Has this ever happened with your home’s electric furnace? You switch it on one day—maybe the first cold day of the fall season, or maybe deep into the winter—and instead of starting to heat up, it immediately stops working entirely because it flips a circuit breaker.
You’re not alone. An electric furnace requires a large amount of electricity to run, and all this demand on the circuit can cause an overload, which the breaker trips in order to protect the electrical system.
But if the electric furnace needs that much power to operate, why doesn’t it always trip the breaker in the electrical panel when it turns on? There’s a reason, and it’s in a component that is one of the most vital for operating an electric furnace reliably: the sequencer.
What the Sequencer Does in an Electric Furnace
Before describing the sequencer, we have to talk about the heating elements in an electric furnace. Heating elements are what actually heats the air moving through the furnace and then into a house’s ventilation system. Each heating element is an electrical coil; as electric current passes through the coil, it becomes hot. This is called electrical resistance heating, and it’s the same principle you see at work in a toaster. Any central electrical furnace in a house will have at least two heating elements, and depending on the furnace size may contain many more. If they all turn on at once—pow! Tripped circuit breaker.
The sequencer does the job of staggering the heating elements so they turn on one at a time, in “sequence.” The sequence does this by acting as a series of circuits that close one at a time, allowing electrical power to move farther down the system to each of the heating elements in turn. A series of heat-sensitive circuits expand as they heat up, and when they make contact, they close. The sequencer shuts off the heating elements one at a time as the heating cycle comes to an end.
The Broken Sequencer
Problems with sequencers are among the more common troubles in electric furnaces. Fortunately, they’re easy for experts to identify and correct, usually by replacing the sequencer. A failed sequencer may allow all the heating elements to turn on at once, or it may only permit a few to come on—perhaps none at all. If you think your furnace isn’t getting the house warm enough, you may have only a few heating elements coming on because of a broken sequencer.
You cannot repair a sequencer on your own unless you have professional experience with heater service in Bergenfield, NJ along with local New Jersey licensing. Although amateur work on an electric furnace doesn’t present the same dangers as work on a natural gas furnace, it is still complex electrical HVAC work that requires special skills and equipment. If you have an electric furnace that’s tripping the circuit breaker or isn’t coming on at all, get in touch with our experts to arrange for fast and accurate repair work.
Advanced Mechanical Services provides service throughout the Tri-State area. We offer 24-hour emergency repairs.