How Snow and Ice Affect HVAC Systems

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You may not think the ice and snow outside impacts your HVAC system inside. The truth is ice is problematic for the HVAC components outside of your home. This isn’t even a winter-specific issue. There are times when the buildup of ice caused by an overworking AC unit can block the exhaust.

At Total Home Environmental, we’re well-versed in HVAC ice buildup and how to deal with it. As a leading HVAC service provider in the Torrance area, we’ve just about seen it all. Here, we’ll talk a bit more about how ice and snow affect your HVAC system and what you can do.

There’s more than one problem stemming from a frozen exterior HVAC unit. When snow and ice block the exhaust, it could:

  • Shut the HVAC system down: Working hard despite the buildup, your HVAC system may overheat and shut itself down. The system will need to be cleared and restarted to begin running efficiently again.
  • Damage your home’s ductwork and pipes: No HVAC means no proper heating or cooling in your home. This leaves your pipes especially vulnerable to the elements. When pipes freeze, there’s always a chance they could crack. This leads to leaks and additional repair costs.
  • Release carbon monoxide or other gases into your ductwork: Everything’s connected from your furnace and AC to every room within your HVAC system. If the external HVAC component backs up and dangerous gases are filtered into your home, the ductwork will carry the gas to every room in your home.
  • Render your outdoor unit inoperable: There comes a point where some HVAC units just give out. Working hard to fight the blockages caused by ice and snow caused the unit to overheat and break.
  • Increases power bills: When ice forms on your HVAC unit, it needs to work harder to distribute heat or cold air into your home. You may notice a spike in energy bills because of these spikes in power levels.

Along with the exhaust blocking, there’s a chance that the water in ice and snow will leak inside your system. If this happens, there’s a chance of electrical damage and, eventually, corrosion.

By proactively managing and maintaining ice and snow blockages around your HVAC system, you can avoid a costly HVAC replacement or repair.

Keeping HVAC Units Clear

There are a few ways to manage your HVAC system in the winter or overworked summer months.

  1. Regular maintenance: Your HVAC systems should be inspected by a professional once every year. Twice if you feel concerned about the unit at all.
  2. Clear the outdoor unit: If it snows, head outside and clear the unit as soon as you can do so safely. Like clearing your walkway before it freezes over, this will prevent ice buildup and eventual melting of ice into the unit.
  3. Clean coils: The evaporator and condenser coils are important aspects of your HVAC unit. If they’re caked in debris and dust, airflow is scarce. Wipe them down every three months. More in the winter if they get coated in snow.
  4. Change filters: Many components of the HVAC system have filters. This is to keep dirt and debris out of your air system and ductwork. Cleaning or changing filters in your furnace and AC ensures these machines run smoothly for longer.
  5. Avoid clutter: Clutter near the air intake register is a no-no. Whether it’s garden tools, outdoor lawn furniture, or a pile of kids’ toys. Clear the objects near the return air intake.

Air conditioners are very telling when there’s a problem. If you notice ice on the HVAC, it could be either an airflow problem or a refrigerant problem. The airflow problem can be rectified by the above steps.

When refrigerant gets too low, it stops being able to move heat from inside to outside. Air still blows over the AC coils, but instead of cold air, it blows warm. Alternatively, the coil could get too cold because it’s unable to regulate temperature. Condensation then ices over, creating frost on the coils and AC unit.

For HVAC Ice Help, Give Us a Call

If you’re experiencing ice or snow issues relating to your HVAC system, Total Home Environmental can help. We work with home and business owners in and around Torrance on problems just like these.

Waiting until HVAC icing issues expand into bigger problems could mean an irreparable unit or expensive repairs. Give us a call today, and we’ll diagnose and remedy your HVAC ice problem.

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