With the first official day of winter coming up, it’s important for all facility managers and building owners to be aware of how the adverse weather of this season can affect your HVAC system. Having to call for emergency service in a snowstorm because your furnace decided to take a dive is the last thing you want. Avoid potentially costly repairs and having to deal with freezing temperatures inside your building this winter by being prepared with these tips on preventative maintenance and winterization.
One of the major concerns associated with your HVAC system in a winter snowstorm is the potential buildup of snow around your exhaust and air intake vents.
A furnace needs three things to operate – fuel, oxygen, and a spark for ignition. Typically, in older structures, a conventional gas furnace is located in a basement or large area with enough air to provide the necessary oxygen needed to operate the system. Buildings with newer high-efficiency systems, however, require an air intake pipe from outside to provide the system with sufficient oxygen.
When the furnace has its three essentials, it operates by a pilot light that ignites burners that warm air in a combustible heat exchanger and then delivers heat throughout your building. During this process, gases and byproducts – such as carbon monoxide – are produced that must be transferred outside through an exhaust vent.
Blockage of your vents will not only increase wear on your system and cause it to stall – either from insufficient oxygen or its built-in safety mechanism – leaving you in the cold, but also potentially create a dangerous situation by trapping poisonous gases inside your building.
Be familiar with where your exhaust and air intake vents are located on the outside of your building and ensure they are clear in the event of a snowstorm. It is important to also note that time is of the essence because you want to get the vents cleared before snow turns into ice, not to mention avoid an interruption of warm air in your facility when you need it most.
Another important factor to consider in a snowstorm is your gas meter; you’ll need to be certain the set is kept clean to avoid safety hazards.
While these components are designed to withstand winter weather, heavy snow and ice from a harsh storm can leave your meter covered and prevent it from operating properly. This places stress on the device by reducing the flow of natural gas or increasing pressure in the gas lines to dangerous levels that could lead to a gas leak. Blocked regulator vents could also result in abnormal pressure, leading to improper operation or interrupted service.
Additionally, it is vital to never allow snow or ice to cover a gas meter so that maintenance or emergency responders are able to easily access it. Carefully remove any buildup from your meter and its surroundings, but be sure to never kick or strike the meter or its piping, as this could damage the unit.
Snow and cold weather can also cause excessive cycling of your system, which can lead to higher utility bills and increased wear on your building’s furnace. Maintenance is key here to keep your system running as efficiently as possible.
The most effective way to ensure your system is operating as efficiently as possible is to work with your HVAC service professional to set up a maintenance program that is most advantageous for your facility. At Custom Aire, we offer Energy Savings Maintenance Agreements (ESMA) that can be customized to fit the needs of your business, while keeping the best care for your equipment at the forefront of the program. Plus, with our ESMAs you will enjoy discounts on services and higher priority during busy times in the event that something does go wrong, to get your system back up and running as soon as possible.
Additional steps to help your unit be more efficient are to monitor air filters, which may need to be replaced more frequently in months where your furnace is working extra hard, and installing a programmable thermostat. These handy devices allow you to easily change settings remotely, such as lowering the temperature when your facility is empty.
Ultimately, the safety and comfort of your building and its occupants is the most important thing to consider when it comes to preparing your furnace for winter. Take these tips into consideration to set your building up for a successful, warm winter. Contact us today to learn more about our services, request a quote, or ask any questions you may have about your facility’s system and how we can help keep it running at its best.