Common Reasons for Furnace and Heater Repairs

By Kealia Reynolds
Open home furnace just ready for cleaning and repair

Your furnace will begin to break down and lose efficiency as it ages. If your system isn’t functioning properly, address it as soon as possible to prevent a mandatory replacement of your entire system. Problems and issues will arise with your heater and furnace—some you can handle, and others where it makes good sense to hire a professional.

Why is my heater experiencing problems?

If your furnace is more than 15 years old, your problems may be due to old age. Most manufacturers recommend replacing your furnace at least this often in order to maintain optimal energy efficiency and HVAC system function. Even if you believe your system might be able to eek out a few more years, realize that the entire system will lose efficiency, making it more likely to break down and costing you additional money to operate.

You may also be experiencing issues due to dirt clogging your filter. A dirty air filter can restrict air flow, decrease system efficiency, and increase your energy bills. By changing out your air filter on a regular basis, you will reduce the amount of mold, dust, and other allergens in the air you breathe in your home, as well as save money.

Experiencing multiple breakdowns a year? It’s likely time to replace your system. A certified professional can help you determine if a replacement is right for you, or if there are repairs that can be made to prolong the life of your system.

Dirty air filter

DIY or Hire?

Some furnace and heater repairs can be fixed without calling a professional, while some repairs require one. We recommend the following when considering how to make repairs or perform regular maintenance for your furnace.

DIY

  • Replace an air filter—This is a simple process that involves switching out your current air filter every one to three months with a new one. If you need additional help, read our guide or consult your system manual.
  • Clean your ventilation system—To improve system efficiency, wipe down the air vents and clear away debris from the outdoor condenser unit.

Hire

  • Furnace won’t turn on—If your furnace won’t kick on, it’s possible that it isn’t receiving power. This could be due to a tripped breaker or loose wiring in the system. A technician will perform a diagnostic test on your heater and make a recommendation. Even if the resulting solution is simple, calling in a professional is a wise choice.
  • There are strange noises from HVAC system—This could be the result of a failing motor and will require assistance from a certified technician.
  • The burner doesn’t ignite—Furnaces that feature spark ignitions will experience difficulty igniting if there is a blocked flue, faulty control board, or improper limit control. A technician can help determine why your burner isn’t igniting and repair or replace the necessary parts.
  • You’re concerned about your gas line, burner, or electrical connections—All HVAC providers should have the expertise to safely check and maintain these components.
  • The thermostat doesn’t work—Hire a professional to calibrate your thermostat and ensure all of its inner parts are working correctly. This is also a service that you can ask a technician to complete during a normal service maintenance visit.

What will a furnace repair cost me?

The average cost of a furnace repair is $287. However, your bill can vary based on the type of repair and scope of the project. Typical ranges for common heater repairs:

  • Broken blower motor—This repair can cost $150–$450.
  • Faulty flame sensor—This repair can cost $80–$250.
  • Broken thermostat—This repair can cost $108–$282.
  • Furnace motor replacement—This repair can cost $400–$1,500.

In addition to the cost of the repair, you may have to pay service, installation, or a diagnostic fees. Before you approve any work on your system, ask your service technician to itemize their cost estimate.

How do I choose a qualified technician?

If you aren’t sure how to hire an expert to complete your repair, follow these tips:

  1. Ask friends and family for recommendations. They can give you names of providers they trust to complete work in their home.
  2. Call contractors and ask for references to call and validate their work. You can get a general feel for what the work will look like.
  3. Research license and insurance requirements for contractors in your state, and make sure the professional you hire meets those standards.
Pulling out dirty air filter

What questions should I ask a furnace repair professional?

Once you’ve selected a repair professional, ask the following questions to further determine if he or she would be able to effectively complete the repair:

  • Are you certified and licensed? The person you hire should have the experience needed to repair or replace any of your heating or cooling systems. Certifications through the North American Technician Excellence (NATE) program guarantee a technician’s education and experience are current. Individual service technicians may have a licensure identification number, which they can provide to you as verification of this certification.
  • Do you give an estimate before or after assessing the issue? Get written, itemized estimates, or a direct quote, after the issue has been evaluated. Don’t let your contractor give you an estimate over the phone—he or she should always provide an in-person estimate since each heating and cooling system is different and will require specialized work. The contractor may wish to run a diagnostic test on your system prior to providing an estimate.
  • Do you charge more for additional work? Good companies will present an upfront, flat-rate price after assessing the issue and shouldn’t charge for additional work or overtime hours. Understand what that price involves before paying your contractor.
  • What types of products do you recommend? Should you need a heater replacement, the service professional should offer to install newer energy-efficient models that you can afford. Ask the contractor if he or she promotes ENERGY STAR products or other efficient units.
  • Will you provide references for your work? A qualified technician should have no problem providing customer references for you to contact. When calling references, ask if jobs were completed on time and within budget. Ask if the technician treated their homes with respect without leaving a mess after the job concluded.

What to avoid when hiring a heating contractor

Now that you’re familiar with what to look for in a heating professional, here’s what to avoid:

  • Technicians who have a poor accreditation or lack certification altogether. Good service technicians will be licensed and bonded.
  • Technicians that provide price quotes before your system is assessed. Never accept an estimate over the phone before a technician visits your house to run a diagnostic test. Always ask if there is a fee for the diagnostic test or service visit.
  • Companies who don’t offer warranties or guarantees may not be reliable.

How can I avoid furnace repairs?

There are simple steps that you can take to avoid a costly furnace repair or replacement. First, replace your air filters on a regular schedule. This is simple and you can complete the project on your own.

We recommend annual maintenance by a certified professional. For older systems, it may make sense to schedule biannual service visits, one in the spring before summer arrives and one in the fall before winter arrives.

If a problem does arise, address it immediately. Paying for a service visit from a licensed professional could end up preventing major problems in the future. Looking for more assistance? Consult our comprehensive heater and furnace troubleshooting guide.


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