No one wants a broken down furnace in the middle of winter, but sometimes it happens. If you are unfortunate enough to experience this, then it is important to know what to do. Taking the right actions may not just keep your home warmer, it can also be important for your safety.
#1: Shut down the furnace
Just because the furnace is heating your home is no reason to leave it switched on. In some cases, electrical shorts are to blame, so the safest option is to turn it off completely until it is repaired. In other cases, the fan may still switch on but it will only circulate cold air. The last thing you want to do is cool your home down more.
#2: Protect your pipes
During stretches of extreme cold no heat could mean frozen and burst pipes. Pipes that run through outside walls are especially prone. Open cabinet doors so air can circulate around the pipes. If temperatures in the home drop below 40 degrees, shut off the water main to the house and turn on the faucets to a trickle to help prevent a burst line if the pipes do freeze.
#3: Conserve warmth
Staying warm is very important, especially if the furnace breaks during an extreme cold snap. It's easiest to heat only one room, so stage a family campout indoors. Close off the room to the rest of the house with doors or by hanging blankets. Dress warmly and close window shades when the window isn't receiving direct sunlight.
#4: Supplement with care
You can use a space heater or fireplace for warmth, just make sure to turn it off or put it out when no one is around or everyone is sleeping. Electric radiators are some of the safer supplemental heat options. Whichever type of space heater you choose, make sure it has a safety turn off that is activated if it overheats or if it is tipped over.
#5: Call for help
Heating repair help can be on it's way quickly in the event of a winter breakdown, but it's important to call promptly and to be prepared to enact the above in case there is a short wait. This is often the case if your furnace breaks down over a weekend or holiday.
You can avoid many winter heating emergencies by having your furnace inspected and tuned up every fall.