Ultimate Resource for HVAC & Air Quality
Ultimate Resource for HVAC & Air Quality
Your home’s HVAC system is an essential part of your everyday life, keeping your home comfortable and your air fresh. While HVAC maintenance may not always be on the top of your to-do list, it’s an important part of protecting the health of your home and family.
01. Components of an HVAC System
Your HVAC system works hard to provide clean, fresh air to your home by integrating all the elements of HVAC—heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Understanding the basic components of your HVAC system can help you detect potential problems and understand when repairs are needed. In the case of your HVAC system, it pays to know the basics.
The thermostat is the tool that triggers the system to heat or cool. Thermostats typically have either a coil or metal strip that signals when the heating or cooling needs to be turned on. Sensors detect the temperature of your home to determine if it’s at the right temperature. Changing the temperature on your thermostat too much rather than allowing it to maintain a fairly consistent temperature will waste energy as it causes your system to work harder. If your system won’t turn on, won’t change settings, or it shuts off early, then your thermostat may need to be replaced.
The furnace is a major component of your HVAC system. Your furnace heats air to warm your home. A furnace may run on electricity or by burning fuels such as gas, oil, or propane. The furnace receives a signal from the thermostat to begin heating. In a fuel-burning furnace, the signal from the thermostat causes a pilot light or electronic ignition to ignite gas in the main burner. This warms up the heat exchanger, which transfers the heat to the breathable air that the blower then circulates throughout your home. In an electric furnace, heating elements directly heat the air that the blower circulates.
Four main components work together to allow an air conditioner to cool your home: evaporator coils, refrigerant, the compressor, and condenser coils. As air from your home moves across the evaporator coils, the coolant absorbs heat from the air, turning it into a gas. This gas is then sent to the compressor, which squeezes the gas into a smaller space, increasing both its pressure and temperature. From there, the hot, compressed gas moves into the condenser, where it cools and returns to a liquid state. The heat that’s released from the hot gas is blown outside, and the liquid is transported back indoors to begin the cycle again. Each of these components is essential for your air conditioner to function.
Indoor Air Quality System
Indoor air quality systems are installed in the heating and cooling system. They help to keep the circulated air in your home pure and clean, preventing allergy symptoms and contagious illnesses as well as improving the lifespan of your HVAC system.
02. Common Air Quality Issues
If not properly controlled, allergens can pose a significant health problem. Solutions for keeping allergens at a minimum include air filtration as well as cleaning of coils, ducts, and filters. Your air filtration system does a lot of work to keep your air fresh and clean, but it can’t do that job if it’s dirty. If you have pets, or even a large amount of dust from a recent home improvement project, talk to a professional about getting your air filtration system serviced.
Bacteria and Mold
Bacteria and mold are common problems that no one wants in their home. You can remove mold with vinegar or diluted bleach, but you’ll also need to take steps to keep it out of your home. Running a dehumidifier will help keep humidity under control while you keep an eye on problem areas to check for growth. These additional steps will also help to reduce the risk of mold:
- Limit the length of showers
- Limit yourself to a few house plants (the moist soil adds humidity to the air)
- Fix plumbing leaks as soon as possible
- Clean any new mold growth promptly
If you are addressing a mold issue on your own, always wear gloves and a mask for protection.
If you do not feel comfortable doing it yourself or DIY methods aren’t solving the issue, call a professional to remove the mold for you. Consider having whole-home dehumidification installed to help control moisture levels and prevent future growth.
Humidity imbalance can cause a variety of problems. Mold, allergens, and infections thrive in humid environments, while dry air can cause congestion and dry, itchy skin. Any excess water can cause an imbalance in humidity. Inspect your home to identify any areas with condensation on windows, discoloration on walls or ceilings, loose drywall tape, or peeling paint. If these signs of excess moisture are present, use your ventilation fans or exhaust to decrease humidity. After a heavy rain, you may notice a rise in humidity. Cleaning your gutters will prevent leaks in your roof, which is a leading cause of water damage and mold.
Regulating your indoor humidity level can be as easy as getting a dehumidifier, opening a window, or moving your plants. If these methods aren’t providing the results you need, it’s time to call a professional. The best way to consistently maintain a healthy humidity level is with a built-in dehumidifier installed onto your HVAC system. If you have a walk-in humidor, indoor pool, wine room, art gallery, or a spa, check with a professional about the specific microenvironments they require.
Solving a stale air problem can be as easy as cleaning your vents to make sure they aren’t contaminating the air that’s passing through them. If the weather is nice, simply opening a window will help. If the stale air is persistent, it may be time to have your ducts and vents professionally cleaned. Experts recommend getting your ducts cleaned every four to five years. You may also consider getting a quote from a professional on a new ventilation system.
03. Maintaining a Healthy HVAC System
Having your HVAC system in proper working order should be a top priority. While getting your system checked before the winter and summer seasons is ideal, it’s never a bad time to have your system inspected for potential issues.
Benefits of Routine Maintenance
Routine maintenance of your HVAC system is important not only to keep it running smoothly and efficiently but also to protect the health and safety of your family.
Reduce Health Risks
Regular maintenance includes a cleaning of your HVAC system’s components. When dust, dander, and other allergens collect within your system, they can contaminate the air and cause health issues. Keeping your system clean and maintained keeps your indoor air cleaner and your family safer.
Identify Problems Before they Become Emergencies
Waiting until your system fails to call in a professional can be a costly mistake. When a problem with your HVAC system becomes an emergency situation, the unit will most likely need to be replaced. Routine maintenance allows HVAC experts to detect problems early, when they may be able to fix them more simply and inexpensively.
Extended the Life of Your Unit
Neglect is one of the main reasons that an HVAC unit fails. A routine check helps to prevent future problems and keep the unit operating smoothly. Just as your car needs regular oil changes, your HVAC unit needs regular maintenance for optimal functionality and long life.
A clean and well maintained HVAC unit can do its job more efficiently than one that’s neglected. Cleaning and maintaining your unit saves money by improving its energy efficiency and increasing your SEER rating. According to the Department of Energy, the best way to save energy on air conditioning is to regularly clean and replace the unit’s filters.
04. What Does a Professional HVAC Maintenance Visit Typically Include?
A professional HVAC maintenance should include all of the following:
- Check the thermostat. The HVAC technician should test to make sure the thermostat is installed and working properly.
- Lube moving parts. Lubrication helps to keep all parts of any system working properly and prevents damage.
- Inspect condensate drains. This will ensure that your air conditioner can drain properly. If clogged, leaks and water buildup can occur.
- Tighten electrical connections and test voltage and current. This will help prevent any potential electrical problems.
- Ensure systems start and shut off properly. Proper cycling of your system is a key part of keeping your home comfortable.
- Clean or replace air filters. While this is something you should do on your own, your technician may replace with a better filter upon inspection.
- Clean AC coils. Coils can collect dust and dirt easily and contaminate air.
- Check refrigerant charge on the air conditioner. Your air conditioner needs the proper level of refrigerant to run correctly.
- Clean and adjust blower components on the air conditioner.
- Inspect flue piping on the furnace. Flue pipes perform the important job of moving hazardous exhaust from your furnace to outside of your home.
- Inspect fuel lines and connections on the furnace.
- Check burners and heat exchangers on the furnace.
05. What Can a Homeowner Do On Their Own?
A professional HVAC maintenance should include all of the following:
You won’t have the knowledge to perform a full inspection on your own, but there are many routine maintenance items that you can do to boost your HVAC unit’s life expectancy.
- Check your system for obvious signs of damage annually and after any storm that could have damaged the unit’s outdoor components.
- Clear dust and debris from your unit.
- Check registers to ensure nothing is blocking airflow. Closing registers can cause your system to use more energy and be less effective.
- Change your heating or cooling system’s filter as often as necessary. This should be done once every one to three months, depending on your home’s air quality and the type of filter you use.
- Change the batteries in your carbon monoxide detector once every year. Taking this preventive step could save lives.
06. Replacing Your System
Even if you do everything you can to extend the life of your unit, it will eventually need to be replaced.
How to Know It’s Time
As your HVAC system gets older, you may begin to see signs of its age. If you can answer yes to these questions, it may be time to call a professional to install a new system.
- Is your furnace or boiler close to or over 15 years old?
- Is your air conditioner or heat pump close to or over 10 years old?
- Does the system require frequent repairs?
- Is it louder than it should be?
- Does the system cycle on and off frequently?
- Are your energy bills noticeably higher than they have been in the past or higher than you think they should be?
- Do you have serious humidity problems in your home?
- Do you have poor indoor air quality?
- Are certain rooms in your home noticeably colder or warmer than others, or do you have a hard time maintaining a consistent temperature?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, call a professional to inspect your unit to ensure your home remains comfortable year round.
Benefits of a Replacement
An aging HVAC unit will inevitably begin to use more energy. Replacing it with a new one saves energy and lowers utility bills.
Reduced Carbon Footprint
Units are more efficient now than they were even 15 years ago. Upgrading to a newer unit can decrease your carbon footprint!
Increased Home Value
The value of a home often rises with basic home improvements, including a new HVAC system.