Protecting Your HVAC from Snow & Ice

Winter weather can easily catch you off-guard, especially living in the south. With the threat of snow looming in the forecast (and winter having barely started), it’s important to know how to protect your HVAC and furnace from snow and ice. And while HVACs are built to withstand inclement weather, there are still basic steps you should take to make sure your system is working efficiently and effectively and to extend the life of your unit.

Problem #1: Ventilation: It’s important to make sure that the area around your HVAC is kept clear. Shovel away any snow accumulation, check that your gutters aren’t dripping on the unit, and carefully remove any ice build-up. Otherwise, snow and ice could block the system, potentially causing dangerous situations, such as carbon monoxide poisoning. But be sure you don’t chisel or scrape ice from your outdoor unit, as this could cause significant damage. 

Problem #2: Water Damage: After snowfall comes the inevitable: water. First, make sure that you have properly planned for drainage/ runoff, especially if your unit is not raised off the ground. If you think that there may already be water damage, be sure to contact a professional as quickly as possible.

Problem #3: Speed Heating: Turning your thermostat all the way up is unlikely to heat your home that much faster, but it is certain to place more wear and tear on your furnace. If you are in for a long winter, don’t be afraid to set the thermostat below balmy and pile on the blankets! This will extend the life of your system, as well as lower your utility bill.

Prevent damage from winter weather and reduce excessive wear and tear on your HVAC unit by following these tips:

  • Keep it clear: Make sure to keep 18” – 36” around your unit free of debris, snow, and ice. Check periodically during any snowfall, as well as afterwards.
  • Plan for runoff: Ensure that all melted snow and ice, as well as your normal rainfall, drains away from the unit and your house.
  • Raise it up: If possible, install your HVAC system on a raised platform rather than directly on the ground. 6” – 10” would account for average worst-case snowfall and will also help to reduce potential damage from run-off.
  • Be efficient: Adjust your thermostat down during the night and when you will be out of the house. During the other times when you are home, don’t try to heat your home as quickly as possible. Be patient and grab a few extra layers!
  • Call a professional: It’s a good idea to bring in an HVAC professional to inspect your system before the winter season starts. And if you have a problem you can’t troubleshoot, don’t hesitate to give us a shout!
Customer consultation with Apex Heating & Air Conditioning

How much does a new HVAC system cost?

The cost of a new Heating, Ventilation and Cooling (HVAC) system can be significant. Prices may vary depending on your square footage, “SEER” rating (seasonal energy efficient ratio rating) of unit, layout, where you live, manufacturer or energy rebates and the availability of a seasonal discount.

At Apex Heating and Air your home comfort is a top priority. Finding the right company to install your new system should be as well. As you shop, ask for references, use online resources, and ask your neighbors. The cheapest price might not be the best price. Quality equipment, and more importantly quality installation, should be considered when comparing prices. You typically get what you pay for!

Complete HVAC systems average in cost from $5,000 to $15,000 or more, depending on your needs. This price assumes you don’t already have the required infrastructure in place (ex: ductwork, etc.). If you need a Central Air Conditioner, the average cost ranges from $3,000 to $6000 for an average 1800/2000 sq ft home. If you are shopping for a central heating furnace, the costs range from $2500 to $8000. Ductwork usually costs from $2000 to $5000. Most existing homes do not need this extra cost.

Since there are so many variables that impact your price, have a professional and reputable dealer come to your home for an accurate estimate. At Apex Heating and Air, Inc. in Apex, NC, we provide free estimates for both residential and commercial needs. Let our professionals help evaluate your new HVAC system needs!

Contact us today at 919.467.8823 to find out if you qualify for a rebate or discount on a new system.

Preventive Maintenance does make a difference

HVAC residential heating and air repair serviceYou wouldn’t drive your car 100,000 miles without changing the oil. The same logic holds true for your home comfort system. Regular HVAC preventive maintenance is the best way to ensure trouble-free operation and peak performance. It can also keep your energy bill from getting out of control.

Did you know that preventive maintenance can effectively DOUBLE THE LIFE of your furnace or air conditioning system? Statistics show that your system should last 17-20 years with regular maintenance, but most only last 9-12 years without regular maintenance. Proper HVAC equipment maintenance is also essential to ensuring that your home or office is protected from exposure to issues of poor indoor air quality to ensure safety and comfort. Though system life is determined by a large number of factors including type of installation, climate, quality of the original system, among many others, don’t throw away thousands of dollars on premature system replacement.

HVAC Preventive Maintenance Checklist

Many dealers provide priority service for their customers who have an annual maintenance or service agreement. Bi-annual preventative maintenance will ensure that your system runs as efficiently as possible. Your local dealer will perform the following tasks, depending on the unit:

Outdoor Units

  • Inspect unit for proper refrigerant level and adjust if necessary
  • Clean dirt, leaves and debris from inside cabinet
  • Inspect base pan for restricted drain openings—remove obstructions as necessaryInspect coil and cabinet—clean as needed
  • Inspect fan motor and fan blades for wear and damage—on older models lubricate as needed
  • Inspect control box, associated controls/accessories, wiring and connections. Controls may include contactors, relays, circuit boards, capacitors, sump heat and other accessories. All control box and electrical parts should be checked for wear or damage.
  • Inspect compressor and associated tubing for damage

Indoor Units

  • Inspect blower assembly (includes blower housing, blower wheel and motor)
  • On older models, lubricate motor and inspect and replace fan belt if needed
  • Check combustion blower housing for lint and debris
  • Inspect evaporator coil, drain pan and condensate drain lines. Clean as needed
  • Inspect for gas leaks in gas furnaces
  • Inspect burner assembly—clean and adjust as needed
  • Inspect ignition system and safety controls—clean and adjust as needed
  • Inspect heat exchanger or heating elements
  • Inspect flue system—check for proper attachment to the furnace, any dislocated sections, and for signs of corrosion.Inspect control box, associated controls, wiring and connections
  • Check air filters
  • Inspect conditioned airflow system
  • Monitor system starting characteristics and capabilities
  • Listen for abnormal noise
  • Search for source of unusual odors
  • Monitor air conditioning and heat pump systems for correct refrigerant charge
  • Measure outdoor dry bulb temperature
  • Measure indoor dry and wet bulb temperature
  • Monitor gas furnace for correct line and manifold gas pressure—make adjustments as needed
  • Measure temperature rise and adjust airflow as needed
  • Check vent system for proper operation
  • Monitor system for correct line and load volts/amps
  • Monitor system operation per manufacturer’s specifications

When should you replace your HVAC system?

Many times, your system just decides not to work one day. The decision to purchase a new system was made for you! Hopefully this will happen after the 12 year mark. Actually, the admired “lifespan” according to Energy.gov is about 15 to 20 years. If the correct system is chosen and the install is quality, this goal is realistic. Did you know that only half of installed units will last 15 to 20 years?

There are three key factors to consider when deciding to replace an “older” unit NOW as opposed to LATER. First, utility bills are a key factor. Energy Efficiency is real. Today’s air conditioners can use 30% to 50% less energy. This can offer the consumer much savings!

Secondly, repair bills can begin adding up. It’s typically during extreme temperature times. Keep in mind that repairing a system that is 12 years or older will not necessarily extend the life of the unit at all. It could buy you a little time, but not necessarily. There are many pieces to the puzzle that allow a system a “long life span”.

Lastly, safety could be a concern. Older heating and air conditioning systems could have electrical issues and cracks in the furnace could leak carbon monoxide into your home. Safety should always be top priority.

In the future, as you decide to repair or replace – keep these key points in mind! Then take into consideration the peace of mind the warranties of a new system offer you, the consumer!

What is that Mysterious Smell when I turn on my Furnace?

600x600-InsetImages_0003_Layer Comp 4What is that mysterious smell coming from the furnace? Any odor coming from your furnace indicates a problem, and some of them can be potentially deadly for your family. Call Apex Heating and Air Conditioning today to determine the source of the issue, and to ensure your family is safe. We will inspect for these common causes and provide an estimate for any necessary repairs.

Common Causes of Smell

Dust – This is minor. Dust collects on the filter when it’s not used. It should burn off in no time!

Musty – This is minor. Mold can cause a smell – just change or wash the filter.

Oil – This could be minor or major. If the filter is clogged, simply change it – this is minor. If the smell continues, there could be an oil leak. This is major. Have this checked immediately.

Smoke – This is major and needs to be addressed immediately. Even a chimney could be blocked and the smoke will begin to exit through the ductwork. Have your chimney inspected and cleaned by a professional.

Electrical – This is a major red flag. You could have a burned out motor, malfunctioning electrical parts or frayed wiring.  Have this inspected as soon as possible.

Sulfur – This is major and caused by a leak in your furnace or your main line.  This could lead to an explosion. Have this checked immediately.

Remember, minor issues can be resolved quickly, but major issues should be checked immediately to ensure safety and to ago.