With the winter season just right around the corner, people are heavily relying on their heating systems to give them warmth and comfort. Unfortunately, their heating systems don’t really hold up in the extreme cold. This makes winter one of the busiest times of the year in the HVAC trade– besides summer, of course.
Consequently, contractors have to use subcontractor scheduling software because HVAC technicians are highly in demand at this time with job orders left and right. While business is booming, winter can be a challenging time for HVAC techs. Not only do they face exhaustion, but they have to battle very extreme weather conditions.
Winter is harsh for HVAC technicians.
HVAC technicians and contractors face dangers every day. But things are extra tricky when they have to work in the middle of a blizzard, no matter what professional level they’re at. Imagine having to do maintenance work on commercial rooftop systems with sleet impairing your vision and making everything cold and slippery.
Even though it’s tough, at least seasoned professionals have had enough experience to know what to do during these times. New techs, however, may still have to endure a few bumps in the road to learn practices and tricks of the trade.
With that said, young techs should be extra careful as their inexperience might have more serious consequences than a botched job. Even if contractors keep tabs on them with a builder schedule from construction scheduling software, it’s still the technicians’ responsibility to prioritize their safety and practice necessary measures.
Common Cold Weather HVAC Problems and How To Fix Them
Contractors usually use project management software to dispatch the nearest technicians to available jobs. But once there, their reliance on their bosses are minimal. One essential quality all HVAC techs need to have is always being prepared. Apart from the necessary tools, you need to be equipped with the skills and knowledge to successfully to any job. And because you’ll be seeing a lot of work during the winter, you should be informed of the common cold weather HVAC problems, so you know what to expect and how to fix them.
1. Frozen pipes
When temperatures drop, ice forms around pipes and coils, freezing them and preventing them from functioning correctly. Hydronic systems, such as steam radiators and hot water heaters, can fail to operate when water freezes within the piping, stopping the flow. Homeowners can usually handle this independently by merely thawing the pipes with thermostatically controlled heat tape, a space heater, lamp, or even a hairdryer.
But frozen pipes aren’t that always that simple to deal with. Sometimes leaks and gushes can happen after a hard freeze. In some cases, pipes can actually burst due to pressure buildup. When clients opt to call for professional help, the first thing you should do is tell them to turn off the water supply. Doing this will minimize leaks and prevent water from spewing out when the pipes are thawed. Once thawed, you can now repair leaking pipes or replaced damaged ones.
2. Malfunctioning heat pump
Exterior heat pumps are a must during cold weather because most homes rely on them for warmth. But strong, icy winds and heavy snowfalls can cause several issues, such as blocking coils and breaking fan motors. These, in turn, can damage the appliance and make them perform poorly.
To make sure the fans and coils are in working order, have the settings set to automatic defrost so it can melt the ice before it even thickens with layers. If this setting is broken, the frost buildup has to be manually cleared away and settings repaired.
3. Dirty heater filters
Heaters work extra hard during the wintertime but overusing it can clog its filters with dirt and dust, among other debris. With blocked filters, airflow is limited and heat is reduced.
When the average homeowner doesn’t understand why there isn’t enough air circulating throughout the house, chances are they’ll call on professional services. The first thing to do when you get to the place to handle the problem is to make sure that the fans and motor work properly. Once that’s done, you can get started on removing any obstruction blocking the filter. If you find that the filter is bent or permanently discolored, replace it with a new one.
4. Broken pilot light
A pilot light is a vital component as it fully ignites heaters when it is on. If it stays lit all the time, heat is more accessible. Conversely, the building and its occupants will experience uncomfortably cold temperatures when the blue flame fails to burn.
When pilot lights malfunction, it’s usually because of a damaged or dirty sensor. You just have to thoroughly clean it and make sure that the pilot light steadily burns.
5. Faulty thermostat
Sometimes, the problem isn’t with the appliances but with the thermostat itself. Usually, it would be best if you repaired faulty wiring. But if the situation calls for it, you may need to reinstall a new one that not only regulates climate but does it efficiently.
As these are just the common cold weather HVAC problems, you will experience more and are usually unexpected ones. When you find that there is more than just the basic problem, talk to the owners about it and go from there.
Cold Weather Safety Tips
1. Wear multiple layers of clothing
Wearing multiple layers is the simplest thing to do to stay warm while out and about; you can just take a few off when you get a bit hot. But because the nature of the job requires a lot of movement, make sure that the clothes you wear allow versatility and flexibility. And because your hands are literally the money-makers, keep them warm and protected with gloves that still allow fluid movement or pocket warmers.
2. Rest and get enough sleep
Working on cold days is extremely draining. That’s why it’s imperative that you get enough sleep (ideally the full eight hours) and rest when you need to. Take a break when you know you’ve reached your limit– you don’t have to accept all the job offers.
3. Eat up and hydrate
Aside from sleep, you need to get lots of energy from food. Eat plenty of carbohydrates and protein to fuel your body for the long, cold workday. Plus, being fully and satisfied will increase productivity.
Moreover, HVAC technicians should hydrate with water or warm drinks to prevent hypothermia. However, you should stay away from alcohol– it increases heat loss– and caffeine– it’s a diuretic that causes water loss.
4. Educate yourself on the consequences of the cold and know your limits
Being exposed to extreme cold for too long can lead to serious health issues like frostbite, trench foot, and hypothermia. To save yourself and others around you, educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of these conditions. Some companies hold training and seminars regarding this. If they don’t, you can do your research; there are tons of insightful information online. When you are aware of and understand the symptoms, you will know what to do in emergency times.
5. If you have a car, make sure it’s in shape.
Chances are you’re going to multiple jobs in one day. So, your vehicle must be in good working condition for the cold.
Before heading out, warm up the engine, clear the windshield from snow and ice, and see if your tires have enough air and traction to handle the icy, slippery roads.
Ensuring your can is in tip-top shape isn’t only for your safety, but you can punctually get to your jobs.
6. Drive carefully
Roads are a lot dangerous during winter because ice, snow, and rain make them very slippery. According to Safe Winter Roads, icy and slushy roads kills over 1,300 Americans and injures 116,000 every winter.
So, even though punctuality is essential in this trade, you should always put your safety first.
7. Bring spares and extras.
It’s better to have more of something than not enough. Aside from extra layers, bring a different set of clothes to change if you get wet from the snow or sweat. Packing snacks will also help in keeping your energy up.
8. Have an emergency kit
An emergency kit is always something good to have. Aside from the usual stuff for cuts and scrapes, you also need:
● A power bank to charge your phone;
● Jumper cables in case your car stops;
● A shovel to clear snow and ice;
● Some blankets;
● Flares; and
● Sand or salt to help with traction.
9. Have a buddy system
It’s always safer to have a companion with you. Your buddy can help out with HVAC-related issues while on the job, watch out for hypothermia symptoms, and keep you safe in general. Of course, you would do the same for them. Contractors can use project management tools to assign and dispatch their techs with partners instead of working a job alone. If they don’t, ask them if you can bring a fellow technician with you.