Some Common HVAC Problems During Winter
An HVAC system is an integral part of the home, providing families with safe and comfortable living. Unfortunately, because of the tedious work it does, it’s not uncommon for HVAC systems to encounter problems, especially during the wintertime, when it may very well be running around the clock.
Obviously, the winter is the worst time to have a broken HVAC system. If you suspect that your unit is experiencing some issue, don’t hesitate to call the experts right away.
To guide you in identifying if there is a problem with your HVAC system, take a moment to learn more about common HVAC issues you might experience during the colder months of the year.
As most Pittsburghers know, January and February regularly see sub-freezing temperatures. (As I write this, it’s a balmy 17 degrees in Pittsburgh.)
You’re probably aware of how this can impact plumbing pipes, but it can also affect HVAC piping. In fact, your HVAC’s piping is a leading HVAC winter problem.
As temperatures decrease and ice accumulates, objects like pipes and coils can freeze over and cease functioning properly. In addition, hydronic systems like hot water heaters and steam radiators can fail as frozen water stops flowing with the piping. As a happy homeowner, you will quickly grow frustrated when your heating breaks down due to frozen pipes.
What’s more, the frozen water can expand, causing the pipe or coil to burst. That’s an expensive repair for the most part.
If you suspect there is an ice and pressure build-up in your HVAC system, call an HVAC professional immediately. You should also turn off your water source while waiting for the repair crew to show up.
Before this occurs, you might want to consider placing foam insulation that’s secured with duct tape around any exposed HVAC pipes or lines. It’s especially important to do so with the aforementioned hydronic systems.
The J&A Steel City Protection Plan includes routine plumbing inspections. Contact us to learn more and become a member.
Fact: As much as we might like to claim ducts as a modern advancement used to connect heating and cooling units across large buildings, the ancient Romans implemented a similar system known as the hypocaust. Archaeological evidence proves that around 300 B.C. the Romans carved out vertical tubes (Pilae stacks) underneath room floors. The pipes were connected to a furnace that drove hot air towards the tile ground of baths and other public areas.
Dirty air filters
If you detect that your home is not heating as it should be or your system is running longer than normal to reach a preferred temperature, you may need to change out your air filters. (If you’ve read previous blogs, you know we’ve talked about this many times before.) As we’ve often mentioned, it’s rather tough for the air to flow through your unit when HVAC air filters are clogged with dust, dirt, or other types of debris.
The blockage usually leads to a decrease in airflow and, consequently, reduced warmth in the home. Not only that but these filters are intended to clean the air before it moves into your living space. When your air filters are dirty, the air quality in your home is also compromised. Moreover, this can hasten your need for furnace repair since a dirty filter makes your HVAC system work harder than normal.
It’s advised that homeowners change or clean their HVAC air filters every one to three months. However, you need to clean or replace it more often if your home is exposed to pet hair, smoke, or excessive dirt, such as from construction. Remember, changing out the filter takes only a couple of minutes, keeps the warm air flowing, and helps preserve the life of your system.
Thermostat seems inaccurate or isn’t working properly
Thermostats are durable, but they are not indestructible. A faulty thermostat can contribute to a wide range of HVAC issues, from irregular cycling to rooms that are too hot or too cold. Fortunately, as with changing air filters, a broken thermostat is usually rather easy and affordable to repair.
If your thermostat isn’t working properly, you first need to troubleshoot to check for common problems. For example, check the power source of your thermostat to ensure a wire isn’t loose, the battery isn’t dead, or a fuse isn’t blown. Next, clean the thermostat. Sometimes, dirt and dust can build-up, resulting in issues.
If you’ve decided it’s time for a new thermostat, you need to upgrade to a programmable, smart thermostat if you don’t already have one. Smart thermostats provide higher energy efficiency than older models. Plus, the customization allows for the best temperature setting for both comfort and efficiency. So naturally, when your HVAC system runs less frequently, the life of your unit is extended.
Are you cranking the thermostat to heat the home “faster”?
Some homeowners have a somewhat mistaken assumption that if you crank the thermostat setting for winter up to the highest possible temperature setting, the home will heat up faster. Actually, this is a much slower process and can even lead to your furnace failing in the long term.
Spinning the thermostat up to 100 degrees F. makes the unit work overtime, driving the humidity level in your home downward and actually boosting your odds of combatting problems with condensation on windows and pipes – not what you want when it’s freezing outside.
In addition, this routine of cranking up the heat runs the risk of adding stress and strain to the entire HVAC unit, boosting the prospect of a breakdown and running into costly repairs on short notice. Or, when you take into consideration that you don’t really experience faster heating as a result of turning up the thermostat, a better, more sound approach becomes much clearer.
Our J&A Steel City Protection Plan includes routine HVAC inspections, which can help prevent major problems or catch them before they occur. Contact us to learn more and become a member.
Fact: The most efficient way to conserve energy without adjusting your heating system is to ensure your home is adequately insulated. By sealing air in, the heating or cooling unit spends less time changing your room temperature and more time maintaining the room’s climate.
Some rooms are colder than others
Are you noticing heating inconsistencies from one room to another? This is a wearisome scenario, as a number of family members find themselves freezing while others are sweating. In the end, everyone’s disgruntled, and finding a good solution might seem unachievable.
Heating that varies from room to room can be caused by many issues. It could be an issue with the blower motor, your ducts might be blocked or broken, or maybe your air filter is too dirty. Nevertheless, getting to the root of the problem is a must. The only way to know for sure is to give your HVAC technician a call to schedule an inspection of your system and connecting ducts.
Note: Sometimes uneven airflow isn’t an HVAC issue. Before you do give your technician a call, be sure to look for any cracks of gaps around the doors and windows. It just might be that certain rooms aren’t sealed as well as others. You’ll also want to make sure your vents aren’t being blocked by furniture.
Faulty pilot light
Heating systems that run on gas or propane require a pilot light to ignite properly. Some older systems have a pilot light that constantly runs while others turn the pilot on when the system starts up. In any case, pilot lights can flicker and fail for two primary reasons.
Drafts are the leading cause of pilot lights that flicker and go out. So, be sure the vent cover is attached correctly and that any drafts in the room where your HVAC system is located are sealed to stop drafts from putting a chill over your winter’s night.
Another common cause for a misbehaving pilot light is a dirty or damaged flame sensor. Take the time to clean the sensor and make sure it allows the pilot light to burn steadily.
If you notice that the heater has other significant issues, you might want to talk to a professional about installing a new HVAC system.
Fact: The very first steam-heating system installation was in England so the Governor of the Bank of England could grow grapes in the cool temperatures.
The first time you turn on your HVAC system for the winter, you may discern an odd smell. This is quite normal and shouldn’t be cause for alarm. However, if you continue to notice an odor when your unit runs a bit, it might be a good idea to call an HVAC professional.
As you probably know, natural gas itself will cause a strange odor. Because gas is dangerous, you should call for help immediately should you detect a strong smell of gas. If there’s a gas leak in your home, everyone is in danger.
Likewise, the smell of smoke is a sign of trouble. As soon as you notice the smell, turn the system off and get out of the house. Then, again, call an HVAC professional for help immediately. The J&A Steel City Protection Plan offers priority service to our members. Contact us to learn more.
Carbon monoxide leaks
Carbon monoxide is a toxic, deadly gas that results from the incomplete combustion of natural gas. Keep in mind that carbon monoxide can be a silent killer, mainly because it’s odorless and colorless, which makes it hardly noticeable. This means it can seep through your home without warning. If you have a natural gas furnace or other appliance, you need to equip your home with C.O. detectors.
The most common reasons for carbon monoxide in the home from the HVAC system are ventilation blockages, cracked heat exchanger, or broken or rusted parts in the heater or gas lines.
Call an HVAC professional immediately if your detector alerts you to the presence of carbon monoxide. Then, evacuate your home and don’t return until you’ve been given the all-clear.
In addition, a technician should check the levels of carbon monoxide in your home during a routine inspection.
When you join the J&A Steel City Protection Plan, you get routine inspections and priority service. Contact us to learn more.
Heat pump malfunctions
If you have a heat pump system installed in your home, you need to be extra cautious in the wintertime. That’s because the heat pump’s coils and fans can frost over due to the cold weather.
True, many newer systems come with an automatic defrosting setting that allows the system to prevent frost build-up. However, in the event your system doesn’t have this setting, you’ll need to manually clear away the frost build-up for your system to work properly.
Are you ready for HVAC problems this winter?
It’s crucial that you be ready for anything this winter. Before you encounter a problem with your heating system, you should call a professional for a routine maintenance check. The expert will perform a standard inspection that checks for many of the common problems mentioned above. Typically, an HVAC professional is able to pinpoint issues before they can cause your system to fail.
However, keep in mind that not all HVAC companies provide the same high level of service. You should know who you can depend on when it comes to your heating system. The crew at J&A South Park are well known for their professionalism, dependability, and level of service provided.
Whenever you’re dealing with any of the winter HVAC problems mentioned here, the professionals at J&A South Park can help. We’ve also got you covered if you need a new furnace installation. Routine HVAC maintenance is another service option we offer that can boost your comfort during winter.
Contact us today at (412) 357-6043 to talk to our industry experts about our HVAC services, and become a member of the J&A Steel City Protection Plan to make sure your home’s systems are strong as steel.