Sometimes, it may start as a small stream of unexpected cold air coming from your vent. Other times, you may notice your house getting colder despite raising your thermostat. To make matters worse, the weather forecast says a new storm system is brewing that will make this the coldest night of the year. What if your heat is not working?
In North Carolina, we typically don’t have to worry about freezing winds from Lake Michigan, but even in the “mild” Carolina winters, a broken furnace is, at best, an inconvenience. At worst, it’s a dangerous situation – particularly if members of your household are young or elderly.
What should you do when your heat isn’t working?
ONE => Contact your local heating and repair company
Find out if there is still a warranty in place for your system or on repair work you recently had completed. Be sure you select a reputable company, preferably one that guarantees the quality of its work. While employees should be on-call for after-hours emergencies, be sure you call as soon as you realize there is a problem with your furnace or heating unit to avoid extensive delays. However, if it looks like repairs will be extensive or delayed, you still have options.
TWO => Use an alternative source of heat
This may be a fireplace or a space heater. But before tossing some logs on the fire or pulling a space heater out of storage, remember that safety is the first priority. Each year, more than 25,000 residential fires are caused from space heaters, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Following are some important safety precautions to keep in mind when using an alternative source of heat:
For your fireplace:
- Make sure the damper and the flue are open—even if the fire is burning out. This prevents smoke from blowing back into the house.
- Remove any objects that are obstructing the fireplace.
- Be sure to keep flammable items away from heat.
- Don’t use gasoline or lighter fluid to start your fire.
- Don’t buy an oversized heater.
- Keep children and pets away from the heater.
- Place the heater on a level surface.
- Keep the heater away from areas that experience heavy foot traffic.
- Make sure your space heater is fitted with the latest safety features and has the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) label.
One final warning: NEVER use your gas oven for heating your house. Over time, this causes a lethal amount of carbon monoxide gas. More than 400 Americans die each year from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning and another 4,000 are hospitalized.
THREE => Stay somewhere else
When in doubt – get out. Stay with relatives, friends or check into a local hotel. Depending upon the warranty associated with your system, part of your hotel expenses may be reimbursed by the company that installed or manufactured the heater.
FOUR => Plan ahead
Of course, the best strategy is to have an annual inspection and checkup of your heating system before cold weather arrives. This gives you peace of mind of knowing that your family will be safe and warm during the winter. A reputable heating and air conditioning company may offer inspections twice a year as a part of a regular preventative maintenance package.
Betcha didn’t know that!