Your furnace is the powerhouse of your home heating system. It’s the place where heat is actually generated and distributed to the ducts throughout your home, allowing you to remain nice and toasty when it’s cold outside.
Like any appliance, however, furnaces can have performance issues. Some of these involve the reset button. It can trip on its own; it can require tripping from a professional. The latter is usually after a small furnace issue has snowballed into a much bigger one.
What do you need to know about your furnace’s reset button? When is the right time to press it? Consider this your guide to understanding one of the most important controls on your furnace.
The Purpose of a Furnace’s Reset Button
The first question to ask is why do furnaces need reset buttons in the first place.
Usually, the reset button is triggered when the furnace gets too hot. The furnace itself will detect the danger and engage its reset button as a safety feature. Once the button has been tripped, the furnace will shut down. This also protects your circuit breaker
Another common reason for a shutdown is when there’s a malfunction of some kind within your furnace or your home. For example, if there are loose wires causing power fluctuations, that can short out the circuit boards within your furnace’s control board and cause it to shut off automatically.
Last but not least, you can manually press the reset button. You might need to do this after a storm or something else that’s caused a power outage. It’s also recommended in certain situations like tests or inspections of the unit. A furnace reset is a bit like a computer reset in the sense that it can boot everything up fresh.
The Potential Problems With Furnace Resets
If the reset button is a useful safety feature, what’s wrong with using it? The answer lies in how often it’s tripped. A malfunctioning furnace might trip a reset repeatedly and in circumstances where the unit isn’t even overheating.
Here are just a few reasons why your furnace might keep resetting itself:
- Faulty wiring within in your home
- Overheating from clogged filters or blocked gas valves
- A fuel shortage in your gas furnace
- Leaks, breaks, or other issues causing problems internally
A furnace that constantly resets itself is more than just a nuisance. It can wear down parts even faster than usual, decreasing the longevity of your unit. It can mask other problems and prevent you from noticing or fixing them in a timely manner. It can also spike your energy bills since the furnace is powering on and off again repeatedly.
Where to Find the Reset Button
Reset buttons are usually rather obvious on a furnace. They’re located inside of the blower compartment, often near the blower motor, and they’re painted red or yellow to stand out. When they’ve been tripped, they will stick out, allowing you to see the edges instead of lying flat against the furnace.
If you have an older model, finding the reset button on your furnace might be a bit more complicated: The placement of the blower motor can hide it from view. You might need to grab a flashlight, crane your neck to look behind and below the motor, and see if the reset button is tucked away on the back end.
It’s easiest to find the reset button on an electric furnace. Gas and oil models, especially older ones, are the hardest.
When to Consider a Furnace Reset
Sometimes, a furnace can benefit from a reset. Minor problems can fix themselves when you turn everything off and back on again. For example, a wispy pilot light might reignite much stronger, or a thermostat taking strange readings might re-calibrate itself and work like new again.
Resets can also be necessary components to tests, inspections, and evaluations. A technician might want to observe how long it takes the furnace to come on or how it behaves under newly-introduced conditions or stressors. During a repair, a reset can determine the compatibility of a new part. During an inspection, a reset can tell you if a home’s HVAC system is buy- or sell-ready.
Anyone can hit the reset button on a furnace. However, you’re highly encouraged to call a professional for the job. Not only is it safer to trust your furnace resets to a pro, it can also help save you money.
The Dangers of Resetting a Furnace
Depending on the type of furnace that you own, it can require a multi-step process to reset it. It may also require you to safely disengage other aspects of your HVAC system before you start messing around with the furnace and its power source.
If you have a gas furnace, for example, the first step of a reset is turning off its pilot light. The next step is dialing its connected thermostat to its lowest setting. If there’s an electric ignition system, the circuit breaker will need to be disconnected to cut off power. One particular gas line should remain open, but another should not. Some furnaces might require pressing the reset button in specific ways before it’ll engage.
It’s a lot to remember, and it’s easy for things to go wrong. For these reasons, it’s best to leave furnace resets to professional HVAC technicians. Not only do they have the training to safely handle things like gas supply lines, but they’re also the best people for diagnosing your furnace’s problems. They’ll be able to tell you if you have a closed gas valve or a dirty flame sensor causing your intermittent resets. Additionally, they’ll be able to recommend further courses of action if your furnace needs repairing or replacing. They might even be able to do it themselves.
How Many Times Can a Furnace Be Reset?
This is another question with an answer that depends on the type of furnace that you own. With oil-burning models, for example, it’s generally recommended that you don’t hit the reset button more than twice. This is because each hit will pour oil into the burner chamber, which will accumulate with nowhere to go when the ignition isn’t engaged. When you finally get the furnace turned on again, the results can be explosive.
Additionally, all furnace types can have issues that are exacerbated by continuous resetting. Their electrical issues can trip circuit breakers. Their worn-out parts might break down even faster as you force their power on and off again.
All in all, resetting should be a last and occasional resort, not an everyday troubleshoot for a furnace that clearly needs repair. If you’ve had to reset your furnace more than once or twice, it’s time to call in the experts.
Getting the Most Out of Your Furnace
Furnaces can be tricky appliances, and they’re prone to turning smaller issues into bigger ones over time. If you suspect problems with yours, it’s best to contact an HVAC professional right away. Reach out to us at Beltway Air Conditioning & Heating in Hanover for heating and cooling services that include installation, repair, maintenance, and more.