What to do if your heating system is not working
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What to do if your heating system is not working

If you have ever encountered no heat in the middle of winter, for reasons other than power loss, you probably remember the many questions that were going through your mind. “What do I do?” “Is this an easy fix?” “How long will my family be without heat?” “Should I call my technician?”

To answer these questions, we reached out to Galen Fishburn, Dead River Company Service Manager in Ellsworth. Although we hope you never have to use them, here are a few points to consider that should come in handy in the event you discover your heating system is not working.

Is there any troubleshooting I can do first?

Yes, there are a few steps you can take before calling your service provider:

  • Check the emergency switch to make sure it did not get flipped to the “off” position. If it did, you can flip it back “on” and check to see if the system will start.
    • For oil heating systems: the emergency switch is usually located just outside of the boiler room or at the top of the basement stairway.
    • For propane heating systems: the emergency switch is located close to the unit.
    • Turn the emergency switch off if you believe there is an issue with the heating system and call your local provider.
  • Check to make sure there is fuel in your tank. If there is not, you will want to contact your provider as soon as possible.
  • Check the circuit breaker. If it’s tripped, you may have an electrical issue.
  • Check to see if the thermostat is set lower than room temperature. If it is, turn up the temperature on the thermostat to see if the system will start.
  • If you have oil heat, hit the reset button (the red one on the burner) once to see if the system will start.

If none of this troubleshooting brings to light an obvious reason for your heating system not working, it may be time to call your service technician. A house call may be in order.

As you await the return of your heat, you may also be asking yourself… 

How cold can my house get before I need to worry about frozen pipes?

A loss of heat can quickly move from a minor discomfort to a major problem. Pay attention to the interior temperature. If it drops to between 45 and 40 degrees, you need to begin working to keep your pipes from freezing.

  • If you have them, use space heaters near pipes.
  • Professionally installed space heaters, portable oil filled radiator space heaters, and portable electric space heaters are all good options. NOTE: All portable space heater options need to be monitored at all times. Do not leave them unattended. Never use a kerosene or propane portable space heater indoors.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinets to allow warmer air to circulate around plumbing.
  • Let cold water drip from faucets. (Running water, even a trickle, helps prevent pipes from freezing.)

What else can I do to keep my family comfortable in our home until the heat returns?

  • Avoid opening and closing exterior doors.
  • Block drafts under doors with rolled towels or blankets.
  • Open blinds to let sun in, close them when the sun goes down.
  • For your personal warmth, dress in loose layers and wear a hat—especially when sleeping.

As always, contact us at Dead River Company or your local home heating provider to learn more.