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Chicago residents, you know what the winter months are like: frigid temperatures, driving winds—especially hazardous wind chills—and whiteouts. The freezing temperatures that come with snowstorms, and whose effects are felt even after the storm have to be taking serious.

Inside homes pipes can burst, sometimes because the furnace has broken down. The worst of all possible scenarios, an out-of-order furnace, threatens to compromise the safety and comfort of your family.

What can you do to deal with a heating crisis, or better yet avoid it altogether? First and foremost, you can maintain your furnace’s air ducts. Small sized ducts or even closed vents can increase the change of overheating your furnace and short cycling. When your ductwork is not allowing your furnace to move enough airflow because it is too restrictive, your blower motor, inducer motor and your heater safety switches could get damaged. It is important you call a furnace repair specialist to check perform a static pressure test to make sure they are not blocked. You could wait to have this maintenance performed, but if your budget can handle it, err on the side of caution. Remember a better airflow will make your furnace last longer and will make your home more comfortable.

Have you ever run with a heavy load tied to their ankles? You probably do it when you are exercising but not every single day. The same logic applies to your air ducts, if you have a restrictive ductwork, a dirty filter or close some vents you are putting a heavy load on your furnace and problems are around the corner. You can prevent it by calling your Aircor, your Chicago premier heating and air conditioning service provider.

If despite your conscientious upkeep your furnace does go out (and hopefully not during the worst of the winter weather), you can perform some DIY maintenance on it. What follows below are some possible reasons why your furnace may have gone out on you, and what solutions you can apply to get your furnace working again.

Air Filters, Pilot Light, and Thermostat

First find out if your air filters are blocked, if your furnace doesn’t give off enough heat. Another sign of possible blocked air filters is if the furnace shuts down almost immediately after the blower starts up. Changing air filters is an easy job. Replacement filters are usually available at your local hardware store, or a home improvement center. Your owner’s manual can guide you on how to replace the air filter.

Another reason could be the pilot light that is causing your furnace to malfunction. This could also be an easy fix. Check to make certain your power source is on, and then attempt to turn the pilot light on again if the initial try wasn’t successful. Caution: do not try to re-ignite the pilot light, using a match as it can be risky.

Drafts can cause a pilot light to turn off. Using a little weather-stripping can help to fix the problem. If these simple solutions don’t work, you will need to contact a furnace repair specialist.

Yet another cause of a malfunctioning furnace could be a broken thermostat. The signs to look for are: your furnace is not responding to the temperature set; your rooms are heating unevenly; or your furnace continuously cycles on and off.

Ignoring Maintenance

If you neglected to perform regular maintenance on your furnace, this could also cause it to malfunction. Maintenance should be performed every time a minor problem pops up. If you allow smaller maintenance problems to add up, eventually the sum of them could overwhelm the operation of your furnace and cause a breakdown.

When You Need a Professional

It’s wise to call in a furnace repair specialist annually to check the refrigerant levels are appropriate; the air filters remain unblocked; and your furnace is receiving enough voltage. One additional step your furnace repair specialist may do is to perform a fuel combustion test to see if your furnace is burning fuel in an efficient manner. All these maintenance checks are designed to help avoid maintenance issues in the future.

Furnaces Don’t Live Forever

And it may be just that your furnace has outlived its lifespan. You can expect your furnace, or any other of your HVAC systems to last on average 10–15 years. But if you run your system hard, or don’t know how to perform proper maintenance that keeps your furnace from running at peak efficiency, its life expectancy can be cut short. It may simply be an issue of wear and tear, and a furnace repair specialist can advise you on whether it’s worth replacing some parts or the furnace itself.

Emergency Measures

In spite of your best efforts and considering the age of your furnace it blows during (heaven forbid) the worst snow storm of the season here are some tips to keep you and your family’s home as comfortable as possible until a furnace repair specialist can arrive to repair your furnace:

Always keep the number of your HVAC company at your fingertips so you can place a call immediately for emergency service. This is particularly essential as your neighborhood may be experiencing the same issues, possibly delaying the time a furnace repair specialist can get to your home.

Make sure you keep additional blankets stored away for just such an emergency as when your furnace goes out. Also keep a dedicated supply of batteries and flashlights plus a charged mobile phone for when you lose electricity.

If you are without heat you want to make sure your pipes don’t burst because the water flowing through them has iced over and expanded, causing your pipes to give way. One way to keep pipes warm—where you can—is to open any doors that house pipes. They could be contained in your kitchen or bathroom cabinets. By exposing the pipes to your home’s warmth it will keep them from bursting, avoiding another catastrophe.

Service Contracts and Their Benefits

Having gone over all the preventive measures you can take to keep your furnace in good working order, the best of all proactive steps is to sign a service contract with an HVAC company. Its greatest benefit to you is when and if your furnace breaks down, during a severe weather event, the service contract guarantees you’ll have a furnace repair specialist out to fix your furnace in record time. Without a service contract in place, you’ll experience undue stress in trying to find a furnace repair specialist, who can come to your home as soon as you need them. With a service contract, a furnace repair specialist will arrive at your home earlier rather than later, to restore warmth and comfort to your home.

Another benefit of having a service contract is it will save you money in the long run with regularly scheduled preventive maintenance. This kind of ongoing care will pay dividends by reducing your energy bills because your furnace operates more effectively. You will also avoid having to spend more money on repairs down the line, and regularly scheduled maintenance will lessen the possibility of a breakdown.

What’s really important and worth its weight in gold is the priority maintenance clause that puts you on the fast track to getting emergency repair service during the height of a cold weather crisis. Under this clause an on-call emergency furnace repair specialist will respond to your circumstances around the clock.

Isn’t it worth your peace of mind to have a heating system that you can depend on to handle the worst of what weather events may come your way? And when it does break down to have it up and running in record time because you’ve got a service contract to fall back on? It’s hard to argue with this kind of logic. You are the provider of your family, whether male or female, and your family looks to you for safety and security in the event of a winter weather crisis. Don’t you owe it to them as well as yourself to be proactive when it comes to the upkeep of your furnace? And to be the calm center in their lives when your furnace goes out because you’ve signed a service contract?