Common HVAC Problems to Watch for During Winter in Houston

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Common HVAC Problems to Watch for During Winter

Nobody wants to wake up in a cold house.

While there are certainly some exceptions to that statement, the truth is, no one should have to wake up in a cold home. Even with our short and often mild winters in Houston, there will be days we rely on our furnaces to keep our families comfortable. With as little use as they get, it’s no surprise that many people experience unexpected issues with their furnace on the first chilly day of the season.

Run a Test of Your Furnace Every Month

The only thing worse than overworking a home appliance is under-working it, allowing the device to fall into disrepair through unintentional neglect. You would never expect someone to run a marathon after 8 or 9 months of total inactivity, but each year we expect our furnaces to accomplish that mission, thus, setting them up for failure. With a little bit of maintenance, your furnace, along with your entire HVAC system, will have a much stronger chance of achieving its 12-15 year expected lifespan.

Instead of firing up your furnace for the first time on the first cold morning of the season, run the heating side of your HVAC system for a few minutes once a month. While performing the “test runs” of your furnace, you should keep an eye, an ear, and nose out for signs of anything unusual.

Look at the pilot light on the furnace itself; the flame should be a steady blue, where a yellow or orange flame could be a sign of ventilation problems. Listen for any unusual sounds coming from your furnace; squeaking sounds can come from fan and blower motor bearings that are near the end of their life.

Take note of any strange odors floating around the home, specifically for any smell of gas, which could indicate a dangerous gas leak, or for any burning odors. It is normal for a furnace to smell a bit “musty” after a long hibernation period, but any lingering odors from the furnace need to be addressed. 

What Can Go Wrong with My Furnace in the Winter? 

Most furnace failures result from a lack of maintenance that can cause moving parts like fans and bower motors to wear out prematurely. Ignition systems, both gas and electric can become fouled with dust and other debris that inhibits their ability to run hot enough to generate heat. Wiring in thermostats ages and gets brittle, potentially causing system control issues like failing to turn on the furnace or turn off the A/C. 

Fan & Blower Motor Issues: 

Every HVAC system uses at least two electric motors, the first to provide the drive for the outdoor fan assembly, the other to operate the indoor blower. As these motors age, there are several points of possible failure that can become an issue.

The most common failure for HVAC motors is worn bearings that create a high-pitched squeal when the motor is running. Fan and blower motors can also have connectivity problems due to lack of maintenance. High heat and humidity can cause insulated wires to expand, contract, and crack during regular use.

Have any unusual squeaks, squeals, bangs, booms, or pops investigated by a trained HVAC technician. Odd noises in an HVAC system can be generated by several different causes: improper ignition settings, loose ductwork, bad motors, and worn belts.

Ignition Issues: 

On gas-fired furnaces, you always have either an exposed pilot light burning or an electronic ignition that only operates when the unit is running. Regardless of the power source, it is an essential part of regular maintenance to keep the electronic components and the gas connections clear of debris and dust that can inhibit firing. 

Thermostats: 

The older your thermostat is, the more likely you will have problems with it. The average lifespan for an HVAC thermostat is about ten years, with their accuracy coming into question around the 7-year mark. While thermostats do not employ any moving parts, their various sensors, switches, and wiring are all susceptible to age-related failures. Temperature sensors fail, causing HVAC systems to run longer or work harder to keep up with a faulty thermostat demand. 

Change Your Filters: 

We say it in every blog about HVAC system maintenance, repair, and do it yourself furnace repair; the most important thing you can do to protect your HVAC investment is to change the filters regularly. Just about every symptom of “sick furnace syndrome” can be traced back to neglecting a system’s air filters. These inexpensive fiberglass and cardboard filters need to be replaced at least four times per year or every three months. That’s not just our opinion; it is the recommendation of just about every HVAC manufacturer operating today. 

Dirty air filters can harm the performance and efficiency of your furnace and air conditioning subsystems. Over time, filters build up a mixture of dust, dirt, insects, pollen, mildew, mold, smoke, and anything else floating around in the air, causing your HVAC system to work harder to cool or heat the home. Your furnace must cycle on and off more frequently and run for more extended periods when it is having difficulty bringing air into the system to be treated.

Have One or All of These Symptoms?

Nick’s Plumbing & Air Conditioning technicians are licensed, experienced, and thoroughly background checked before they ever put on our uniform. We operate over twenty fully-stocked HVAC and plumbing trucks, all equipped with the tools and parts necessary to maintain or repair any system. Nick’s has been in business from the same location in Houston Heights since 1979, and we look forward to providing you with the same five-star service we’re best known for. 

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