Protecting Your HVAC System in the Winter

New York winters are known for their idyllic beauty; there’s nothing quite like the sight of a fresh snowfall on a winter night. New York winters-particularly in upstate New York- are also known for something less pretty: chilly temperatures, chilling winds and massive snowstorms that can drop inches (or even feet) of snow and ice onto the region.

This side of winter can leave you shoveling for hours and make driving conditions so difficult that at times it’s almost impossible to even get out of your driveway, let alone drive to work. Winter weather doesn’t just make mornings dreadful–it can also cause serious damage to HVAC systems. Luckily, with a few protective measures, you can protect your systems from that damage.

The Causes of System Damage (and How You Can Prevent Them)

Winter weather can cause damage to heating and cooling systems in a few ways:

  • Snow and Ice Buildup- An important part of maintaining any HVAC system in the winter is keeping a careful eye on snow and ice buildup around specific parts of your units, particularly following an especially nasty storm. A few inches of snow on an outdoor heat pump unit is not a big deal, but if the build-up starts accumulating more significantly or the weather gets unusually cold, you’ll want to make sure that the unit itself and the area around it is clear off any obstructions to help ensure proper operation. Otherwise, you do risk blade and/or coil damage, or blocked ventilation.
  • Frozen Pipes- Pipes freezing in the winter is not uncommon, but it is extremely inconvenient, especially if the pipes burst. Because some heating systems rely on hydronic (water circulating) systems, frozen pipes can also mean a heating system breakdown. Making sure that pipes in unconditioned spaces are insulated and openings that may allow cold outside air in are sealed properly. Doing so will help minimize the chance of your pipes freezing.
  • Falling Ice- It may sound unlikely, but if you have large icicles or heavy snow on your roof, eventually those big chunks of ice will fall. When the ice or snow does fall, there’s always a chance that they will collide with your HVAC unit, and if they do, they can cause major damage to both the external cabinet and internal mechanisms that make the unit function. To cut down on snow and ice buildup that could cause serious damage, it’s a matter of keeping up with the weather. If you’re noticing a lot of treacherous ice or steadily mounting snow, try to clear away that snow and knock down those dangerous icicles.
  • Flooding- When the winter thaw starts, that doesn’t mean the threats to your HVAC units stop; in fact, even a weekend of unusually high temperatures that melts a large amount of snow and ice can be a problem if that excess water floods around your system. Flooding can cause electrical damage to your HVAC unit, which naturally can cause some major functionality issues. Your unit is designed to withstand most of what mother nature throws at it but making sure that the area around your outdoor unit has good drainage and proper ground cover will go a long way to help prevent standing water from causing unwanted damage.

Protecting Your HVAC System

Keeping your HVAC system in tip-top shape over the winter involves a little resilience, and a lot of help. Central AC covers are a good start if you’re worried about the elements damaging your outdoor unit while it’s not in use. But it’s just a start.

In addition to the prevention ideas above, consider getting an Automatic Standby Generator which can help keep your home and pipes warm for a long period of time, even when the power goes out.

Even more important than careful cleanup and owning a generator is having steady maintenance done on your HVAC units. The reality is, even if you do your best to keep damage to a minimum, the natural wear and tear that is caused by the elements isn’t something that you can mitigate on your own. That’s where Appolo Heating comes in. We provide regular maintenance from our staff of highly knowledgeable techs that will elongate the life of your system and keep it fine-tuned and running smoothly for this winter and beyond–keeping your family safe, comfy and warm and cutting down on energy costs in the process!

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