6 Common HVAC Issues To Watch Out For In Winter

April 17, 2023

As temperatures drop during winter, your home’s heating and cooling system must work harder to maintain ideal temperatures. In many cases, extreme winter weather can freeze the system. As a result, your heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) unit might become inefficient and even break.

If you’re anticipating long and harsh winter weather, here are the most common issues to watch out for and the best steps to take.

1. Frozen Pipes

Frozen pipes are a common issue in winter, not just in plumbing but in HVAC units, too, especially if both systems interact. Freezing typically happens to outdoor pipes exposed to extreme cold, such as the lines that supply swimming pools and water sprinklers. Indoor pipes that run through unheated areas like the basement and the garage may also freeze. In worst cases, pipes can freeze and fail to function altogether and cause hot water systems to malfunction. And because water expands when it freezes, too much ice accumulation can cause HVAC pipes to burst, leading to costly repairs.

To prevent this, you must prepare before winter sets in:

  • Add more insulation to unheated indoor spaces where pipes run. This includes crawl spaces, the attic, the garage, and the basement.
  • Drain outdoor water supply lines, including hoses, and close the main valves.

If you’re unsure how to protect pipes adequately before winter, it’s best to seek a professional’s help well ahead of time.

2. Inconsistent Temperatures

Inconsistent temperature is one of the most common HVAC issues you’ll likely encounter in winter, where you’ll notice one room chillingly cold while the others stay warm. Although this can result from other factors like dander accumulation and debris, during winter, insufficient insulation will make your HVAC system struggle with retaining heat. If vents and supply registers are blocked, airflow throughout the system becomes uneven, too, causing cold and hot spots in some areas.

As part of your preparation for winter, check for the following in your HVAC system:

  • Filters should be free from accumulated dust and debris; replace them if needed
  • Evaporator coils must be clean
  • Vents should be open to allow airflow
  • Ducts must have sufficient insulation

However, keep in mind that cleaning the HVAC system is a task that’s best left to experienced professionals like LG Home Comfort to ensure the safety and precision of work.

3. Short Cycling

When an HVAC turns on and off repeatedly, it may indicate a more severe problem. Short cycling may result from loose electrical connections, dirty filters, and frozen evaporator coils. This power issue may also damage the system’s essential components as it constantly needs to power up in the process. If your heating and cooling system goes on short cycling during winter despite having clean filters and proper wire connections, hire a reputable HVAC technician immediately to diagnose and fix the problem at the root.

4. Carbon Monoxide Leaks

Commonly known as a silent killer, carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless. Because of this, leaks can happen without anyone noticing. When inhaled long enough, depending on the concentration, it will lead to serious health conditions or even death.

Carbon monoxide leaks may occur when there are cracks in the heat exchanger, which may happen in prolonged use of the heating system, particularly during winter. As a precaution, homeowners with an HVAC system should invest in a carbon monoxide monitor and detector to get notifications whenever a leak occurs.

5. Flickering Pilot Lights

There are two reasons why your HVAC pilot lights could be flickering. First, clogged and worn-out sensors can cause the lights to go off. If the sensor is dirty or worn out, clean or replace it immediately with the help of a professional. Secondly, drafts can cause the pilot lights to flicker and go off. If this appears to be the case, check to see if all vents are covered and sealed correctly to prevent too much cold from getting into your system.

6. Damaged Outdoor Components

Understandably, exposure to harsh winter temperatures will likely damage your HVAC’s outdoor parts. The condenser, especially the coiled fins, is particularly vulnerable to damage. When ice builds up on these parts, they will freeze, bend, and cause airflow issues, which will lead to even more problems. And when the ice melts, it will just seep inside and eventually cause rust and corrosion.

To protect your HVAC system’s outdoor components, here are some steps you can take:

  • Consider surrounding the equipment with a wind barrier
  • Cover the condenser but not the heat pump
  • Ensure the defrost cycle is working
  • Always check for ice buildup and shovel snow away from the area

The key here is to prevent the accumulation of winter precipitation around the equipment.

Conclusion

HVAC issues tend to get worse and even multiply during the winter. But although most of these issues can be fixed, preventive maintenance is always the best first step. Make it a point to call in your trusted service company to check your HVAC system a few months before winter. Timely maintenance checks will help to identify and repair minor issues before they become a menace in winter.

Carlos Diaz
I believe in making the impossible possible because there’s no fun in giving up. Travel, design, fashion and current trends in the field of industrial construction are topics that I enjoy writing about.

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