It’s that Wonderful Time of the Year
The holidays are here. In all the things you are looking forward to, an HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) system failure is probably not one of them. Yet system failures are most common around the holidays. That’s why it’s important to focus on HVAC maintenance before your guests arrive.
This is likely due in part to the fact that there are more people coming and going in and out of your house, and more fiddling with the HVAC settings as they do so. Also, it seems to be a universal law that if something is going to go wrong, it will happen at the worst possible time!
When the whole family comes over and a system fails it’s a bigger deal than if it were to fail with the usual number of people in the home. It’s also harder to get a repair person in during the holidays – and even if you do, you pay premium rates for the service. If you need a part to fix the problem, forget about getting it until the holidays are over.
Don’t get caught with a malfunctioning HVAC system that puts a damper on your holiday celebration. Prepare for the holidays. Here’s a list of HVAC maintenance tips to ensure you and your family enjoy holiday celebrations in total comfort.
- Inspect your furnace and air conditioning unit
- Check your filters
- Clear your vents (maybe)
- Consider smarter thermostats
- Think about alternative ways to heat/cool
- Opt for a maintenance plan
Inspect Your Furnace and Air Conditioning Unit
The holidays may be arriving, but your furnace hardly ever has a holiday. Most homeowners can conduct a visual inspection. Start by looking for cracks or holes in the ductwork or valves connected to the furnace. Also, any unusual condensation or corrosion is usually a sign that a problem is on its way if it isn’t already there.
Stuff tends to collect in a basement or crawl space. Ensure that your furnace is clear of clutter and debris up to 30 inches or more per manufacturer specifications and most city codes and standards. This allows for enough airflow for combustion of the heating element as well as safe and smooth operation. It also allows room for your HVAC service technician to thoroughly inspect and service your system as needed.
If you have unusual smells in your house or insufficient conditioning in any or all of your rooms, you don’t need to look at the furnace to know something is potentially wrong. Something probably is wrong.
If anything looks amiss with the furnace or air conditioning unit, or it doesn’t in any way heat or cool properly, call an HVAC technician. Don’t wait for the holidays when a problem can turn into a system failure. No one wants coal in their stockings, and an expensive repair bill that can be avoided is a lot of coal.
Check Your Filters
Most homeowners can change the filters on their HVAC systems. Filters are typically available at hardware stores as well as online. Different manufacturers have different recommendations for the frequency of filter changes, but at least annually if not bimonthly is standard.
Changing filters periodically helps avoid clogs that can retard performance. Your furnace or air conditioner must work harder to push and pull air through the filter if it’s clogged. A harder working HVAC system is a more expensive and less energy-efficient system. Sufficiently clogged air filters can restrict airflow to the point where safety switches cause a complete system shutdown.
You may have other filters in electronic air cleaners or air sanitizers. Regular inspection and replacement are important with these devices as well. When you have more people in your home during the holidays, indoor air quality (IAQ) is all that much more important.
You might want to consider upgrading your air filtration system with higher-performing filters. There are a variety of types of filters, which all have different levels at which they screen pollutants. For example, electrostatic air filters use static electricity to trap dust and airborne particles and prevent them from circulating in your home. Most electrostatic air filters can successfully remove large particles, dust, pollen, and carpet fibers, but do a poor job of capturing small particles and mold spores.
It’s important to note that various kinds of air sanitizers and electronic air cleaners remove different kinds of particles. So, for example, if bacteria and viruses are a concern, you probably want an air sanitizer. An electronic sanitizer is fine to remove pollen, pet dander and dust. You may want both.
Also, consider purchasing an air quality index (AQI) monitor. The readings not only provide peace of mind when your IAQ is good, it can set off warnings that action is required to clean up the air you, your family, and your holiday guests are breathing.
Clear Your Vents (Maybe)
Some homeowners think they should clean ducts themselves with a vacuum cleaner and a long dust brush. Not a good idea. Cleaning air ducts is not a do-it-yourself job. Only use a certified technician who has the right tools and equipment. We don’t necessarily recommend annual cleaning of ductwork, but we do recommend annual inspections to see if there is any visible damage to the ductwork.
Duct cleaning is not part of normal HVAC maintenance. If your ductwork is properly sealed, you regularly change filters according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, and you clean floor registers with a vacuum every six months to avoid dust build-up, you should not need to do duct cleaning at all.
That all said, ducts can get clogged by debris and damaged by pests. If you’ve done a fairly big home remodeling project, dirt can easily clog the ducts. It’s best, however, to consult a certified HVAC specialist with a demonstrated record of professional service and integrity to determine if duct cleaning is really in order.
Make Your Thermostats Smarter
Having more people in the house and cooking holiday dinners can create a warmer environment, reducing the need for high heat. One way to avoid continually resetting a thermostat to adjust to unusual temperature spikes is to invest in a smart thermostat.
What makes the thermostats smart is you can program it. This provides the ability to set a schedule that accounts for when the house is empty when it is full of guests, as well as times when everyone’s in bed and won’t need quite as much heat. And by anticipating when you need more or less heat or cooling, it helps avoid overworking the HVAC with sporadic changes that call for wide changes in temperature.
Other Ways to Heat or Cool
Ceiling fans aren’t there just for decoration. Sure they can keep you cool by fanning air. They can also help keep you warm. Most fans have a switch that changes the direction of the fan blades. So if you need to circulate warm air more efficiently, the fans can push warmer air trapped near the ceiling down to your living space.
Also, something as simple as opening blinds to let in more light also helps add to indoor heat. The reverse is equally true. Closed blinds or drapes keep out the light when you want to keep rooms cool. Anything you can do to offset the work your HVAC system has to do improves efficiency and prolongs the useful life of your appliance.
If you have an old house, you might want to make sure your insulation is up to grade. Insufficient attic insulation literally means heat and dollars going up through your roof.
Invest in an HVAC Maintenance Plan
An annual or semiannual maintenance plan is really the best option to ensure your HVAC system is operating efficiently. With an HVAC maintenance plan, you don’t have to remember to change your filters or look at your furnace. By investing in a maintenance plan, you gain a number of benefits:
- Prolongs the life of your HVAC system
- Reduces energy bills through more efficient operation
- Increases the comfort of your home
- Reduces potential safety hazards
- Helps maintain your warranty
Ongaro and Sons have performed furnace maintenance checks for customers since 1932. Our NATE (North American Technicians Excellence) certified technicians are trained for all makes and models of HVAC repair. Our fully stocked trucks have replacement parts on hand for most required repairs, and if we don’t have the part immediately on hand, we get you the part quickly so that you’ll be up and running in a very short time.
Schedule your yearly tune-up, which also comes with a free duct inspection and insulation inspection. Or use our handy online contact form to schedule an appointment or ask a question about our maintenance plans.