How Snow and Ice Affect Your HVAC Systems

Canadians know the headache of dealing with snow and ice all too well. We’ve been through countless snowstorms and even a few ice storms. We can handle it – we’re Canadians after all. But, the same cannot be said about the machines that heat and cool our homes. Snow and ice affect your HVAC systems in a big way. Here’s how. 

Frozen Systems

The buildup of snow and ice around your HVAC unit could cause your system to freeze. This would trigger an emergency shutdown, putting you in a real pickle. An emergency shutdown would mean your home is without heat, your pipes are at risk of freezing, and you could have to pay for emergency repairs.

Block the Exhaust

Any snow surrounding your unit could block your furnace exhaust. A blocked exhaust can prevent your furnace from functioning. Even worse, it could lead to your home filling up with harmful chemicals like carbon monoxide. In the event that your exhaust becomes blocked, most furnaces have a safety switch to shut it down – use it!

Damage Outdoor Unit

In addition to the damage that could result from snow and ice surrounding the outdoor HVAC unit, icicles hanging above it could cause further damage if they fall onto the system. The damage could be extensive, and it would definitely be expensive.


Too much snow and ice can also obstruct airflow and block ventilation systems, which would prevent your HVAC system from working properly. Additionally, the buildup of snow and ice can cause your pipes to leak and fail.

Corrosion and Rust

Melting snow around the unit will corrode and rust your heating and cooling systems. The water from melting snow will leak into your HVAC unit, re-freeze and then expand, causing further corrosion and rust.

Protect Your HVAC Systems: Prevent Snow and Ice Buildup

As a homeowner, it’s your duty to keep your HVAC systems clean and clear of obstructions – this includes removing snow and ice before it builds up too much and wreaks havoc on your unit.

Protect your heating and cooling systems by:

  • Shovelling snow around your unit after a big snowfall
  • Removing ice from around and above the system
  • Cleaning and inspecting gutters to keep them free of snow and ice
  • Melting ice away from your unit using warm water
  • Trimming or removing trees, branches and other potential hazards
  • Checking that there are no blockages of the outdoor unit or exhaust

Protect Your HVAC Systems with Proper Maintenance

In addition to preventing snow and ice buildup, homeowners should prepare their homes for winter, regularly check their furnace filters, and perform routine maintenance. It’s your responsibility to schedule annual preventative maintenance every year to keep your heating system functioning properly.

Team Harding can help protect your heating system.

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Harding Heating & Air Conditioning has been Ottawa’s leading home comfort specialist since 1994. We are a family-owned and operated local business and all of our installers and technicians are fully licensed.

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