switch is incorrectly set in the manual position, the blower will run all the time. To access this component, remove the furnace access panel – the fan limit switch is usually situated near the upper right corner of the interior cabinet. There is a white button on the outside of this part – if it is pressed inward, the fan limit switch is set to manual and this is causing the blower to run all the time. Once you’ve reset the switch, replace the furnace access panel. 

If the fan limit switch or the thermostat wiring is faulty and causing your nonstop blower issue, the best approach to fix it is to call your HVAC technician to repair common heating problems. A professional will be able to replace bad components or pinpoint other causes of the issue.

6. Noisy Heater Operation

Furnaces and heat pumps aren’t always quiet, but they shouldn’t make loud banging sounds after startup. Clicking, squeaking, squealing, rumbling, or rattling noises are uncommon noises. If you hear these noises, contact Douglas Cooling & Heating immediately! These sounds indicate common heating problems that need to be diagnosed quickly. There are a number of potential causes for the noises you hear such as a mechanical problem, clogged burner, incomplete combustion, faulty control panel, or airflow obstructions. An experienced technician can only figure out what the source of the problem is by inspecting your heating system. 

7. Thermostat Problems

A malfunctioning thermostat will give false readings will causing common heating system problems and leading to cold spots in your home.  Thermostats only tend to last about 10 years, so if you notice that yours is malfunctioning, it could lead to issues in your heating systems performance. Upgrading to a new smart thermostat will reconnect the communication and add convenience to your life. 

If you notice an issue with your thermostat’s temperature readings or communication this winter, call Douglas Cooling & Heating for repair – our NATE-certified technicians will offer suggestions to resolve the problem. Repair may be possible, or it might be time to upgrade your thermostat to eliminate these common heating problems.

8. High Energy Bills

Energy bills that spike without a clear cause point directly to common heating problems impacting your heating system’s efficiency. There are several reasons why your energy bill might be high, which is why maintenance is so important for your HVAC system. During preventative heating maintenance, a professional will inspect your unit for potential problems and service your system to keep it operating at its highest efficiency. Douglas Cooling & Heating will keep your system functioning longer and operating efficiently during the coldest time of year!

Before you call us for service due to unexpected higher energy bills, check for common heating problems that could cause this. A dirty air filter, air leaks in the home, leaky ductwork, or obstructions in the duct system. Change dirty air filters, seal air leaks in your house, and seal duct leaks if they are accessible. You can also contact Douglas Cooling & Heating to perform duct sealing and repairs, as well as service the furnace to uncover and resolve the cause of your high heating bills.

Furnace Repairs in Birmingham, AL

Common heating problems can cause discomfort and headaches over the winter months. Don’t let these heating system problems linger long, or they could lead to damage inside your furnace or heat pump. It’s always a smart idea to be wary of what higher heating bills could be saying about your heating system’s performance. Call Douglas Cooling & Heating today for furnace repairs in Birmingham, AL.

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