It can be a scary prospect when your heating stops working in the winter. Depending on where you live along with physical conditions of people who live with you, losing a heat source can be a dangerous situation. An inherent problem with a heating failure is it tends to happen when you need it the most, or else it happens while you're asleep or at work and don't have a chance to address the issue until the house is already too cold to stay in.
The Basics: Circuit Breakers and Fuel Sources
Preparation is always the best resource you can have for any problem you may have with your house. If you learn how ahead of time, you can check for basic problems as soon as you realize the heat is out, such as making sure your circuit breakers are on, assuring you have fuel if you use an oil or natural gas tank, or contacting the city if you're on a public gas line. If the breaker has flipped, or you seem to be going through fuel faster than usual, you'll want to have a professional inspect the system and determine what is causing the problem but at least you'll have your heat back on in the meantime.
Whether to Repair or Replace a Heat System
Heating systems are designed to be repaired, and need both maintenance and repairs on occasion. When the system breaks down repeatedly it is time to consider the expense of ongoing repairs versus the price of a new one. You can expect a trusted heating contractor to provide as they work with systems every day and know what qualifies as normal repairs and what signals the system is nearing the end of its natural life.
There are two things you can do in preparation for winter to assure your safety in the event of a heat system failure. Although nobody expects to be best friends with their neighbors, but if you maintain good relations with them, most people will let you come to their house in an emergency until your heat can be repaired. Secondly, keep a backup heat source available. Gas logs can be a good secondary heat source, but they won't work without gas. Likewise, an electric space heater can often solve the problem unless your power is out. Although you may not like the idea for a number of reasons, a kerosene heater can be a lifesaver during a heat system failure.
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