Common Fall and Winter HVAC Problems and How to Troubleshoot Them

October 16, 2023
Common Fall and Winter HVAC Problems and How to Troubleshoot Them | Heating Repair Near Me | St. Louis HVAC Contractor

Common fall and winter HVAC problems and how to troubleshoot them. A dependable HVAC system ensures our homes and families stay comfortable year-round. Yet, as we turn our heaters on in the fall and winter, many homeowners face challenges they don’t know how to troubleshoot. Whether you’re noticing unusual sounds from your furnace or contending with uneven room temperatures, SmartHouse can help get your system back on track. Below are some troubleshooting tips for common heating problems in the fall and winter. If you live in the St. Louis area and need professional heating services, call SmartHouse today at 314-370-1816, text us at 314-310-2242, or contact us online.

Uneven Heating or Cold Spots or Reduced Airflow

Cold spots disrupt the comfort we expect from our HVAC systems and can make certain areas of the home less inviting.

Potential Causes

  • Blocked vents — Over time, furniture rearrangements, new décor, or simply accumulated clutter can obstruct vents.
  • Dirty filters — Filters clogged with dirt and debris can impede airflow, leading to inadequate heating in certain zones.
  • Ductwork issues — Leaks, damages, or blockages in the ductwork can result in some rooms receiving less warm air than others. If your system is the wrong size for your ductwork it may also result in uneven heating distribution.
  • Thermostat location — Placing your thermostat in an area of the home that’s hotter or cooler than the rest of your home could cause inaccurate readings.
  • Lack of insulation — Lack of insulation allows heat to escape or enter a space more easily in certain areas, creating temperature variations.
  • Motor issues — Malfunctions in the blower motor can result in reduced force in pushing the air throughout the ducts.

Troubleshooting and Solutions

  • Inspect and clear vents — Check all vents in your home to ensure they are not obstructed by furniture, curtains, or other items.
  • Replace or clean air filters — Ensure that air filters are changed or cleaned regularly.
  • Get home upgrades — Add insulation or air sealing, invest in a thermostat with remote sensors, or consider a zoning system for your home.
  • Evaluate the blower motor — If you suspect the blower motor might be the issue, listen for any unusual sounds or check for any signs of overheating. It might be beneficial to have a professional inspect the motor.
  • Duct inspection — If the above solutions don’t resolve the problem, it might be worth getting your ductwork inspected by a professional. They can identify any leaks, blockages, or damages, can ensure your system sizing is appropriate for your ductwork, and recommend appropriate solutions.

Furnace Fails to Start or Keep Running

One of the most alarming issues homeowners can face during the cold months is a furnace that refuses to start or frequently stops running. This problem can leave residents in the cold and can indicate various underlying issues that need immediate attention.

Potential Causes

  • Faulty thermostat — If the thermostat is not calibrated correctly, is malfunctioning, or has no power, it might not signal the furnace to start or maintain its operation.
  • Ignition/pilot light issues — Modern furnaces use electronic ignition systems, which can fail, while older models rely on pilot lights, which can go out.
  • Blocked exhaust — Furnaces release combustion byproducts through a flue pipe. If this pipe is blocked, it can cause the furnace to shut down as a safety precaution.
  • Blocked air vents — Blocked air vents reduce air flow to the heat exchanger, which causes the system to short cycle.
  • Dirty filter — Some heating systems will shut off prematurely if the air filter is dirty.

Troubleshooting and Solutions

  • Check the thermostat — Ensure that it’s set to the correct mode (heating) and that the desired temperature is correct. Consider replacing the batteries if it’s battery-operated.
  • Inspect the ignition/pilot light — For older furnace models, relight the pilot light if it’s out. For newer models with electronic ignition, you might need professional assistance if the ignition system isn’t working.
  • Examine air vents — Examine air vents to ensure that nothing is obstructing them (such as furniture, curtains, clutter, etc…). If you still have issues it’s best to contact a professional.

Strange Noises from the HVAC System

It’s not unusual for homeowners to notice unfamiliar sounds coming from their HVAC systems, especially during startup in the colder months. While some noises can be innocuous, others can be indicative of serious underlying problems that need immediate attention.

Potential Causes

  • Loose parts — Over time, screws, belts, and other internal components can become loose, leading to rattling or clanking sounds.
  • Blower issues — If the blower motor or its components are malfunctioning, you might hear whining or humming sounds.
  • Ignition problems — A delay in the ignition process can cause a loud thudding or booming noise.

Troubleshooting and Solutions

  • Troubleshooting for the above issues should be left up to a professional. Call a certified HVAC technician so they can safely inspect your unit and check its components.

Increased Energy Bills

While we use our heating more as the temperature gets colder, a sudden or unexplained significant spike in bills may indicate underlying issues with the HVAC system. An inefficiently operating HVAC can consume more energy, leading to higher bills.

Potential Causes

  • Leaky ducts — Ducts with gaps or holes can lose a significant amount of heated air, causing the system to work harder.
  • Inefficient operation — An aging or poorly maintained HVAC system may not operate at peak efficiency.
  • Outdated system — Older systems naturally tend to be less efficient than modern, energy-saving models.
  • Insufficient insulation — Poor insulation can lead to significant heat loss, compelling the HVAC system to operate more frequently.

Troubleshooting and Solutions

  • Inspect and seal ducts — Have a professional inspect your ductwork to determine if there is a leakage. Sealing these can improve efficiency and reduce energy loss.
  • Upgrade the system — If your HVAC system is more than 10-15 years old, consult with an HVAC professional to see if you may be better off with a newer, energy-efficient model. In addition to being more energy-efficient, these models offer further savings through incentives and rebates.
  • Enhance insulation — Ensure walls and other areas of the home such as your attic are well-insulated to retain heat better.

Dry or Poor Indoor Air Quality

As the temperatures drop, homeowners might notice that the air inside their homes becomes drier, or they might experience more frequent respiratory issues. Poor indoor air quality can lead to discomfort, exacerbate allergies, and even impact overall health.

Potential Causes

  • Dirty filters — Overused or clogged filters can trap pollutants, preventing them from being removed from the circulation.
  • Poor ventilation — Inadequate air exchange can lead to stale indoor air, accumulating pollutants and allergens.
  • Household products — Some cleaning products, paints, and furnishings can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air.

Troubleshooting and Solutions

  • Use a whole-home humidifier Introducing a humidifier can help maintain optimal indoor humidity levels, adding moisture back into the air.
  • Replace or clean filters — Regularly change or clean HVAC filters to ensure they effectively capture and reduce pollutants. Additionally, upgrade to high-efficiency MERV or HEPA filters for even better indoor air quality.
  • Improve ventilation — Ensure proper ventilation in your home. Consider using exhaust fans or occasionally opening windows to exchange indoor and outdoor air. You can also install an ERV system which brings fresh, filtered air into your home.
  • Choose low-VOC products — Opt for cleaning products, paints, and furnishings that are labeled as low-VOC or VOC-free to minimize the release of harmful compounds into your indoor air.

Deciding Between Repairing or Replacing the System

As HVAC systems age, their efficiency can decline, leading to increased energy consumption and decreased comfort in the home. Homeowners often end up asking themselves: Should I keep investing in my current system or replace it entirely?

Potential Causes

  • Frequent breakdowns — If the system constantly needs repairs, it might be nearing the end of its useful life. Continual repairs not only disrupt comfort but can also become costly.
  • Outdated system — Older systems are not as energy-efficient as newer models. As technology advances, newer HVAC models offer better performance, leading to energy savings in the long run.

Troubleshooting and Solutions

  • Consulting with professionals — A trusted HVAC professional can provide valuable insight into the health and efficiency of your system. We can advise whether continued repairs or a complete replacement is the right long-term solution for your home. At SmartHouse, we pride ourselves on always giving honest advice that’s truly in the best interest of our customers.

Call SmartHouse For Your HVAC Needs in Any Season

As the seasons change and the temperature drops, a well-functioning HVAC system becomes even more important. Whether you’re dealing with uneven heating, a noisy furnace, or thermostat issues, being informed and proactive can save you both discomfort and unnecessary expenses.

While troubleshooting can be effective for minor issues, there are situations where the expertise of a professional is necessary. Whether you have a current issue or are looking for your annual maintenance in St. Louis, SmartHouse is here to help. For honest advice and the highest-quality craftsmanship, call SmartHouse at 314-370-1816, text us at 314-310-2242, or contact us online to tell us more about what we can do for you.