Winter is challenging for HVAC systems because they must work harder to maintain desired indoor temperatures. Without proper servicing, a heating and cooling system will barely deliver the expected performance. It will consume more energy yet not keep your home as comfortable as you desire. What’s worse, your units could suffer irreversible damage, which calls for a replacement that might overstretch your budget. Prioritizing winter HVAC maintenance will prepare your heating and cooling unit for whatever Mother Nature brings during the cold season. That way, you enjoy more comfort without spending a fortune. So, if you intend to keep your home warm and energy-efficient this coming winter, below are the HVAC maintenance essentials to keep in mind.
Table of Contents
Importance of HVAC System in WinterHere are a few compelling reasons why HVAC maintenance is necessary during winter.
» More ReliabilityAmong the most prominent benefits of HVAC winter maintenance is increased system reliability. Furnace breakdowns can be frustrating, especially if you are unfamiliar with HVAC troubleshooting and no local technician is available for emergency repairs. A well-maintained system provides your family with consistent comfort.
» Energy and Cost SavingsKeeping an HVAC system in top shape helps reduce energy consumption and utility bills. Multiple or recurring component issues degrade your system’s performance. Maintenance serves to prevent component failure and sustain the system’s peak efficiency. That way, your home stays comfortable with reasonable energy consumption and bills. Besides minimizing HVAC repairs, preventive winter maintenance is a sure ticket to extend your system’s lifespan. That postpones a potentially expensive and frustrating replacement.
Related Article: How to Improve your HVAC System Energy Efficiency?
» Improved Indoor Air QualityAccording to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor airborne contaminants can be 2-5X higher than their outdoor counterparts. Sometimes the amounts can be over 100X higher. Those are critical levels health-wise, particularly for individuals vulnerable to allergy flares (asthma and other respiratory issues). Comprehensive HVAC winter maintenance includes filter replacement and duct cleaning to ensure only filtered and clean air is distributed throughout your home.
How Winter Weather Impacts Your HVAC SystemBelow are a few ways the cold winter weather affects HVAC systems.
» Cold, Arid Air is Harder to HeatFurnaces work harder to heat dry, cold air. The apparent drop in relative humidity during winter makes your home’s interior feel colder than it really is. As a result, the recommended thermostat range of 71-77 degrees Fahrenheit will hardly generate truly comfortable results. It also means your furnace will need to run more cycles to keep your indoors warmer, thus raising the energy bills. Whereas it is tempting to crank up your thermostat setting, you only end up stressing your heating system.
» More Heat LossesThe temperature difference between the outside and inside of an uninsulated or poorly insulated home results in faster heat loss. As you have already guessed, the heating unit will have to work harder to maintain the thermostat temperature setting.
» Ice and Snow-Related IssuesAlthough Southern California weather is not affected by this, those areas that experience extremely low temperatures are no stranger to snow and ice, which, unlike rain, do not evaporate right away. That means homeowners must prepare for a unique set of HVAC challenges. Snow and ice can freeze your heating unit, triggering an emergency shutdown and pipe damage. When moisture penetrates your AC, it can freeze into ice, expand and bend the coil fins. The issue may manifest in loud noises coming from your outdoor unit. The ice can melt, seep further inside, re-freeze, and eventually wreak havoc to the internal components. Falling icicles can cause physical damage to your outdoor units, necessitating emergency (and often expensive) repairs. Too much snow blocks intake vents and furnace exhaust, restricting airflow through your HVAC system. Your equipment strains to overcome the impediment, which translates into higher energy consumption. The extra strain can damage the heating and cooling components, costing you thousands of dollars in HVAC repairs and replacements.
7 Common HVAC Problems During WinterFind below the top ills that plague HVAC systems in winter:
1. Frozen PipesThe period between December and February is synonymous with freezing temperatures. And while daytime temperatures may surpass the freezing point, the night temperatures can quickly freeze your outdoor pipes and coils. That impedes your HVAC system’s functionality, leaving your home cold and uncomfortable. Still, frozen water can expand and cause a pressure buildup that can burst the pipes or coils.
2. Clogged Air FiltersAir filters prevent dust and debris penetration into HVAC units. However, filters are more susceptible to clogging when outside temperatures are beyond normal, owing to the heightened need for heating or cooling. A clogged filter impedes airflow, putting an extra strain on the blower motor. The component draws a larger electrical load, leading to higher electrical bills. Continued airflow restriction results in heat exchanger overheating. The outcome is frequent short cycles that waste energy and cause unnecessary wear and tear. In worse cases, the internal components of your heater suffer damage, setting you up for costly HVAC repairs or replacements. These are just a few issues that make filter replacement an integral part of HVAC winter maintenance.
3. Uneven Heat DistributionIt is frustrating when one room feels like a sauna while an adjoining one feels like a walk-in freezer. Uneven heat distribution is to blame. Common culprits include:
- Broken fan motor
- Dust/debris accumulation in the heating and cooling system
- Leaking or inappropriately sized ducts.
4. Faulty ThermostatThermostats are designed to be long-lasting but not indestructible. Sensors malfunction, computer chips fail, wires come loose, and batteries fail, compromising the device’s calibration. Whatever the thermostat issue, you may notice the indoor temperatures plummeting regardless of your furnace being healthy. The solution could be as simple as replacing the batteries or cleaning or recalibrating the thermostat. Talking of calibration, tape an accurate thermometer beside your thermostat and compare the readings after 15 minutes. Anything beyond a variance of +/- 5 degrees Fahrenheit calls for a thermostat service.
Related Article: Get Your Furnace Ready for this Winter – Furnace Tune-up