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Anybody Know Something About Furnaces?

It breaks my heart to even ask, especially here, but if I’ve already put in a call to my ex about this, you know I haven’t any pride left. Here goes — I have a gas furnace no more than seven years old and it was last maintained/tuned up in 2010. I just went through a few hours of wondering why it wouldn’t kick on. When I realized it wasn’t, I first changed the batteries in the thermostat, then after another hour went down and stared at it for a while and noticed it was making blowing noises every few minutes like it was trying to kick on but couldn’t. As I’m writing this (Hallelujah!) it kicked on and blew out heat, but I’m scared.

It’s warm today in Chicago, for a January day, but does anyone know any reason why this would happen? Something I could fix myself so I’m not in trouble later on? I’m sorry to do this here, but if anyone has any ideas I’d appreciate hearing them. Thanks in advance.


18 thoughts on “Anybody Know Something About Furnaces?

  1. I’m not a professional, but I would assume you NEVER want to mess with gas. This means: call the maintenance team. If the pilot light goes out, it can blow up your house. It could be something simple, maybe a valve-thingy isn’t opening. But if it’s been two years, you should just have it checked again for your own safety. Good luck!

    • Thanks Jennifer. That’s kind of what I was thinking except I don’t know how I would pay for it. I’d have to use the property tax money and I just don’t want to get taken. I’m tired of being scared and I want so much to be proactive — but I hear what you’re saying. Thanks.

    • Thank you so much, Bee. After what Jennifer said, I’m thinking if I at least have some kind of language to use with a repair person (if I need one) maybe that can save me from being steered in the wrong direction. I really appreciate this. Thanks again. 🙂

  2. Yeah, gas can be A Bad Thing to mess around with if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. I almost crispy-fried my face working on mine last weekend. If yours is only seven years old it probably doesn’t even have a pilot light – it will be electronic ignition. I would guess that the ignitor is failing. Does it have a filter you can check/change? That’s about the only maintenance an end user can do. I hate to suggest it but I’ve heard of people getting the gas company to come out and do a quick check on their appliance by saying they think they smell gas.

    • Thank you so much! And I’m so glad you’re all right! I changed the filter two months ago and it’s supposed to be good for a year. I didn’t realize about that electronic ignition fact. I can do some research about that and maybe it’ll help me with the language if I have to call a repair person. If the furnace stops again though, I’m seriously considering your gas company tip. Thanks!

      • I know some of the utility companies out here (and sometimes the city, too) offer free visits or maintenance services for purposes like “greening your home” or “find out how you can save money this winter.” If you haven’t checked the websites for these places in your area, you could give them a try. There might be some way to get someone out to your house! *hug*

  3. Sweet Rè of sunshine, don’t be broken-hearted. It’s not like you neglected to pay your fuel bill* cuz you blew the money at the bingo hall or something, right? 😉 And there are many who have asked the same question before you: http://bit.ly/xE69jt so you’re not alone. Changing the thermostat battery was smart, so you obviously are not totally clueless about things like this.

    I would think your furnace has at least a 10-year warranty Did your ex buy it? If so, he would probably have the warranty info, or tell you how to get it. There may be some label on the furnace with a customer service number. If it’s still kicking out heat a couple hours from when it first came back on, I wouldn’t be worried, but you might still want to get it looked at. If you do . . .

    Some suggestions:
    Ask friends/neighbors/co-workers/employer to recommend a good furnace man, somebody trustworthy. When you call, mention that you were referred by so-and-so. Join AngiesList.com for referrals. Some tips from the Illinois Attorney General to help you not get taken for a ride by a repair company: http://illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/consumers/homerepair_construction.html

    Check out barter networks online to see if maybe some handyman/woman is willing to trade labor (maybe even parts) for some nice crocheted things you make. (Baby clothes for a grandchild, a handmade sweater for the wife?). I don’t know what your line of work is, but that may be another barter resource.

    If your furnace is actually down, and the warranty’s up, you might be able to use your property tax money to get what’s known as a “savings secured loan” from your bank and pay it back over time. Take it one step at a time. I hope you have a warm and safe evening (have you got an electric blanket?). Have faith. You are creative and capable and you can handle whatever life throws at you!


    *(the way SOME people I could mention once did, causing the furnace to go out
    for the second time that season
    in the dead of a Boston winter
    the evening that her house guests arrived.
    from Miami.

    • Thank you, thank you for so many ideas. I feel a little silly not to have thought of a single one of them myself. Thank god I had the sense to ask for help with the thinking. I’ve been trying harder to do that lately. Thanks for taking the time.

      • Your answer reminds me of a little story:

        During the first World War, a Chicago newspaper published certain editorials in which, among other statements, Henry Ford was called “an ignorant pacifist.” Mr. Ford objected to the statements, and brought suit against the paper for libeling him. When the suit was tried in the courts, the attorneys for the paper pleaded justification, and placed Mr. Ford on the witness stand for the purpose of proving to the jury that he was ignorant. The attorneys asked Mr. Ford a great variety of questions, all of them intended to prove that while he might possess considerable specialized knowledge pertaining to the manufacture of automobiles, he was, in the main, ignorant.

        Mr. Ford was plied with such questions as the following: “Who was Benedict Arnold?” and “How many soldiers did the British send over to America to put down the Rebellion of 1776?” In answer to the last question, Mr. Ford replied, “I do not know the exact number of soldiers the British sent over, but I have heard that it was a considerably larger number than ever went back.”

        Finally Mr. Ford became tired of this line of questioning, and in reply to a particularly offensive question, he leaned over, pointed his finger at the lawyer who had asked the question and said, “If I should really want to answer the foolish question you have just asked, or any of the other questions you have been asking me, let me remind you that I have a row of electric push-buttons on my desk, and by pushing the right button, I can summon to my aid men who can answer any question I desire to ask concerning the business to which I am devoting most of my efforts. Now, will you kindly tell me, why I should clutter up my mind with general knowledge, for the purpose of being able to answer questions, when I have men around me who can supply any knowledge I require?”

        There is certainly was good logic to that reply.

        That answer floored the lawyer. Every person in the courtroom realized it was the answer, not of an ignorant man, but of a man of education. Any man is educated who knows where to get knowledge when he needs it…

        —Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich

        See? You’re just like Henry Ford. Now build me a car, please. 😉

  4. Re, hope it’s been fixed by now…i agree that it’s prolly an electric ignition…usually last about 5 yrs then need replacing (just happened to my stove) …maybe you can get a model # and see if the ignition part is sold cheaply on-line ??? or ask a handy neighbor – there must be one nearby no? that’s about all i got. sure hope it either is fixed, or gets fixed soon. continue…

    • Thanks so much for the info, Tony. It’s working again so far, but I can’t help feeling a little paranoid about it. I’ll look up prices for my model’s replacement ignition (after I check out the warranty) so I have that info in the back of my mind if necessary. Thanks for helping. 🙂 (No handy neighbors. 😦 )

  5. I was alarmed, now appeased. You have lovely friends. I fear I would only make your problem worse as I’m a feckless muppet when it comes to intricate engineering type things.

    In spite of the damned furnace, have a brilliant New Year.


    BTW Write about your experience – The Zen of Furnace Maintenance – how about it?

    • Thank you, RR. I am lucky to have come in contact with such nice and generous souls. I’ve been saying prayers for this new year — prayers for us all. I hope your new year is brilliant, too.

      As for writing about this experience, I hope I can at some point. Today I’m still shocked and unsettled by the thought of the domino effect. If things come down, I won’t be at the top of the heap. My hands are still shaking and my mind is racing.

  6. Apologies that I was of no use at all, but I can tell you that we had terrible oil burner problems just last month. It had just been inspected! I think many professionals even have trouble with those buggers. Scary to think of losing heat. Do you at least have emergency service in your state? (we do and the repair guys actually came out on Thanksgiving to fix ours).

    • Sorry to hear about your own problems, after a recent inspection no less, but glad to hear it’s fixed now. I think the local gas company would come out soon if it was necessary. Of course, I hope it doesn’t come to that. Thanks for your concern, Amelie.

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