It’s a scary thought in winter, and nobody really wants to think about it, but it’s important to know what your plan is if your furnace fails this, next, or any winter. There are clear best case scenarios where you do a little trouble shooting and it’s back on, or you have to spend a night with a friend, but the furnace is working by the next day. There are also worst case scenarios like a citywide power outage. It’s important to be ready for either.
Troubleshooting. If you’re lucky, you might be able to fix your furnace yourself with a little troubleshooting. Make sure your thermostat is on. Your furnace might be working great but not being told to produce any heat. Locate the furnaces wall switch and make sure it’s turned on. It’s easy for kids or someone else to turn this off by accident in summer and for no one to notice. Check your circuit breaker or fuse box next. If none of those solutions work, use the wall switch to turn your furnace off and take a look at the filter. If it’s old or clogged, hot air will have a difficult time reaching the rest of the house. Filters should be changed at least once every three months. Always turn your furnace off before changing the filter, but make sure to turn it back on when you’re done! The last checks are to go outside to your meter and make sure your gas is on and, if your furnace has a pilot light, to check that that’s on. If by the time you’re finished troubleshooting, it’s still not working you’re going to need some expert help.
Emergency Dos. If your house is the only one without heat, it’s likely you’ll be able to get help pretty quick. If the entire city has gone out, things are going to get a lot messier. Do have a plan made in advance. Where is your family going to meet? Does grandma or someone else have a wood fireplace? Do have at least three days supply of easy to make food and at least 4L of water per person for three days. Camp stoves work well for making simple foods. Be sure to use one that you know is safe for indoor use. Dried meat and canned (or dried) fruit last for a very long time. Other long lasting foods like canned beans should help make up the bulk of your food supply. Do have a first aid-kit. Do have a flashlight and a radio that don’t need power. Do have extra batteries. Do listen to the authorities for any instructions. Do unplug as many electronics as you can and turn the furnace down to 16°C. This will help prevent things breaking due to a power surge when electricity is restored.
Emergency Do nots. Do not panic. That’s why you need to have a plan. Do not ever use charcoal or gas barbecues, camping heating equipment, or a home generator indoors. All of these devices release carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is invisible and scentless and deadly. None of the carbon monoxide detectors that are hardwired into your home will be working. Never, ever, ever use these devices indoors. It’s also a good idea to buy a battery powered carbon monoxide detector. Do not open your fridge or freezer more than you have to. They are very well insulated and can keep food cool for a day or more if not opened.
No one wants to have to plan for an emergency, but the worst time to have to make up a plan is during an emergency. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a bunch of suggestions for what sort of supplies you need during a Zombie Apocalypse. Because as it turns out, if you’re ready for zombies, you’re generally ready for pretty much anything. The graphic novel is a fun read, but their list of supplies is what’s important. We at Plumbing Paramedics hope you never have to use any of this advice, but we’ll be glad we gave it if you ever do.