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5 Common Winter HVAC Issues You Need to Know

Published: February 11, 2019

Winter weather can be extreme. One day it’s clear and sunny; the next it’s subzero temperatures and the snow has piled up. It’s not an ideal time for heating and cooling systems to go haywire. People in homes and offices expect a stable climate where they can live and work. Whether you’re in the business, or just have an HVAC system you want up and running so you’re not left out in the cold, here are 5 common winter HVAC issues you need to know.


1)  Frozen Pipes

If the pipes of an HVAC system freeze, it could be catastrophic. Hot water will fail to circulate and your pipes could burst, causing major damage to your systems and property. Frozen pipes and coils occur because of exposure to the cold. There are a few simple tricks you can use to avoid this. If pipes run along the walls or through the basement, make sure they’re properly insulated. Disconnect outdoor garden hoses, which can cause pressure buildup inside. Open cabinets that hide fixtures connected to the outside so warm air can circulate.


2)  Faulty Heat Pumps

Like pipes, heat pumps can freeze when they’re exposed to winter weather. They can become trapped in snow mounds or suffer damage from snow melt. A working heat pump will actually turn on the air conditioner, even in the winter so the AC unit heat ups and melts snow and ice. If this isn’t working, dig the system out of its igloo so it can defrost itself. Check the fan motor and see if it needs any repairs or replacement parts. Confirm refrigerant levels are high enough to produce heat.


3)  Dirty Air Filter

It’s easy to forget about air filters for furnaces and central heating systems. They should be cleaned out every few months. A dirty air filter forces the HVAC system to work overtime and not circulate air the way it should. Clean filters will ensure the system has a long lifespan, improve the quality of the air by catching dust particles and allergens, and keep the space they help heat cozy and warm. Be sure to use the right kind of filter for your system. Filters made from different materials are used for different reasons. Fiberglass or synthetic filters are easy and inexpensive, but they won’t last as long as electrostatic filters.


4) Pilot Light Problem

Pilot light problems are among the most common when it comes to winter-related HVAC issues. Is thermostat turned up, but no heat blowing? The first step is to turn off the furnace, boiler, or water heater. Confirm whether the flame sensor is functional; you may need to clean it. If this doesn’t resolve the issue, read the building’s main gas meter and see if it’s at capacity; if it is, the problem could be as simple as air flow, where the pilot light has been blown out like a candle. Shore up any leaks to prevent a vacuum effect. If these steps don’t work, you’ll want to consult an expert. Natural gas is explosive.


5)  Carbon Monoxide

It’s always a good idea to have a carbon monoxide detector in your home. These devices detect when carbon monoxide exceeds safe levels. When levels of carbon monoxide are high, you need to be ready to swoop in as the HVAC hero. A carbon monoxide leak can be deadly. You’ll need to inspect the furnace, vents, chimneys, and appliances to make sure there are no leaks, or to identify where a leak is coming from. Clear away any debris that could create blockage. Don’t forget to check out the heat exchanger. The exchanger is supposed to vent out poisonous gases caused by combustion, so if this isn’t working, this can be a dangerous problem.

At Charter College, you can learn all about HVAC installation, maintenance, and repair, so you can be ready for a job as an HVAC technician. In just 10 months, you’ll receive instructional and hands-on training to prepare you for work in any climate, hot or cold. If this sounds like the career path for you, contact Charter College to learn more about our program.