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Five Problems That Could Be Smaller Than They Seem

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When we care deeply about something, we often misinterpret problems with that thing. When it comes to our heating and cooling system, this often means worrying that our system has sustained some sort of a catastrophic problem, only for that problem to not be nearly as serious as we might have thought. Here are five problems that are frequently misinterpreted as serious when they really have incredibly simple and easy-to-fix explanations.

Blank or Dead Thermostat

Have you ever been greeted with a blank, non-responding thermostat when you go to turn on the air? You might be tempted to think your thermostat has died and that you have no way of controlling your heating and cooling system until you get it replaced. While replacing a thermostat is a complex procedure that shouldn’t be attempted unless you have the knowledge and skill to do so, the truth is this may not actually be your problem.

The majority of thermostats are actually powered by a battery, usually a 9V cell located in the unit itself. When this battery dies, the thermostat dies, and when the thermostat dies, the screen goes blank. We’ve seen many customers call us to have their thermostat replaced only to be slightly embarrassed when they realize that the problem they’re dealing with could have been fixed by simply replacing the internal battery with one of the several they probably have sitting around in their garage or in a closet somewhere.

Weak Airflow

Weak airflow could be a signal of a number of different things. It could be a sign that your air conditioner is freezing over. It could be a sign that your blower fan is giving out. And it could even be a sign that your ductwork is wearing out and needs to be replaced. Alternatively, perhaps the most common cause of weak airflow is a tremendously easy fix: your air filter is full and needs to be replaced.

As your air filter collects debris from the air, it fills up. When it fills up, air can’t be pulled through the screening media anymore. That weakens the airflow, and the efficiency of your entire system suffers for it. Replacing your air filter is easy, but it’s something you shouldn’t delay in doing—the more you run your system on a dirty air filter, the more likely you are to experience a number of other, more serious problems that require even more extensive repairs.

Strange Smells

Strange smells are usually a good indicator of a problem. Smelling burning plastic is often a sign that you’re overloading electrical circuitry, and melting through insulation around wires. But there are certain times where strange smells are actually somewhat normal. Perhaps the most notable time is when you first turn on your furnace to start the heating season. Because your heater has been powered off for quite a while, certain parts of your system may have accumulated some dust buildup over the time that has passed. When you first turn on your heater, this dust and debris becomes blistering hot and burns off, resulting in a burning smell that is almost unmistakable.

This smell doesn’t last, however—it usually only takes about 10 minutes before it goes away, and airing out your home for a short amount of time should eliminate it completely. If you continue to smell burning for quite a while after this period of time, then you shouldn’t hesitate to call a professional for help; the issue might be a whole lot more serious.

Constant Running

A system that is constantly running is a sign of a number of issues, notably that your system isn’t big enough. That or it’s no longer able to keep up with your cooling or heating demands. However, it might not be an indication that your system is malfunctioning at all, particularly if you accidentally have left the blower fan in the “on” position.

Blower fans have the ability to run constantly in order to create air circulation that makes your home more comfortable. This means it sounds like your system might be running endlessly, when in fact it’s only the fan that’s running. Shutting that off is just a matter of flipping the switch over to “run,” meaning the fan will only run when your system is running.

Hot Air in Summer/Cold Air in Winter

This might be the silliest one on this list, and you’ll see why. When it’s cold outside and you fire up your furnace, you expect your home to start feeling warmer and more comfortable within a short amount of time. But what happens when your home actually feels colder on that frigid winter night or even warmer on that hot summer day? Surely that must mean there’s a problem with your HVAC system, right? Well, it might not. In fact, it might mean that your HVAC system is working perfectly.

The problem might be that you simply didn’t notice one very important setting: is your system turned to the right process? It might surprise you to learn that we do occasionally get phone calls from customers who are in a huge panic that their HVAC system isn’t working properly, only for them to realize that the problem can be fixed with the flip of a switch. Notably, the switch that turns your system either to “heat” or “cool” mode. If you turn on the air and only heat comes out, check to make sure you haven’t accidentally turned your thermostat over to “heat.” Modern smart thermostats tend to make this a little easier with color-coded displays that show you what mode you’re on right away.

Broken air conditioner? Heater not working as it should? Call A-TEMP Heating, Cooling & Electrical at (503) 694-3396 to let our skilled team fix it for you!