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How to Repair a Home Heating System

How to Repair a Home Heating System

Interior renovationsHow to Repair a Home Heating System

During wintertime, it’s only natural to feel a bit of a chill. But what happens if you’re already inside your home and can’t shake that frigid feeling? If your heating system is blowing cold air, or if one room feels oddly chilly, then you could have a problem! To have a constant flow of comfortable air, it is important to have your heating system checked roughly once a year for issues, making sure everything is in good working order.

If you do encounter complications, repairing your home heating system will depend directly on the type of system you have installed: whether that be forced air or a hydronic system. As these are the most common, we will go over the basics for furnaces as well as hydronic (hot water) systems. is here to help you stay warm, offering instructions on how to fix your home heating system!

How to Fix Your Home Heating System

Forced air systems are heated with gas or oil-fired furnaces, while hydronic (water-based) systems are heated with either a gas or oil-fired boiler. For both systems, there is plenty of season maintenance to be done! Regardless of your system, you’ll need to start your checkup with the thermostat.

First things first, check your thermostat to see if it’s set on heat. This may seem obvious, but obvious is the best place to begin! Regardless of its setting, replace the batteries and set your thermostat 10 degrees warmer than you normally would. This will give you an idea of whether your thermostat is heating your home properly.  If you hear your system turn on and continue to run, then it’s functioning! However, if the furnace turns off after a short time, approximately 3 minutes, then it is a symptom of short cycling.

What's short cycling? 

Short cycling is a common problem with home heating systems. Short cycling refers to a system that has a mechanical issue, causing the cycle to terminate prematurely. For your home heating system, this could mean two things: the thermostat is not adjusted properly, which could also mean that it needs to be recalibrated.

The heat exchanger in the furnace is overheating, and a safety device is working by turning it off. Test the accuracy of your thermostat with another gauge. If they do not match, it’s possible that your thermostat is not correctly calibrated, and will need to be reset. If your home heating system has a reset button, now would be the time to go ahead and try it out! This should help to clear some of the minor mechanical issues that may cause the system to act irregularly.

If you are unable to find an issue with your thermostat, check the power to your unit, as a circuit breaker may be switched off. This should not happen often, and if this issue is occurring regularly, it is important to speak with a professional! Also, make sure to verify the master switches to both inside and outside units, checking to see that both are on and receiving electricity.

Keep an eye on your home heating system's flame

Flame heating system

Source: Max Pixel, Nikon D90

If power sources are working, and your furnace or boiler burners are indeed igniting when the thermostat turns on, then head down to your basement or the place where your furnace or boiler is located. Check out those flames coming from your heating system. The flames should be shaped like a tight oval and give off a solid blue colour. If you notice tinges of yellow, or flickering, it is important that you call a professional to adjust the fuel mixture.


Do heating filters need to be changed?

Go to the air conditioner return vent and change your filter! Dirt that has built up in the filter can restrict airflow and cause problems, as well as impact the overall temperature of your home. A good rule of thumb is to change your air filter once a month. However, if you live in a home with pets or family members with asthma, make sure to check the filter more frequently.

Also, have ductwork checked and cleaned at least once a year. In forced air systems, look for open joints, dust buildup as well as mould and rust. Any open joints should be resealed, and this can be done using duct tape. Any damaged ducts should be repaired or replaced. Also, clean out its combustion chamber. If you go forward with this step, it is necessary to make certain that the electricity and gas are turned off beforehand!

Another important note is to make sure air vents around the home are not blocked. There should not be anything in front of them, including drapes and furniture. If anything is obstructing these vents, airflow can be restricted and this could greatly affect the temperature of your home.

In homes with an oil-fired furnace or boiler, make sure to turn off your gas supply before beginning work. Buy a replacement oil filter, sticking to the brand of the one that is already installed. The old filter can be unscrewed and the new one installed. The old filter is now hazardous waste, so make sure it is disposed of correctly as dependent on the municipality where you live. The oil nozzle is another important piece of the puzzle, as it atomizes fuel before it ignites. Nozzles have the tendency to get clogged due to impurities within the fuel, so it is worth considering replacing them now and then. If you are nervous about taking on the job, have the project completed by a licensed and trained professional.

Fixing a Hot Water System

At the heart of it all, hot water heating systems operate with a boiler rather than a furnace. Repairing a boiler is a more complex operation, as no two hot water systems are created in the same way. With that in mind, we recommend reaching out to a trusted professional if issues with your boiler go beyond temperature or pressure problems. However, there are some small maintenance tips we can offer if you’re feeling up for the job!

Check for standing water by verifying all the pipes and valves surrounding the boiler, and looking for leaks. Most leaks can be easily fixed by tightening fittings. However, if pipes need replacing, the boiler must be drained and flushed completely. It is recommended that you flush the system every 5 years.

Let the system run for an hour, and following, check the water temperature and pressure. You should be looking for a range between 180 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit, and pressure between 12 PSI and 25 PSI. For a two-story house, 18 PSI is standard. If you notice that it falls outside of these ranges, consult a professional. Lubricate the circulating pump regularly, as well as clean soot from the inside of the boiler's combustion chamber. Dust the surfaces of your radiators, as well as the baseboard heater, as any dust or dirt buildup will obstruct the proper airflow into areas of your home.

Still having issues with your home heating system? Well, that’s where we come in! 

If you intend to have a new heating system installed, see our article Heating Systems: Prices in order to properly plan your investment. 

Disclaimer: All tasks that touch on electricity are very risky and should be completed under the safest conditions. Additionally, in certain parts of Canada, only certified electricians are allowed to do this type of work. Please check before you do any electrical work yourself.

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Last modified 2023-11-07

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