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Home Heating Systems Will Be Put To The Test As Polar Vortex Looms

If you have been watching any local weather news in St Louis, there’s a good chance you know we are about to be hit this week with a polar vortex.  This will be the third time in the last decade that the St Louis area will experience extremely frigid temperatures due to a polar vortex system.  When this occurs, your home heating system is going to be put to the test like no other time this winter. 

What Exactly Is A Polar Vortex?

Just hearing the phrase “Polar Vortex” can make you feel chilly. A polar vortex is described as a low-pressure weather system that originates in the arctic at the top of the northern hemisphere. Occasionally, these low-pressure systems break off into separate weather patterns and make their way south bringing sub-zero temperatures and winds with them. As these large cold fronts move south, they tend to blanket the large extremely large areas in North America lasting anywhere between 3-10 days. In the past, Polar Vortex patterns have been known to hit as far south as Florida.

The Last Time St Louis Experienced A Polar Vortex

The last major polar vortex to hit the St Louis area was in late January, early February of 2014.  During that period, St Louis experienced below-average temperatures for almost two weeks.  Below are some historical weather data during that time frame:

  • The average high temperature in Feb 2014 was 36.5F (-8.5F colder than the average high temp in Feb)
  • The average low temperature in Feb 2014 was 19.8F (-7.8F colder than the average low temp in Feb)
  • There was a ten-day stretch in Feb 2014 (2/2-2/11) where the high temperature did not reach 32F

Looking Back On February of 2014

When we went back and looked at the number of repair calls that came through during February 2014, it was quite eye-opening.  During that ten-day stretch when the temperature didn’t reach above freezing, we saw a large quantity of service repair calls come through.  Even more alarming was the number of home heating systems that were not functioning at all.  Failure among older furnaces was a very common trend.  Which makes sense.  Older home heating systems are often the most vulnerable to malfunction when temperatures are consistently cold.

Getting Your Home Heating System Ready For A Polar Vortex

As the local forecast predicts extremely below-average temperatures this week, it’s important to make sure your home heating system is ready to face the challenge.  Below are just a couple of easy ways you can help prevent home heating system failure ahead of a polar vortex.

  • Make Sure To Replace Your Furnace Filter– Clogged or dirty furnace filters can make home heating systems work much harder than they need to.  When a furnace is constantly running over a long period of time in order to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures, the last obstacle it needs is to be overcompensating for a lack of airflow.  Changing out your filter, even if it is a little earlier than normal, can not only prevent furnace failure but also help increase efficiency when your system is set to labor more than usual.  Not to mention, having a clean furnace filter will also help increase your indoor air quality during a period of time you’ll likely be spending indoors.
  • Replace The Batteries On Your Thermostat– If you haven’t replaced the batteries on your thermostat in a while, now is a great time to do so.  For some reason, this problem tends to occur at the least opportune time.  It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
  • Have Your System Maintenance By A Professional Ahead of Time– It’s never too late in the season for seasonal maintenance.  If you have been noticing your home heating system not running as well as it has in the past, there could be a larger problem looming.  One that will likely be exposed when it is continually running over a 3-5 day period.  Furnace check-ups usually come at a reasonable cost and only take 30-60 minutes to complete.  The cost is often worth the peace of mind.

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