In winter, temperatures in Peotone, IL can dip as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit. In summer, they hold steady in the mid-80s. This means that there’s never a good time to be without functional heating and cooling equipment. If your HVAC system unexpectedly fails, the following are nine things that you should do right away.

1. Recognize the Difference Between Troubleshooting and Repairing

Desperate times don’t always call for desperate measures. Whether your living space is sweltering or freezing, it’s important to recognize the difference between troubleshooting and fixing. Attempting to repair HVAC equipment on your own could cause more problems than it solves. Do-it-yourself (DIY) HVAC repairs can void equipment manufacturers’ warranties and set the stage for natural gas, carbon monoxide, or water leaks.

Troubleshooting is taking quick, simple measures that ensure ideal HVAC operating conditions. These measures include performing HVAC air filter changes, making thermostat adjustments, and modifying HVAC air vent positions. To compare, HVAC repairs entail removing motor housing, tampering with moving parts, and adjusting or replacing major components. These more complex projects should only be handled by licensed HVAC companies.

2. Round Up Your Warranty and Insurance Documents

In your haste to set things aright, don’t overlook any of the important protections that came with your heating or cooling equipment or exist as part of your home warranty or home insurance plan. Taking a quick look at all of your policy documents is key to understanding their provisions and limitations. For instance, while an emergency HVAC repair might be covered, you may be required to hire an in-network or approved provider.

3. Ensure Everyone’s Safety

Take steps to create and maintain safe indoor conditions until the problem is resolved. In summer, this might mean opening your windows and doors and turning your ceiling fans on high. In winter, you can crowd everyone around your fireplace or cook a hot meal with your oven or stove to fill the building with heat. When your heater goes out, having everyone crowd into a single space and then trapping heat in this area often works best. Have everyone layer up or put on lightweight, breathable clothing as needed.

Have an Exit Plan for Those Especially Vulnerable to Temperature Extremes

Don’t underestimate the often rapid health effects of overheating or getting too chilly. Aging adults, people with terminal illnesses or compromised immunity, and newborn babies are most vulnerable to problems like:

  • Heat exhaustion
  • Dehydration
  • Heat stroke
  • Frost nip
  • Hypothermia

These individuals can take temporary shelter at your neighbors’ homes, with relatives, or in conditioned public spaces. If you expect a long wait for HVAC service, you and your household can while away the hours at an air-conditioned mall, movie theater, or library.

When moving vulnerable household members to new locations during heating and cooling emergencies, don’t forget your pets. Many small animals dehydrate, overheat, and develop hypothermia much faster than humans.

4. Check Your HVAC Air Filter

If your heater or air conditioner is underperforming, short cycling, or overheating, the problem may lie with your HVAC air filter. When these components capture and retain too much debris, incoming air can no longer pass through them. This affects airflow throughout entire HVAC systems.

To determine whether or not your filter is the underlying cause of your HVAC emergency, take it out and hold it up to the overhead light. If light can no longer move through it, air can’t pass through it either. Simply put a fresh filter in and try restarting your heater or air conditioner.

5. Check Your Thermostat Setting

Slight thermostat mistakes can have a major impact on HVAC performance. For instance, if your thermostat’s fan is set to “ON”, your system’s blower fan will run non-stop but your heater or air conditioner won’t cycle into action. Switching it to “AUTO” instead will ensure that the fan only turns on to distribute heated or cooled air. It will also allow your HVAC system to initiate heating or cooling cycles as needed.

It’s also a good idea to make sure that no one else in your home has adjusted your thermostat’s temperature setting. Sometimes residents crank thermostats way up or way down in hopes of heating or cooling their living spaces much faster.

Look for Performance Alerts and Other Warnings

Smart thermostats are Wi-Fi-connected, learning devices. You can check and change a smart thermostat’s temperature setting from any location. This makes it possible to troubleshoot many thermostat-related HVAC emergencies while away. Some smart thermostats even offer helpful performance alerts that may make it easier to pinpoint underlying equipment problems. If you have a smart thermostat, check for these.

6. Check Your Air Registers and Vents for Obstructions

Another important step in troubleshooting an HVAC emergency is making sure that your HVAC air vents are open. Central HVAC systems heat and cool homes uniformly. They create a single, uniform temperature throughout all building areas. When people no longer want heated or cooled air in their immediate locations, they might close their air vents to redirect it. Closing too many vents at once or keeping one or more vents permanently closed causes static pressure to build in HVAC ducting. This extra pressure places strain on heaters and air conditioners and could lead to performance issues.

Open closed vents or air registers and check these features for physical obstructions. They may be blocked by buildups of blown-off filter debris. If they are, wipe them down with a damp cloth and gently vacuum behind them. For a more long-term solution, you should also schedule HVAC maintenance or professional duct cleaning.

7. Reset the Power

It might be that your air conditioner or heater has turned off due to a tripped circuit breaker. Visit your breaker box and find the breaker for your heating or cooling equipment. Toggle it completely over to the “OFF” position and then switch it to “ON”. Your heater, heat pump, or AC might immediately roar back to life. However, if the same circuit breaker quickly trips again, turn your HVAC system off and call for service.

8. Test Your CO Detectors and Be on the Lookout for HVAC-Related Hazards

In homes with fuel-combusting furnaces, there’s the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) exposure. This odorless, colorless gas can cause worrying symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and confusion. When exposure is prolonged, CO can even prove fatal.

CO problems are most likely to occur in HVAC systems that are old, ill-maintained, or in disrepair. Thus, it’s also a good idea to verify that your CO alarms are working during any heating emergency. You should additionally be on the lookout for natural gas odors and yellow, red, or orange pilot light flames. If you suspect that your furnace has a gas leak, turn it off and close off the natural gas supply. You should also exit the building.

9. Schedule HVAC Service

The most important step in dealing with any HVAC emergency is scheduling service. Timely repairs keep minor problems from spiraling out of control and can prevent premature equipment failure. Even when troubleshooting measures like last-minute filter changes are successful, it’s often still important to have all affected equipment inspected, tuned, and cleaned.

We’ve been proudly serving Peotone, IL and the surrounding communities since 1979. We offer first-rate heating and cooling services. You can also count on us for new ductwork, ductless HVAC installation, and emergency HVAC repairs. To find out about our preventative maintenance plan or schedule an appointment, call Kulacz & Sons Heating & Cooling, Inc. today.

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