How Does Ice and Snow Affect My HVAC unit?


Here is a run-through of how your HVAC unit is actually affected by these chilly temperatures and how to ensure there aren't any lasting effects following into the spring and summer months. 

Inefficient Operation 

The main issue that arises is when snow and ice encase the unit and trigger an emergency shut-off as the system freezes up. This cuts off heat to your home, which could cause burst pipes that result in significant property damage as the temperature drops. 

If you have a gas furnace or boiler, melting snow can seep in and re-freeze and your pipes may become covered in ice, which can cause your furnace to shut down.

Loud Noises

Ice and snow can build up on the aluminum fan and coil fins which will actually bend them. This can cause your HVAC unit to produce loud sounds while operating and can eventually burst the fins.

Working Twice As Hard

The snow and ice can cause the system's components to work twice as hard and limit the air flow, which can cause your unit to end up short circuiting and burning out faster than expected. 

Note: Make sure to check your system's air filters regularly because a clogged filter will restrict your air flow and can cause your system to have a hard time reaching the desired temperature. 

Protecting Your Home's Heating System 

  • Clear away all debris — First, clear out any debris that has gathered around or on top of your unit.

  • Cover your unit — What you do to cover your unit will depend on where the unit is located. But you must ensure the air can continue to circulate near your unit or you face a fire hazard or worse. You can build a small roof over your unit or even construct an entire freestanding shelter around your unit. 
    Note: Keep the unit at least 18" away from the exterior wall to increase air passage and to avoid drifting exposure.

  • Cover all pipes — This is a very important step to take if your unit can be affected by extremely cold temperatures.  

  • Shovel away the snow build-up —  Snow buildup should be shoveled away, gutters should be inspected so they're not dripping on the unit, and ice should be melted away with warm water, avoiding ice picks and possible damage to the system.

8 Tips to Get Your Furnace Ready for Winter

What to do to get your heater working well before the cold sets in.

School is in full swing, the leaves are changing color, and that pumpkin spice latte just isn’t enough to stave off the morning chill. It’s time to switch your HVAC system over to Heat. Check the following list to be sure your furnace is ready for the coming winter.

1. Turn on the thermostat.

Switch from cooling to heating and set the temperature a couple of degrees higher than the current room temperature. If you don’t hear the heat kick on within a minute, pull off the cover and make sure the wire connections are secure (if you feel comfortable doing so). If the connections are snug, make sure the power source to the HVAC system is turned on. If it’s still not working, you could check the furnace fan, blower or heat pump — but it likely makes better sense to call in a professional.

2. Change the air filters.

You probably have air filters behind a vent grill in the wall or ceiling, or a single filter in the HVAC system itself. Change these filters every few months. Or, if you have a permanent electrostatic filter, you can wash and reuse it. Cleaning or replacing your filters regularly keeps particles out of your HVAC system and can prolong its life. While you’re at it, change your humidifier filter and set the humidistat, if your HVAC includes a humidifier.

3. Cover the AC condenser.

Unless your HVAC is a heat pump (in which case, don’t cover it at all because it runs all year), cover the condenser to protect it from falling icicles. “A large trash can lid secured with bungee cords works quite well for this function,” says David Kenyon, training manager for Sears Home Improvement. You can also use a board to cover the fan — but don’t wrap it in a moisture-trapping plastic tarp.

4. Clean the heat exchanger.

“The heat exchanger should be brushed and vacuumed out annually by a trained professional while the unit is disabled,” Kenyon says. While it’s being cleaned, a Sears technician will look for cracks, which could lead to a dangerous carbon monoxide leak into your home.

5. Lubricate and clean the blower motor.

First check the owner’s manual to see if your motor is the kind that needs lubricating. If it does, turn off the power, open the cover and clean the caps covering the bearings. Then remove the caps and lubricate the bearings.

6. Test the igniter switch.

On an old system, you might have to relight the pilot. Newer systems have electronic ignitors. If the ignitor isn’t working, push the reset button. If that doesn’t do the trick, check your breaker. Still not working? Call in a professional.

7. Inspect the chimney and carbon monoxide detectors.

Chimneys can house carbon buildup or even small animals. “A professional should inspect them periodically,” Kenyon says. Routinely test or replace carbon monoxide detectors as well, as they help protect you from the “silent killer.”

8. If you have an oil-powered furnace, replace your filter and nozzle and check the tank level.

“Unlike gas-fired systems, oil units require oil filter changes, burner nozzle cleaning and a pretty thorough heat-exchanger brushing to keep them running efficient since oil doesn’t burn as cleanly as gas,” Kenyon says.

*made possible by our friends at Sears:



Cold weather is here and it’s only going to get colder. Gone are the days of opening up the windows to fill your home with fresh air -- in many parts of the country, you’re about to stay huddled up indoors for the next several weeks. And since you’ll be breathing more indoor air than in the months past, it’s the most important time of year to focus on your home’s indoor air quality.