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Many home heating systems work overtime throughout harsh, Canadian winters. Often, furnaces are still kicking in well into the spring months, so it’s crucial that they’re kept healthy.

Here are seven of the most common problems you may encounter when it comes to heating your home:

Lack of regular maintenance. Like anything else in your home, if you don’t take care of your furnace on a regular basis, sooner or later, it’s going to let you know. This includes cleaning the system and changing air filters so that it’s performing at its peak. Not maintaining your heating system can cause repairs that could have been prevented, in addition to higher energy bills.

Pilot light or ignition issues. Today’s heating systems either have hot surface ignitions or intermittent pilots. When you don’t have heat, it could be because the pilot light went out, or because the ignition control has malfunctioned. While re-lighting the pilot light is an easy fix, if the ignition control isn’t working, you’ll have to call in an expert. If you have a newer furnace, it’s most likely the ignition that’s causing the problem.

Clogged or dirty filters. A furnace filter is akin to the liver in a human body. It clears the furnace of unwanted dust, grime, pet fur and the like. When it gets clogged—or dirty—it can’t function as it should, which may mean that your heating system isn’t doing the best job it could be doing. It’s crucial to change the filter regularly—preferably every couple of months.

Poor or non-existent airflow or circulation. This is a problem that usually accompanies older furnaces that have tired motors, bearings, belts and ducts. If any of these should fall into disrepair, the system can overheat and cause the airflow to be compromised or to fail all together. Again, regular maintenance is crucial.

Faulty thermostat. It doesn’t matter what kind of thermostat your system has, it could go on the fritz. It may just be that you need a new battery, or maybe it’s having difficulty matching with your home’s HVAC system. Any malfunction can cause poor heating levels and other issues.

Mold. Poor insulation can cause moisture around your furnace, as well as in the duct work, creating an environment that mold and mildew love. If you get a musty smell, consider having a professional clean your HVAC system to be on the safe side.

High bills. You’re obviously going to pay more when your furnace is working harder, but a sudden spike in your bill may mean that something is wrong. While it could be something minor like a dirty air filter or a tripped breaker outside, it could also be something more serious like a damaged compressor.

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