Living in a colder climate almost always comes with the risk of snowstorms. If you have an HVAC unit in your home, you want to ensure that a snowstorm doesn’t cause serious damage to your system or interfere with your heating in any way.
To avoid the worst problems, you must prepare your heating system for winter — including snowstorms. Here are 8 safety tips for your HVAC unit that will help it (and you) endure any snowstorm that comes your way.
1. Review Your Heating System for Issues
First of all, you want to ensure that your heating system doesn’t have a pre-existing issue — one that could become even worse when a snowstorm comes. Here are some common symptoms that you should keep a lookout for:
- Your electric bills are higher than usual
- Your heating system is unable to warm your house sufficiently
- The furnace makes unusual noises when operating
In addition, if your heating unit is more than 15 years old, or hasn’t been inspected and maintained for longer than 2 years, it may be time to either upgrade it or call out an HVAC professional to service it.
2. Change Your Unit’s Filter
This is typically a very easy job to handle — and you should definitely change your equipment’s filter before the worst of winter arrives. Make sure to replace your filter during the fall, and then check your filter every month during the cold season for maximum efficiency. You could buy a disposable filter as a replacement, or invest in a reusable filter. You can periodically rinse out a reusable filter, and it will work like new.
3. Clear Your Forced Air Gas Furnace
Many homes use a forced air gas furnace as their main heating system. If your furnace’s airflow from the outside vent is obstructed due to heavy snowfall, the formation of icicles, or the accumulation of debris, your system won’t be able to sufficiently heat your home as before. Therefore, it’s important that you periodically inspect your vent or vents, and clear away any blockages. Since many furnace vents are on the roof, you may need to call a professional to handle this task for you.
If your home has a central air system, then it’s important to occasionally check that your heat pumps are clear. If there are obstructions, carefully clear them away. Remove snow from off the top, sides, underneath, and any area adjacent to the unit, so that it can properly drain during defrost. Make sure that you don’t damage the unit in the process. If in doubt, it’s best to hire a professional to do this work for you.
4. Inspect, Repair, and Clean Your Heating Ducts and Vents
Your heating ducts and vents are important components for distributing warm air throughout your home. Unfortunately, over time dirt, debris, and allergens can accumulate within your ductwork, and result in a serious reduction of indoor air quality. Moreover, ducts and vents can be damaged or suffer wear and tear over time. For these and other reasons, you must inspect your heating ductwork before bad weather comes, repair any damage you find, and clean them as needed.
Much of your home’s ductwork is hidden. However, you should inspect the visible ductwork in your home for the following things, among others:
- Broken or disconnected parts
- Dirt accumulation
If you find any gaps or punctures, then they should be sealed ASAP. Vents and ducts can normally be cleaned using household products and equipment, but for a deep cleaning, the easiest route is to enlist the services of an experienced HVAC technician.
It’s important to make sure that your ductwork and vents are clean and clear of obstructions, since a reduction in airflow will not only make it harder for the unit to heat your home, but could also result in breakdowns throughout your system.
5. Check Your Insulation and Replace as Needed
Insulation is an essential piece of the puzzle when it comes to keeping a home warm. Since warm air rises and can be lost through the roof, improper or insufficient insulation can result in exorbitant heating costs, and cause your unit to work extra hard. Reach out to a professional to check that your home has the right amount of insulation and the recommended rating. Pay special attention to your attic and/or any upstairs rooms.
6. Invest in a Backup Generator
One of the worst nightmares a homeowner can have during winter is a power outage. Of course, there are many potential causes of a power outage during winter, whether it’s a downed tree, a wrecked car, or just the weight of too much snow.
To avoid the worst of a power outage, consider investing in a backup power generator. That way, your home’s key systems will be able to keep running no matter how long it takes the electric company to restore power to the neighborhood.
7. Purchase a Programmable Thermostat
Older thermostats use mercury, which has been known to cause serious health problems in those exposed to it. New, programmable thermostats don’t use this chemical, and are more accurate in setting and regulating your desired temperature. Consider investing in one before the next snowstorm hits.
8. Seal All Cracks and Leaks in the Home
Indeed, this task does not directly relate to your HVAC unit. Nevertheless, by sealing all leaks and cracks in your home you help to prevent warm air from escaping to the outside. This allows your system to operate more efficiently and keep you and your family comfortable.
When it comes to the possibility of a snowstorm, you shouldn’t take any chances with your HVAC system. If you have any further questions on how to protect your unit and home, reach out to our team of experts today.