This winter the temperatures have been record setting and I think winter is here to stay. When we have colder than normal temps and high snowfall there are some things you should keep an eye on to prevent an unwanted no-heat situation.
If you have a 90% efficient gas furnace it will be typically be exhausted somewhere through the side of your home. If your system is installed like this you should check occasionally for excessive snow buildup around the pipes. Usually during a snow storm when the snow is falling heavily and blowing, the snow can drift or blow up and sometimes over these pipes. We even see the neighbors mistakenly blow snow on your pipes as they are clearing their driveway. If the pipes become snowed in, your furnace will stop working. Before you call for service you can save some money by taking a look before you call. Also I have seen ice from icicles drip on the pipes and freeze them over. To clear this situation, turn off the furnace, shovel away the snow and melt the ice buildup with hot water. Be careful not to pour water directly into the pipe openings. If you have continually had trouble with snow or ice blocked pipes, we may be able to configure them differently to prevent future shut downs. Typically these pipes should be installed at least two feet above the ground according to the manufacturer.
For those of you with heat pumps, you need to keep the snow shoveled away from the sides and top of the outdoor unit. Especially check after a storm for excess snow around the unit. Also inspect that icicles are not dripping directly on your heat pump.
Another note for heat pump users. Make sure the outdoor unit is actually running on a daily basis. With an all electric home, the outside heat pump does most of the work heating your home. You will have heat even if the outdoor unit stops running but it will cost you about three times the money to heat with your electric furnace than if the heat pump was doing the work. Check often so you are not surprised when your bill comes.
Lastly, keep watch that icicles from your gutters do not get too large as they can fall on your heat pump or air conditioner and do severe damage to its casing. I have seen this happen more than once.