We know that in winter, your snow-related questions are going to be more like, “Does snow affect my ability to get out of my driveway?” than, “Does snow affect my HVAC system?”
We’ll give you the good news first:
Don’t Worry About Your A/C Unit
If you see snow and ice all over your A/C unit, you may be wondering if it’s OK to leave it that way. In fact, you may have seen products like air conditioner covers, and thought maybe you should bundle your unit up warmly for when it’s not being used in winter!
However, precipitation, from rain to hail, won’t damage your unit. (Well, unless it’s golf-ball-sized hail or larger, maybe!) Even if your A/C unit is covered in snow, it’s built to withstand cold temperatures, and it’s waterproof! Water can’t reach the sensitive parts of the system that would be corroded.
The only reason you might want to cover your unit, at any time of the year, would be to keep leaves out in the fall. But even in this situation, covering your air conditioner is not a good idea. Pests like mice could seek shelter under the cover, chewing through Puron lines or wires.
So take our advice, and leave your air conditioner alone! Less work for you, anyway, right?
Do Worry About Your Heat Pump
Another quick question for you: do you have a heat pump instead of a furnace? We know most people here in PA have furnaces, but if your home does have a heat pump, then you need to be even more vigilant about the effects of the cold.
Yes, the heat pump has a defrost function you can use if ice builds up. However, when your heat pump absorbs heat, condensation occurs, causing moisture build-up inside the system. If this moisture freezes, it expands and can cause internal damage.
To check on this, take a look at your condenser. First, power off the system. Then, take off the outer heat pump cover, and gently remove snow and ice with a soft bristle brush. Finally, take off the top grille and the fan, using a screwdriver.
Now, check your condenser coils to make sure they’re not covered in snow and ice.
Do Worry About Your Furnace
This is another situation where the melted snow is most dangerous of all! If this water drips down into internal valves of your gas furnace or your boiler, and then refreezes, your furnace can shut down.
But even more dangerously, the water can cause components to corrode, which can lead to a fire.
One thing you can do to prevent this is check your furnace pipe vent. Do you see any frost or moisture inside? If so, try something that seems dangerous but actually is completely safe and effective: plug in a hair dryer! Of course, make sure to avoid snow, and check the forecast to make sure it isn’t going to snow or rain, or you could electrocute yourself.