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When brushing snow off your car this winter - do yourself and your wallet a favor - brush off the ou

When Old Man Winter touches down, accompanied by arctic gusts, freezing temps, and snow, most of us are primarily concerned with the interior state of our HVAC system. That is, as long as toasty air is blasting indoors, and we can go about in relative comfort, all is well with the HVAC unit. The condition of the exterior portion of the system rarely gets a second thought. However, this is no time to get complacent about the outdoor elements of your heating system; especially as the snow and ice outside starts to build.

Most modern HVAC units are built to account for freezing conditions and run-of-the-mill ice buildup. Where heat pumps are concerned, whenever ice buildup is detected by temperature sensors, the system will automatically switch modes whereby heat is marshaled to the condenser coils to melt the ice. Simultaneously, backup heating is maintained to keep the house cozy. About a half-hour is the extent of time required to defrost the outdoor components.

Sounds great, right? Maybe not. Snow and ice are still able to build up on fans and coils which can warp them; perhaps even causing them to break during peak operation. These variables can also stress the unit because it has to work harder, thus causing additional wear-and-tear and possible burnouts. The worst-case scenario is that an emergency shut-off is undertaken due to freeze-up that will stop heat to the home. However, the most common symptom due to snow and ice accretion is good ol’ inefficiency which raises energy bills.

Protecting and maintaining an HVAC unit for optimal service during the winter takes only a little time and effort. Inspect the system during periods of heavy snow and shovel any pilings away from the unit. Make sure a two-foot clearance surrounds the unit allowing it to “breathe”. Also, check that water from the roof isn’t leaking onto the machine that would eventually ice over. Anytime you shovel your walkways or brush off the car give the unit a second glance to safeguard against improper ventilation.


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