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HELP! My Heat is Blowing Cold Air!

January 2, 2018

We’ll frequently encounter a caller complaining about their heating system blowing cold air.  We may ask a few other questions but it comes down to this: what temperature is the thermostat set to and what temperature is it reading in the house?  The answer to those questions can often expose the problem without a service call.

Gas Furnace vs Electric Heat Pump

Suppose the caller tells us that the thermostat is set to 70 degrees and the room temperature is reading around 70 as well, but they still feel cold air blowing from the system.  This is often a clue that this homeowner is experiencing their first winter with a heat pump instead of a furnace – in other words, electric heat rather than gas heat.  Here’s the real issue: Gas heat is much hotter coming out of the vents than electric heat.  A gas furnace puts out 130 to 140 degree air.   In contrast, a heat pump may only put out air at about 85-92 degrees. But regardless of the heat source, both types of heating systems are able to maintain the inside house temperature at 70 degrees.  Our body temperature is normally 98.6 degrees.  Gas heat puts out air that is much hotter than our body temperature, so it feels warm.  Electric heat puts out air lower than our body temperature, so by comparison, it feels cold.  Additionally, because gas heat puts out hotter air, it does not need to blow as hard or as long as electric heat to achieve the same room temperature.  Frequent blowing causes evaporation from the skin which naturally cools the body, and may make us feel chilled.  So, if this is your first winter with a heat pump, and the air temperature is keeping close to what whatever you’ve set the thermostat to, there likely is no problem with your heating unit.  It just might take some getting used to.

Switch Fan to AUTO

Here’s another possibility:  Remember how we said blowing air helps cool you?  In the summertime, it is often helpful to turn the fan setting on your thermostat to “On” – so it runs all the time – rather than “Auto” – where it only blows when the unit kicks on.  But in the winter, you’ll want to set the fan back to “Auto”.  Just like on a windy day, blowing air makes us feel colder than the actual air temperature.  In between the heat cycling on, the air inside the ducts may cool below the “usual” heated air temperature, so if the fan is on all the time, it will be blowing cooler air at you until the heating unit kicks back on.  Avoid a service call by just manually switching the fan setting on your thermostat to “Auto” in the winter.

Service Call? Things You Can Check

But, if the room air temperature is really well below the thermostat setting, then you may indeed have a problem!  The outdoor unit may have iced up, or your system may have a bad reversing value or compressor, or the refrigerant may be low (yes, you still need refrigerant for heat!).  Any one of those things will likely require a service call.  But here are some things you can check and might be able to fix yourself.  Is the thermostat switched to cool mode instead of heat mode?  Turn it off, and then flip it to heat mode.  If your ductwork goes through an attic, crawl space or basement, are there open windows in those areas?  Does the ductwork have a hole in it or has it become separated from the main trunk?  Those things will need to be fixed before it’s possible to determine whether there is an actual mechanical problem with your heating system.

Not As Warm As You’d Like?

If you live in the Nashville or surrounding area, and your heating unit is not keeping you as warm as you’d like, give us a call at 615-802-2665. We’re here for you.