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Things That Can Go Wrong With Your Furnace

common furnace and central heating problems and solutions

We’ve all experienced central heating problems of one kind or the other, some of them preventable, others not. There are many signs of a faulty furnace, but not all of them are obvious. Are you experiencing any of these haunted HVAC signs?

  • Doors randomly open and close
  • Doors seem to stick and will only open with great force
  • Weird noises, banging and whistling
  • Cold spots, hot spots, and strange draughts of air
  • Excessive dust and condensation
  • Rotten egg, burning, dusty, and overheating smells
  • Rising energy bills
  • Respiratory ailments, extended sickness, headaches, and other health symptoms

If you are experiencing signs of a faulty furnace, see if your problems can be fixed, prevented for the future, or require the skills of a professional.

Common Furnace Problems

Bad Airflow, Leaky Ducts

One major problem with HVAC systems is the ductwork. Think of your HVAC system as the heart and your ducts as the veins that deliver necessary air to and from the beating heart. If the air ducts are clogged or leaky, you will experience airflow problems. Unbalanced ductwork could be the cause of the hot and cold spots in your home. Although you won’t be able to access every single are of your ductwork, for the sections you can reach, use mastic sealant or HVAC aluminum foil tape to seal gaps and cracks in your ductwork.

Ask us about Aeroseal Duct Sealing, which seals your ducts from the inside out.

Strange Smells

If you are smelling something funny, such as rotten eggs or a sulfur, you could have a serious problem, such as a gas leak. Take action immediately by turning off your system, evacuating the home, and calling your utility company.

If there is a dusty smell, try changing your furnace filter. If the odor won’t go away, contact your local HVAC technician.

If you smell hot plastic or rubber, you would have an issue with your electrical system. Either your heating or electrical components are overheating. Shut off power to the furnace from your breaker box and contact your HVAC technician for troubleshooting and repair.

Weird Noises

There are many things that can cause loud and strange noises within your heating and duct system. If you hear grinding, whistling, squealing, banging, or any other strange sounds, call your heating technician

It Doesn’t Turn On

If you’re furnace won’t turn on, you probably have a power problem. Check if electricity is getting to your HVAC system by turning on the fan to “On” or “Auto.” If nothing turns on, you aren’t getting power to the furnace.

The next thing you should check is the circuit breaker. Look for the circuit breaker switch that is switched “off.” To properly reset the breaker, turn it all the way off first before switching it back on.

If your furnace still won’t turn on, there are a couple of things that could cause an automatic shutoff:

Dirty Air Filter

A clogged air filter can cause many problems, including restricting needed airflow to your system. Not only will it dirty up your system’s components, but it will also raise your energy bills. Make it a habit to check your filter every 30 days and wait no longer than 90 days to replace it. During peak demand months, your filter will need to be changed or cleaned more frequently. Learn more about air filtration here.

Ventilation Obstructions

After checking for a clogged air filter, go around to the side of your house and inspect the side venting (exhaust pipes, most likely PVC pipe). If there is snow, ice, or any other obstructions blocking the HVAC system’s ventilation, your system won’t work properly and could lead to dangerous exhaust fumes (like carbon monoxide) in your home.

You will probably see two furnace vent pipes, one for fresh air intake and the other to vent exhaust gases to the outside. These pipes should have a minimum 5-foot clearance. Make sure there is no snow, ice, nests, or anything else blocking the vent pipes. After you have cleared the area around your vent pipes, your furnace should turn back on.

Warning: Never alter or adjust these ventilation pipes without the assistance of a professional, such as trimming them down. Call your HVAC technician if you notice an issue with your furnace ventilation.

Other signs of a ventilation problem include excessive condensation on windows and HVAC equipment. Make sure you are testing your carbon monoxide detector every month. See this CO safety guide for tips on placement and maintenance.

If all else fails, call your regular HVAC technician to troubleshoot the problem and offer you options for service or repair.


Leave it to the home heating experts at Gold Medal Service to complete your comprehensive and thorough tune-up. Give us a call at 1-877-803-0511 or visit our website to schedule your annual furnace maintenance before the frigid temperatures come.

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