HVAC Service: Lessons Learned from a Winter Storm

Last week’s winter storm disrupted all of our lives here in Richmond, Texas and made HVAC service hard to get. The snow and ice from the Arctic blast made roads hazardous, and to top it off, many of us dealt with power outages. The HVAC systems – central air and heat – we rely on to stay warm were suddenly offline.

To add insult to injury, pipes froze and when we had that fixed, we were boiling water or looking for it along with fresh food. That is, if our gas was turned back on. The aftermath felt a lot like it does after a hurricane.

We were in the same boat as you. Our phone was ringing even as we sat huddled in the dark. Despite these challenges, here’s lessons we learned from this winter storm.

Even with HVAC Service – Heaters and Furnaces Hit Their Max

Temperatures in the mid-20s means a hard freeze, which is rare in our neck of the woods. Much lower and you should know that central air and heat is not calibrated for that kind of cold in the Houston area. More typically, HVAC systems hit their max in the summer, but this time we saw this occur in the winter.

Central air and heating systems that were not maintained or that had been installed incorrectly were more likely to show their limitations. We spotted several instances where minor heater problems became a big deal. This is why regular HVAC service with preventative maintenance can be so helpful.

Insulation Is a Necessary Investment

Insulation took on a new meaning with many of us without power and doing all we could to limit heat loss during this unprecedented February 2021 polar vortex storm. This reinforced to me that having enough blown-in attic insulation (probably more than you think you need) is going to go a long way toward keeping your home more energy-efficient and comfortable.

We have been advising customers if they might benefit from blown-in insulation when we do our spring and fall regularly scheduled maintenance appointments. We will be adding the insulation amount, type and note if corrective measures are needed to our HVAC tune-up checklist.

Keep Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Alarms in Your Home

Carbon monoxide poisoning and house fires are preventable. Stories we saw in the news this week about people resorting to unsafe ways to stay warm was a wakeup call.

If you are burning anything for warmth indoors – wood in your fireplace, gas on your stove, fueled camping stove, or have a gas generator, you have to be extraordinarily careful how the exhaust fumes are vented. If you are burning wood or natural gas in your chimney, the flue needs to be open. If it is not, the exhaust fumes can build up carbon monoxide which can be deadly.

Any central air and heating system has many safety measures built-in. And, we are required by law to disconnect heating systems that are deemed unsafe. Typically this involves old equipment that has begun to leak and can’t properly vent the exhaust.

Even with safety measures, we always recommend your home have carbon monoxide and smoke alarms. Depending on your home, you may need more than one. It’s an easy way to you and your family safe during the extreme cold.

Protecting Your Pipes from the Cold

Like many in the Richmond, Texas area, frozen pipes were a frustrating outcome of the storm. Even one burst pipe can shed enough water to flood a room before you can run outside to cut the water off. Building codes in our area aren’t the same as they are in more northerly climates, which mean that pipes are less protected from the elements.

In the Houston area, we rarely freeze, and if we do it’s never for very long. This is why this storm was so damaging to pipes and why you may be insulating water heaters and other pipes in your garage and in exterior walls. I am also keeping shark bite push-to-connect fittings for emergency repairs in my personal toolbox for my own home.

Neighbors Coming Together Was a Balm We Didn’t Know We Needed

Even HVAC service guys have neighbors, and it was wonderful to see our neighbors helping each other. Our street has always been like that, but we saw many more families and neighbors pulling together across the city.

Knowing that we have each other’s back makes hardship easier to bear. We witnessed countless acts of kindness in-person, on social media and even in the news.

Hat tip to Mattress Mack of Gallery Furniture who opened his stores once again to shelter people in need. Looking back, it was a bright spot to see everyone pitching in to help neighbors with basic needs we all took for granted.

Need HVAC Service in Richmond, Texas?

If you’re looking for an HVAC company in Richmond, Texas that can take care of you when it’s warm or cold, contact us at Terry’s A/C & Heating to set up an appointment. We are a Ruud Pro Partner, and we service all makes and models of heaters, furnaces, heat pumps, central air and heat, mini splits and more. Find out how our family-owned business got started and what our customers say about the work we do.