7 Common HVAC Problems During Winter

Congratulations on attending HVAC school! The principles you learn and the experience you attain here will prepare you for work as a contractor for residential and commercial buildings. Between electrical, heating, cooling, and ventilation systems, you have a lot to master.

Through all your studies and training, remember that your goal is to be able to diagnose, repair, and, in some cases, install appliances. And as the winter approaches, you’ll need to know what types of HVAC problems might occur during this particular season.

Read up on these seven common HVAC issues that can plague homeowners, especially when the thermometer drops.

1. Frozen Pipes

As temperatures decrease and ice accumulates, objects like pipes and coils can freeze over and cease to function properly. Hydronic systems like hot water heaters and steam radiators can fail as frozen water stops flowing within piping. A happy homeowner will quickly grow frustrated when his or her heating breaks down due to freezing pipes.

Sometimes, frozen pipes actually burst because of the pressure buildup. In cases like these, you’ll need to teach homeowners how to turn off their home’s water and arrive promptly to repair the damage.

2. Uneven Air Flow & Temperature

Imagine how irritating it would be if you discovered some rooms in your home that were much colder than others. Unfortunately, this is a real problem for homeowners. When you receive your certification of completion, you’ll need to know how to remedy this issue.

Keep in mind that uneven air flow might not even be an HVAC-related problem. When you arrive at a home, check for cracks or holes around windowsills and doorways. If the problem persists, you’ll need to inspect vents and ducts for blockages or debris and clear these areas out.

3. Malfunctioning Heat Pump

Some homes rely on warmth from exterior heat pumps. But chilly snowfalls and icy winds can damage these appliances and cause them to perform poorly. You should be aware that heat pumps suffer from a number of ills, including broken fan motors and coil blockage.

But during wintertime, many heat pumps fail to defrost. For a heat pump to work correctly, its coils and fan must be clear of frost. Make sure this fixture has automatic defrost settings so it can melt away ice before thick layers form. If this setting is broken, you’ll need to manually clear away the frost buildup.

4. Dirty Heater Filters

When heaters experience overuse, their filters can get clogged with dust, dirt, and other debris. This blockage usually leads to decreased air flow and, subsequently, reduced warmth in the home. The average homeowner may not understand why less air is circulating throughout his or her rooms.

When you arrive to make the fix, first make sure the motor and fans are in working order. Then, clear away any obstructions around the filter. If the filter is permanently discolored or bent, replace it with a new one. Finally, look around for any other possible damages to ensure the heater runs smoothly.

5. Broken Thermostat

Sometimes, the problem lies not in the hardware of the appliance but in the electronics of the thermostat. Help out homeowners by repairing any faulty wiring behind the thermostat. If needed, reinstall a new one and calibrate it to the heater. A new thermostat will control the air temperature and promote energy efficiency.

6. Faulty Pilot Light

Some heaters fully ignite only after the pilot light turns on. This small blue flame usually stays lit at all times for easier access to heat. But when it fails to burn brightly or doesn’t burn at all, homeowners will face cold and uncomfortable temperatures.

The most common cause for a misbehaving pilot light is a dirty or damaged flame sensor. Take time to clean the sensor and ensure that it allows the pilot light to burn steadily. If you notice that the heater has other significant problems, talk to the homeowner about installing a new one.

7. Carbon Monoxide Leaks

Most homeowners do all they can to keep their homes safe and comfortable during the winter season. But they might not know all the dangers of carbon monoxide. This poisonous gas is nearly impossible to detect due to its odorless and tasteless state, and many carbon monoxide leaks occur because of cracked or rusted heaters.

Leaks occur particularly as a result of a cracked heat exchanger within the heater. Inspect the heat exchanger for any defects. In addition, inadequate ventilation can block carbon monoxide gases from exiting the home. Be sure to take a careful look at the chimney and top-range vent (above the stove) for obstructions.

 

While a myriad of HVAC problems can develop in homes throughout the winter, you’ll be able to use your skills to identify and solve them. Remember these seven wintertime issues as you continue your HVAC education.