Why is my central heating not working?



When a cold front comes in, the last thing you want is to turn on your central heating to find it isn’t working. Central heating is a vital part of a modern home. Whether you live in cold climates or warmer areas, winter can bring in storms, ice and cold temperatures. Don’t get stuck with a broken furnace or heat pump. Make sure you prepare for cold weather.

A central heating system can suffer from many common issues, especially when you turn on the heat for the first time in the season. From a pilot light to air filters, some issues result from missed maintenance or general wear and tear. Luckily, troubleshooting a broken heater isn’t difficult. Sometimes your central heating just needs a tuneup. A handy homeowner can fix a few furnace problems. Other more complicated issues may need a professional.  


Most common central heating issues

Getting your heating unit to work again will depend on your situation. While many central heating issues result from similar mechanical failures, some are more complex than others. Here are some of the most common heating issues and steps to get your heater up and running before temperatures become too cold. 

Ignition or pilot light is out

When you turn on the heat, but the heater doesn’t turn on, the pilot light could be the problem. This issue is common. Propane and gas furnaces produce heat by burning fuel using a pilot light or an electronic igniter. So, if either is faulty, the heater cannot burn fuel or create heat.

Checking the pilot light is easy. Locate the front panel of the heating unit. Remove the panel and look for a small flame near the floor, which is the pilot light. If the light has gone out, relighting it is an easy fix. 

First, locate the manufacturer’s instructions on how to relight a pilot light. Different manufacturers have different instructions. If you do not have the manual, look online for specific instructions. Also, turn off the gas for at least five minutes before reigniting to allow any remaining gas to dissipate. 

If your heating unit doesn’t have a pilot light but uses an igniter instead, follow these steps to determine if the igniter works. 

  1. Turn off the unit and unplug it from the wall. 
  2. Turn off the gas. 
  3. Open the front panel of the heating unit. 
  4. Find the igniter and make sure it isn’t dirty or broken. 
  5. If there are no signs of damage, you can use a multimeter to check that the igniter is getting electricity. 

Thermostat isn’t working

Your thermostat controls the heating and cooling of your home. If it’s not set up correctly or doesn’t have power, your heating system won’t turn on. So, when turning on your heat this winter, make sure to set your thermostat to the proper settings. Always make sure it is set to “auto” instead of “fan” so it will regulate itself.

First, double-check the settings to see if a faulty thermostat is the reason for your heating issues. Then test it by setting the temperature at least 5 degrees higher than the current temperature of the house. If that doesn’t trigger the heat, the problem could be with the thermostat control panel. 

Here are a few steps you can take to troubleshoot your thermostat. If none of these fix the issue, the problem lies elsewhere.

  • Check that the thermostat has full batteries or is correctly plugged into the wall.
  • Make sure the thermostat is wired correctly.
  • Try to factory-reset the panel using the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Flip the circuit breaker for your heating unit.

Broken heating system fan

When you turn on your heating unit, but it doesn’t blow air through your home, it’s time to check the fan. There are two different issues to look for. The first is a broken limit switch. This switch tells the furnace to activate and deactivate the fan to control the airflow through the home. Replace the switch if it is faulty.

The second issue is the blower motor itself might be faulty. The blower motor blows air throughout the system. It faces the air filter on one side and the blower wheel on the other. Dirty and clogged air filters can severely affect the blower motor. So, if you are having issues, change out the air filters. If the blower motor still has an issue, check to see if the blower wheel turns. If it turns slowly or not at all, the motor is faulty.

Many blower motors use a belt system. Check the belt for fraying or cracking. Also, check that the belt hasn’t lost any of its tension. Chronically dirty air filters can cause unnecessary strain on the blower motor, which can cause it to run too hot and burn out. Clean any dust or debris left in the blower motor from a clogged filter. If the motor still doesn’t run, replace it.

Heating system won’t turn off

If your heating system won’t turn off, it isn’t because it’s extra cold outside. This issue is a sign of something wrong with your system. A heating system should not constantly run. When you notice your heating system won’t shut off, a handful of problems could be causing this issue.

First, try resetting the thermostat. The thermostat may not register the temperature in the home, or it could be set to the incorrect temperature. Also, check the fan switch inside the heating unit or have it looked at by an HVAC professional. If the fan switch is faulty, it won’t trigger the blower motor to stop pumping air into the home. 

Another problem could be the ductwork. If the air ducts leak, your home will stay at the correct temperature, triggering the heating system to keep running to compensate. Call a professional to check your ductwork and ensure there are no leaks.

Heating system is blowing cool air

There is nothing worse than turning on your heating system to find that it is constantly blowing out cold air. After checking that the thermostat is correct, working and calibrated, it’s important to determine why there is no heat. 

First, check that the pilot light or igniter is working and that your gas valve is on. If your furnace or heat pump has a reset button, reset the system to clear any glitches. 

The cold-air problem could also result from restricted airflow or leaky ducts. Ensure the furnace air filters are clean; clogged filters restrict airflow to the house and the furnace blower. Then make sure all the air vents are open for easy airflow. Finally, have an HVAC technician check your ductwork for any blockages or leaks.

Areas of the house are not heating properly

Much like the issue of your heating HVAC system blowing cold air, there is an airflow problem if areas of the home are not heating properly. Resolve heating problems by opening vents and replacing air filters to keep air moving throughout the home and heating unit. 

If warm air does not move through your home after opening vents and replacing filters, it could be time for an inspection. A blockage or leak can keep heated air from getting to all areas of your home. Call a professional for HVAC service to make sure your ducts are working properly.


How much does it cost to repair a central heating system?


If your home heating system stops working and needs repair, costs vary depending on the problem. Here are the average prices of repairing parts of your heating system.

  • Thermostat - $100 to $600
  • Igniter - $150 to $300
  • Gas valve - $200 to $1,000
  • Blower motor - $400 to $1,500
  • Duct cleaning - $275 to $500
  • Furnace Filter - $10 to $30

The cost to install a new furnace depends on the brand but averages between $2,500 and $5,900. 


A Cinch warranty covers heating systems, including ductwork

When your heating system stops working, you need a plan to get it back up and running. A Cinch Home Services home warranty plan can help. The Cinch Built-in Systems Plan covers your heating and air-conditioning systems, as well as your ductwork. What’s more, you get a 180-day workmanship guarantee for covered repairs.

Get a quote today and find a plan that works for you! Have peace of mind knowing you are protected with Cinch.


When your central heating stops working, troubleshoot the problem and get it running before cold weather hits.