5 Most Common Winter HVAC Problems

November 16, 2021

Texas was recently reminded that time spent preparing is never wasted. There are several things you can do to be ready for natural disasters, extreme weather, and cold temperatures, in addition to a thorough hurricane plan.

When it comes to protecting our homes from storms and weather conditions, being prepared takes a lot of forms. Some are obvious, like investing in a generator and trimming tree branches that hang over the roof. An often overlooked one is HVAC system maintenance. A well-maintained heating and cooling system can help prevent common problems that risk both your comfort and safety.

Here are the top five most common HVAC issues homeowners experience in the winter, and ways Hage Energy can help:

1. Frozen Pipes and Coils

It is normal to see a thin layer of frost form briefly on A/C evaporator coils. However, if the frost becomes ice, there is a problem. Ice-buildup can result in a significant decrease in heat output and an increase in utility bills. In extreme cases, iced-up heat pumps have the potential to leak refrigerant, break fan blades, affect the outdoor coils’ function, and damage other parts of the system.

A number of things can result in icy coils, such as:

  • Malfunctioning defrost cycle
  • Refrigerant leaks
  • Dirty coils
  • Fan or fan motor issues
  • Restricted airflow, blocked ducts, clogged filter
  • Drain system problems
  • Extreme cold weather

One easy way to help avoid the risk of freezing pipes and coils is to heat unoccupied floors and unused rooms. While many think it is energy-saving to close off vacant areas of the home, it can actually be a detriment to the heating system itself. Too many closed vents will restrict airflow, risking frozen coils, while heated rooms will keep water supply pipes warm, avoiding a dramatic burst pipe.

Be ready for winter by making a service appointment with an HVAC technician to check the defrost function is working properly, fan blades and coils, blower motor, reversing valve, refrigerant levels, and more.

2. Blocked Airflow

In addition to preventing CO leaks, replacing your air filters often will avoid blocked airflow. Blocked filters can cause short cycling. This is when the compressor and fan turn on and off too rapidly. Short cycling can reduce the lifespan of your system, and in the meantime cause spikes in energy consumption and inconsistent temperatures in your home. If you notice it isn’t getting warm enough, or some rooms are chillier, you may be just a new filter away from being more comfortable.

HVAC specialists can perform air balancing, which measures airflow in each room of a home and adjusts the volume as needed, balancing for maximum performance. Many systems are 30-50% low on airflow, greatly affecting efficiency and efficacy. Checking static pressure and measuring airflow can ensure an even, comfortable temperature in every room.

3. Dry Air from Excessive Heat

During the colder months, running the heater as often as needed to stay warm can dehydrate your home. Excessively dry air can cause dry skin, irritate the sinuses, increase the risk of virus, and aggravate asthma and other breathing difficulties. Prolonged exposure to dry air can also damage your home’s paint, wallpaper, wood floors, and furniture. It is important for many reasons to strive for proper humidity levels.

Central humidifiers regulate humidity in the home, improving air quality, comfort, and health. They are hard-wired into the plumbing and heating system to moisturize the air at the source. This is a superior way to hydrate air compared to console humidifiers that are limited in range, and use a stagnant source of water that requires refilling and risks bacteria build-up.

Hage Energy recommends Trane 800 steam humidifiers that use electrode technology. They are simple to install, operate, and maintain. No cleaning, only a simple canister to replace annually. Plus water filtration isn’t needed, minimizing the complexity of the installation and ongoing operating costs.

4. Carbon Monoxide Leaks

CO is invisible, odorless, flammable, and deadly. It is often called “the silent killer;” each year over 400 people in the U.S. die from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. At lower levels, CO poisoning can cause fatigue. Few of us would ever suspect poison in the air! Higher levels of CO can cause dizziness, confusion, nausea, headaches, and coordination problems.

All furnaces pose a risk of exposure to carbon monoxide because the gas is a byproduct of the process of burning fuel. Here are some ways to avoid the hazardous threat of CO leaking in your home:

CO Detectors

Install quality carbon monoxide alarms on every level of your home that will alert you if higher than normal levels of CO are detected in the air. A simple battery-operated one will suffice and is ideal when the electricity goes out for a long period of time. This is a smart choice considering the recent Texas power outage crisis, though most plug-in models will also have a battery backup that is adequate for short-term power outages. Some smoke detectors have a dual function to detect CO as well as smoke, while other models can sense propane gas and natural/methane gas in addition to CO.

Routine Furnace Maintenance

Cracks, obstructions, and damage can cause a furnace’s exhaust system to fail, resulting in a CO leak. Prioritizing regular heating system maintenance is one of the most effective ways to prevent CO leaks. Tune-ups aren’t just for older units, even newer systems require annual inspections performed by a qualified professional to check for CO leaks or damage that increases the risk of it. There are many more reasons to have regular service visits, but this is one is potentially life-saving!

Clean Filters

Replacing air filters frequently will avoid airflow backups that occur in the case of a blocked filter. Dirty filters obstruct airflow, which can lead to CO in your home’s air, so be sure to stock up on filters and create a schedule for routinely replacing them. Aim for every 2-3 months, more frequently depending on humidity and contaminates such as outdoor smoke in the air. If nothing else, use a sharpie to write on the filter frame the date you install it.

5. Malfunctioning Thermostat

Thermostats are a key component to an HVAC system operating efficiently. Over time connectivity and sensitivity issues can develop, often due to age and the build-up of dust inside the thermostat box. Older units can also become miscalibrated, causing less accurate readings and malfunction.

In some cases, it is only a matter of proper auto settings. Auto settings go a long way to save energy and keep your home comfortable. This feature switches from heating to cooling as needed, depending on two points you set: the warmest and coolest temperatures you want your home to be. Having the right span between those numbers can affect energy consumption. Too close together, say 70 and 72, and the system will be kicking on and turning off too frequently.

Even better, smart thermostats go beyond two set points to deliver efficiency, consistent comfort, and convenience. These advanced thermostats allow more programmable settings that can run daily schedules, differentiating waking and sleeping hours and weekdays from weekends. Many also feature Wi-Fi functionality to control your HVAC system from internet-connected devices, such as iPads, smart speakers, and cell phones.

Hage Energy offers a quality selection of thermostats to meet every homeowner’s needs, including trusted brands Nest, Honeywell, and Trane.

Keep Your Home and Family Safe and Warm This Winter

For a safe and comfortable winter with no heating system hiccups or breakdowns, call Hage Energy at 713-560-0600. Ask about our Preventative Maintenance Program for convenient, scheduled inspections that keep your to-do list shorter and your home’s HVAC system running reliably.

© 2021 Hage Energy, LLC. | Houston, TX area Air Conditioning, Heating Repair, Service, Installation

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