Your Home’s HVAC and Plumbing Fall Checklist
Leaves are falling. The nights are getting cooler and longer. The last days of summer are finally fading into the bliss of light sweaters, cozy blankets and crackling fires. With autumn setting in, our experts and technicians at J & A South Park know that before we can settle in for our long winter’s nap, there are a few fall chores that need to be done around our homes. Avoid being one of many in a long line of professional HVAC and plumbing service calls this winter, by being prepared before a problem arises. Anticipating complications will help your home run efficiently through out the cold months, and will help to keep you stress -free.
Heating and Cooling Systems Inspection
With the fall weather finally cooling down, it is a time of transition between using your cooling unit and cranking up the furnace. Consider having a heating professional check your heating system for minor and major problems that may have arose during the months of dormancy. Loose bolts and wires could be minor problems that could create large problems in the dead of winter when your heater is at its peak performance time. HVAC units, such as gas-powered furnaces, require a professionally-trained technician to ensure the essential maintenance tasks are performed properly. However, there are still tasks that you as the homeowner can perform, to keep the units and its parts in proper working order.
Listen for Unusual Noises and Sniff for Unusual Odors
Noises and smells are some of the easiest detectors of problems within your HVAC unit. Maintaining this check-up often will help your ear and nose be skillfully trained to immediately know the difference between normal and potential problems when is comes to the sounds and smells of you HVAC system.
Listen for bumps, rattles, and vibrations that are out of the ordinary. If you hear any noises that sound out of the realm of routine, try locating the source of the problem; whether the noise is coming from inside the unit itself, from duct work or registers. Noises can be caused by harmless conditions such as debris in the vents or blockages in the registers, though; they could need more required attention if the noise is originating from loose bolts in the furnace or a defective fuel pump.
The smell of gas can sometimes occur when the unit is first turned on for the winter season when dust has made its home within the heater exchange. This smell would emulate from the vents and should dissipate on its own rather quickly. However, if the smell is present within the unit itself it could be a pipe leak. A rotten egg smell is output of sulfur that gas companies add to indicate a natural gas leak since natural gas has no detectable smell. Open the windows and exit immediately.
A burning electrical smell could also mean that your unit is over heating. Changing your filter often so that it does not restrict airflow will reduce the risk of the unit to over heat. Also, a problem within the motor or wiring can produce this odor and could cause a fire. A professional technician must address this problem to avoid potential injury or burns to a homeowner.
Oil leaks can also occur within your HVAC unit. Although, not as dangerous of an issue as the above three, leaking oil must be taken seriously. This smell could also be accompanied by unusual sounds and be an indicator that the oil burner has malfunctioned due to a faulty fuel pump or clogged burner.
Musty or moldy smells are another very common occurrence within a HVAC system. Homeowners may encounter this smell when performing a fall check-up because the air conditioning units have been running all summer. Condensation can be trapped in the unit if the moisture isn’t being drained properly, and can travel through the air ducts and into your home. Try to locate the source of the smell and clean thoroughly. Contact your HVAC technician in order to rectify the issue and prevent further mold.
Smelling the air around the unit is an incredibly important task. The smell of your HVAC unit could indicate some very serious problems. Turn off the circuit breaker to the unit before you try to rectify the issue if you smell or hear anything unusual. If it is the smell of gas, exit the house immediately, and call your gas company as well as a HVAC professional. Safety first!
Replace your Air Filters
Changing your air filter regularly is an essential component to the health of your HVAC unit. The filter should receive regular maintenance and changed ever thirty to ninety days; more often for a household that has pets and allergies. The changing of the seasons is a perfect time to trigger a filter swap out. Dirty air filters can hinder the performance of your HVAC system and can put strain on the internal parts of the unit, especially in the winter months when the system is getting a lot of action. Inspect your air filter throughout the winter to ensure proper airflow through the unit and reduce indoor air contaminates circulating in the air of your home.
Air Conditioning Units
If your a/c unit is located outdoors, it is essential to keep them clean of leaves, pollen, sticks, bugs and other debris. Turn off the air conditioning unit until next spring by turning off the circuit breaker to the air conditioning condenser. Vacuum internal parts and clean the outside of the condenser with a damp cloth and a brush with stiff bristles. Cover the unit with a cover that is designed for air conditioning units, which allow the unit to receive airflow and prevent rusting from condensation build up. Window air conditioning units should be removed in the cooler months when they are no longer necessary. If you must leave them in the windows, ensure that there is a proper seal around the unit, and that it is covered with an insulting wrap to keep the window sealed for heat efficiency.
Fireplace and Chimney Safety
You’ve waited all balmy summer to be able to cuddle in the living room glow of a dancing fireplace, but with an average of more than twenty-two thousand residential fires a year due to faulty fireplace equipment, safety must come first.
To ensure the safety of your fireplace look up into the flue to make sure the damper opens and closes completely, and is free of obstruction such as bird’s nest or branches. Check the seal of the gaskets on the doors of your fireplace and make sure the glass is free of cracks and chips.
Getting your chimney professionally cleaned once a year is essential to the proper functioning of your fireplace. A professional will inspect the structure of your chimney, as well as clean any buildup of creosote, which is a flammable byproduct of fire that can result in explosions.
Clean your Registers, Ductwork and Humidifier
Making sure your registers and ducts are clear of debris and dust, will not only keep your home cleaner and allergy free, but will also help your HVAC unit run smoothly and efficiently. Get ready for the heat to blast by vacuuming away dust and wiping any filth from the radiators, baseboard heaters and grates throughout your home. If any of the parts are removable, take them a part to achieve the best clean. Rearrange the furniture in your home for their winter placement; avoiding covering grates to maximum the airflow into the different rooms within your home.
Air ducts provide the best homes for dust and debris and even bugs. The ducts throughout your house can actually be the dirtiest part of your home and you probably do not even know it. Regular cleaning can reduce allergens and improve the quality of air your family is breathing when they are cozy at home. Getting ductwork cleaned professionally will also increase the longevity of your HVAC system.
By turning off the water supply to the humidifier for the fall season, you will be giving it a rest to gear up for the colder months. Did you know the dry air actually makes your home feel colder? Using your humidifier during the winter can appear that the air feels three degrees warmer. Turn down your furnace and turn on your humidifier to save of your winter energy bills. Dry air is also the biggest culprit when it comes to winter ailments such as irritated skin, dry eyes, sore throats and nosebleeds. Set the humidity level between thirty-five and forty-five percent. Make sure to change the humidifier pad often so bacteria and spores that may develop in the water panel will not be traveling through your ductwork and into your home.
Use your Ceiling Fans
Those beautiful sixty-inch fan blades aren’t just for show. Using ceiling fans in the fall will drastically cut down on your energy cost and help you save your budget for the winter months. Instead of using your HVAC system to avoid stagnant airflow within your home during the fall season, open windows and turn on ceiling fans to create a cross breeze. Keep the thermostat turned off until it is absolutely necessary to turn it on. Once fuzzy socks, cozy blankets and Fido or Fifi are not enough to keep you warm, flip the switches on your ceiling fans to reverse the direction of the blades. This will change the course of airflow and create an upward draft that will push warm air from the ceiling and into the room you are trying to heat.
Inspect Outdoor Units and Outdoor Plumbing
Fall is the best time for outdoor equipment that must brave the winter months to be prepped and prepared for the harsh of winter. Ensure that refrigerants are at the proper level and fill accordingly. Inspect the outside of the unit’s cabinet for any obstructions or cracks that may have occurred during the summer. Clean any leaves, dirt and debris from inside the cabinet of the unit, and inspect the fan blades and motor for any alarming and obvious problems. J & A South Park experts encourage that a licensed HVAC technician should be the one to inspect all control box pieces and parts within your outdoor unit.
Drain and store your garden hoses for next year and install covers on exterior spigots to insulate against the freezing temperatures that are to come in the winter months. To aide in avoiding frozen pipes, turn off the outdoor water values before the outdoor temperatures reach below freezing.
Insulate any indoor piping that may be exposed to the climates and be prepared by locating your water shut-off value within your home in case the pipes in your home actually do freeze.
Check Safety Devices
Faulty HVAC units can account for carbon monoxide leaks and equipment fires. Checking safety devices is always going to be number one on the list of importance. Our J & A South Park employees are men and woman with families just like yours, and each one of us encourage safety above all.
Test your smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and radon meters, replacing the batteries or units, as necessary. Fall is the perfect time to check radon levels in your home since the house is more buttoned up than in the summer and the radon is more likely to be trapped within your home. Radon levels vary in different parts of the world and knowing what is a typical level in your area can help you measure your exposure risk, but as always, leave the final answer to the professionals.
Know when to call a Professional
J & A South Park HVAC and plumbing experts know that there are many tasks on a fall checklist that a homeowner is more that capable of checking off as complete on their own. We are homeowners at J & A South Park, as well, and no matter how skilled we believe we are as professional homeowners, nothing replaces a specialist’s handy work. You wouldn’t go to a doctor for your root canal and you certainly wouldn’t go to your barber to change the oil in your car. Be fully prepared this fall for winter’s hard, cold bite, by calling in a J & A South Park professional today, don’t wait until disaster strikes!