Tips to Get Your Furnace Ready for a Snowstorm
Snowstorms are beautiful to watch as they roll in, but they can really mess with HVAC systems. It’s during these storms that people are most likely to experience an HVAC failure, leaving your family in the cold. Here are some of the best tips for preparing for a snowstorm now so that you’re not left without heat.
How Snowstorms Wreck Furnaces
To heat your home, your furnace raises the temperature of the air moving through the system. This warmer air then moves out into your home to mix with the cooler air and raises the temperature throughout your home.
The colder the air is outside your home, the more heat your home transfers outside, which means your system has to run more often. Winds, combined with cold temperatures, only make that heat transfer more efficient. As the heat transfers out of your home, the temperature drops, initiating your heating system to warm the air again.
Even with good insulation, heat is going to transfer out during a storm, and your HVAC system will run more often. The more frequently your system cycles, and the longer it cycles, the more strain it adds to the system.
As an HVAC system ages, it can’t sustain as much strain as it could when it was new. That’s why these storms often cause HVAC systems to fail, which leads to emergency heating repairs.
What Strains Your System Before Storms?
In many cases, these emergency repairs could be avoided if the system wasn’t already strained. Weather aside, your system experiences strain due to airflow restrictions and worn-out components.
Airflow restrictions happen both in your system and in your home. These simply reduce the amount of air your system can circulate, extending how long your system must run to achieve your desired temperature.
Every component in your heating system will eventually wear out, and as it ages, it loses some of its performance capacity. This also slowly causes your system to run longer cycles as it loses its heating power.
Regardless of what causes the strain, it makes your system more vulnerable when extreme winter weather hits the area. The best way to prepare for a storm is to do everything you can in advance to reduce the regular operational strain. This will leave your system stronger when the storms do eventually hit. Here are some of the best ways you can easily reduce the strain your system experiences immediately.
Check Your Vents and Doors
One of the best things you can do is manage your interior doors and vents effectively. Your system depends on the ability to circulate air in your home to effectively heat your home. It does this by creating high pressure at the output vents and low pressure at the return vents.
When you close vents throughout your home, you inhibit the circulation your system tries to create. The same thing goes when you keep doors closed to rooms that don’t have their own return vent.
Try to keep as many doors and vents open for as long as possible to encourage proper circulation. If there’s a space you don’t use regularly, consider closing both the vent and keeping the door shut, even using a draft protector at the bottom of the door. This effectively removes the space from your system’s burden, relieving some normal operational strain.
Keep an Eye on Your Air Filter
Next, keep a close eye on your air filter, making sure to change it when it gets dirty enough to restrict air from flowing through it. A dirty air filter is one of the most common causes of restricted airflow and is easily preventable.
The standard recommendation is replacing your filter about every 90 days if you have the common 1- or 2-inch filter. However, with the drier air in the winter, you may need to change it a little more frequently.
Consider checking on your filter at least monthly to see how it’s holding up. While checking on it, gently vacuum the dirt off from the intake side to help improve airflow between changes.
Maintain Effective Humidity
Indoor air quality is vital for keeping your system running efficiently. When there are a lot of contaminants in the air, you develop restrictions more quickly, including clogging your air filter.
Your home’s humidity directly affects your air quality, specifically the number of contaminants floating around. When the humidity drops, airborne particles become lighter, and fail to settle as dust around your home. This means there are more particles flowing into your system to cause airflow restrictions.
The EPA recommends keeping your home’s humidity between 30% and 50% relative. This is enough to weigh down airborne contaminants and not more because things are dry. It’s still low enough to discourage the development of contaminants that thrive in moist settings.
Use Your Thermostat Strategically
Your thermostat is critical to reducing the strain on your system. Start by making sure it has fresh batteries before the start of the season. Regardless of how the batteries test, plan to change them about every six months or when you have your fall and spring HVAC maintenance.
Next, make sure the fan setting is set to Auto. If it’s set to On, the fan will run all the time, increasing the strain on the circulating fan motor. It’ll also cause more air to flow through the filter, meaning it’ll need more frequent replacements.
Finally, use your thermostat’s programs to reduce the temperature in your home while you’re not there. This will save you money on your utility expenses, up to 10% according to the EPA, and also reduce the strain on your system.
A lower temperature setting means your system runs shorter cycles less frequently during normal weather. This reduces the number of operational hours your system runs, keeping it strong for when there’s more demand when the weather turns bitter.
Get Your Annual Heating Maintenance
Even with a clean filter, some contaminants are small enough to flow through and into your heating system. These settle on components like your circulating fan wheel and the heat exchanger.
A major part of routine maintenance is cleaning the contaminants out of your system, reducing strain caused by airflow restrictions. Your technician will also test each part of your system, looking for signs of anything not working properly. This is a key component to finding small issues before they turn into big emergencies.
Be Alert for Small Issues
Small inefficiencies in your system add a lot of strain, reducing the life of every component as the system works to compensate. To catch small problems, you need to pay attention to how your system runs and not dismiss small changes. Things to keep an eye on include:
- How warm the air feels coming from your vents
- The amount of air flowing from the vents
- Any sounds your system is making
- Month-over-month energy consumption
If you notice a change in any of these, it may mean there’s a problem. Start by checking your thermostat and air filter. If neither of these solve the problem, call a professional to diagnose and resolve the issue.
People around Charlotte have turned to Integrity Heating & Cooling to keep their homes comfortable year-round for over 35 years. Our team specializes in heating and air conditioning installation, maintenance, and repair, including duct and indoor air quality services. Call to schedule your HVAC maintenance, installation or repair services today.Tags: HVAC Snowstorm Preparation