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What to Do If Your Furnace Breaks

furnace .

Most people don't mind a little snow during the winter months. Bone-chilling cold; however, is another story. If you're unfortunate enough to experience a furnace breakdown during freezing weather, it's important to act quickly, as falling temperatures can turn mere discomfort to danger. Frozen pipes can burst after just a few hours — an outcome that can cause serious damage and cost to fix.

To help you prepare for this possibility, here are some quick things to remember if your furnace goes on the fritz.

Make sure your thermostat settings are correct

Sometimes the right fix is the most obvious one, so make sure your thermostat is turned to heat rather than cool and that all other display settings are appropriate. The U.S. Department of Energy has issued some smart guidance for ideal thermostat settings across the various seasons.

Check to see if you've blown a fuse or tripped a breaker

If you're lucky, your furnace fix may be as simple as a replacement fuse or flipped switch. Check your electrical panel before you do anything else to see if this takes care of the problem.

Determine if your pilot light is still on or if it needs to be reset

This is another relatively simple fix. Most heaters feature instructions for relighting your pilot light. The process is fairly straightforward: You turn the gas off, wait ten minutes, remove the cover, grab a match or a long candle lighter and light the end of the pilot light tube while pressing the reset valve. If you have any difficulty, there are many how-to videos posted on and

Newer furnaces often have intermittent pilot ignition, which means that the pilot light turns on only when needed. While this saves energy, it relies on a more complex electrical system to function. This means that it's advisable to seek assistance from a professional if simply turning the gas off and on and pressing the ignition button fails to resolve the issue.

Check for blocked lines

It's possible that branches, mud or even snow can block pipes outside your home. If these intake and outtake flows are compromised, your furnace can stop working.

Turn your faucets on to a slow drip

By allowing water to circulate slowly through your pipes, you will lower the pressure buildup and reduce the risk of a blowout. You don't have to maintain a steady flow; a slow drip is enough to get the job done.

Call a professional and prepare to stay warm

If none of the simple fixes listed above solve the problem, it's time to seek outside assistance. Arranging for professional furnace repair can take time, especially during busy winter months. This means it's important to keep your home as warm as possible in the meantime.

Make sure you keep all doors and windows closed to prevent your home's remaining heat from dissipating. Doing so can buy you some time and make your home livable.

You may also wish to consider other simple steps, such as opening curtains to allow the sun to warm your home, closing drafty doorways, wearing warm clothes or using your fireplace, if possible. It's critically important, however, to make sure you follow all safety protocols. Never leave burning fires, heaters or other sources of warmth unattended for long periods.

The takeaway

A failing furnace can cause serious trouble during the cold weather months, as frozen pipes and other hazards can cause significant damage to your home. Be sure to contact your local independent insurance agent to help ensure you and your family stay protected.

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