What type of furnace do I have, and what's wrong with it?

High-rise apartment building, forced-air heating and cooling in the same unit, there’s a mechanical thermostat on the wall.

The unit itself is a Trane. It’s cube-shaped, with an air filter on the right side and the duct coming out of the top and disappearing into the ceiling. There are two 1-inch (approx.) copper pipes going in the side, both are extremely cold to the touch and go through yellow-handled valves, both of which appear to be in the open position. One flexible electrical conduit comes out of the ceiling next to the duct, leads to a box with a common on-off switch, and the conduit comes out of the bottom of that box and goes into the left side of the furnace. Just below where that one goes in, another one comes out and goes into the wall. A PVC pipe comes out of the bottom and leads to a drain in the floor (I’d frequently hear it draining off what I assumed was condensation when I ran the AC this summer).

The problem: There’s no heat. The blower kicks on occasionally, and seems to sputter – I hear lots of mechanical clicking, changes in the fan speed, on occasion it will stop altogether for a second and kick back on, like it’s resetting. There’s air coming from the vents, but it feels like recirculated air – no heat. After a while, the fan cuts out.

Data points:
The air worked fine this summer. I didn’t use it much, had my windows open a lot, but when I needed it, it worked fine.

My stove is electric, not gas, and I have a breaker box that has a breaker that’s related: Two that are connected together, one labeled “heat” and the other “pump”, not tripped.

However, I can’t imagine this is a true heat pump, as I understand the term (which is very little), because that would require some connection to the outside (right?), which I don’t think I have.

The two copper pipes made me think it could be using hot water to heat the air, but both pipes are bare, and they’re both very cold. I do have hot water in the kitchen sink.

I’ll talk to the rental office tomorrow, of course, but I figure I’ll give you all a shot at it.

I lived in a high rise with a similar (not necessarily identical) system.

In summer they connect the coppper pipes to a chiller & run very cold water through them to a radiator in that cubical cabinet. Result: When the thermostat turns on the fan, you get air conditioning. When the fan is off, you just have a very cold radiator sitting there.

In winter the chiller is switched off & the same copper pipes are connected to the building central boiler, which feeds hot water through the pipes into that cubical cabinet. Result: When the thermostat turns on the fan, you get heated air. When the fan is off, you just have a very warm radiator sitting there.

In the in-between seasons, they often switch off the chiller a few weeks before connecting the boiler. And there’s alsways an incentive for management to wait a few extra days after it gets cold before firing up that very-expensive-to-operate boiler.

Might be a similar situation in your case.

Sounds quite possible, but that would mean that the entire building is without heat, wouldn’t it? Sort of a dumb thing for management to allow with a freeze warning tonight. Hm.

Thanks for the insight. I hadn’t considered a separate water system just for the heating/cooling.

Ask the people that own the apartment, or unit neighbor about the heat.

That said can you see a switch to flip to heat instead of cool on the thermostat and or unit? The thermostat has to work the exact opposite when you heat the house instead of cooling it.