When you put up your spine tingling, unearthly and eerie Halloween decorations, don’t forget about HVAC safety!
“When witches go riding, and black cats are seen. The moon laughs and whispers, ’tis near Halloween.” – A Witch’s Journal
Writer’s Note: With COVID-19 continuing to affect our daily lives, Halloween 2020 is going to be like no other. That said, many local communities are going ahead with their traditional Halloween celebrations, albeit with certain restrictions, including the wearing of masks, social distancing, etc. Moreover, we see many residents wanting to keep the spirit of Halloween alive during this pandemic are beginning to decorate their homes for the Halloween season. This is why we feel the need for a blog on overall HVAC safety while decorating for Halloween.
Ghoulish ghosts. Wicked witches. Things that go bump in the night!
What better way to have a little Halloween fun than to decorate your home for that spooky night?
Halloween is here, and the spirit of trick-or-treating will never be complete without the creepy decor hanging in and out of your home. However, getting a ‘spooktacular’ vibe sometimes compromises your HVAC system’s safety. Because the Pittsburgh area’s chilly falls mean we often need heating in late October, it’s particularly important to make sure your system can perform safely.
Halloween is the first of the year-end holidays that bring out the decorating spirit in people. While decorating can be fun for every family member, it shouldn’t compromise your HVAC system and the safety of your home.
As you deck the halls with pumpkins and ghouls this year, keep a lookout for Halloween decorations that can affect the efficiency of your system depending on where and how you place them.
J&A South Park wants to warn you about how Halloween decorations, when not set up correctly, can haunt your home’s system and your HVAC safety.
Don’t block your vents with Halloween décor
“Yesterday, upon the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today. I wish, I wish he’d go away.” – “Antigonish,” Hughes Mearns
One of the most essential rules for HVAC efficiency year-round is to make sure you don’t block any vents around the home.
If you go “all-out” for the holiday, you just might have a treasure trove of Halloween decorations around the home. While that “spooktacular” vibe is a good idea, it’s not always a good idea in some parts of your home. Of chief concern is not blocking your air vents with Halloween décor.
The vents on your unit play a vital role in keeping proper airflow. They need to be opened so that the air can freely move through the ductwork. When your system cannot draw in or eject the airflow it needs to operate, its performance will suffer and can even put pressure on your unit.
If vents are blocked, your HVAC system has to work overtime to make up for the lack of airflow, creeping out its efficiency, and costing you money with higher utility costs.
With that in mind, if you set up a large display, such as a life-size witch, zombie, or other figures, make sure it doesn’t cover your air vents. Avoid placing small decorations where they could fall into the air vents. Decorations lost in your ducts can form blockages that play devil with your system’s efficiency and performance and eventually cause odors or worse.
Simply check each vent and move anything that’s in the way.
Protect your outdoor HVAC unit
“At first cock-crow the ghosts must go. Back to their quiet graves below.” – Theodosia Garrison
Sometimes the outdoor decorations are the most fun to put up. As you decorate, pay attention to the placement of certain decorations near your HVAC system’s outdoor unit.
If you put too many decorations on or near the unit, they could spook airflow and cause issues with the HVAC system’s function. In the worst cases, blocked airflow can damage the unit. Keep at least 4 to 6 feet clearance around the unit for optimal airflow.
Bottom line: While it is tempting to cover the entire yard with scary decorations, it is not always the best idea to have your outdoor unit involved.
Spider webs – real ones – can cause problems with the internal components of the outdoor unit. In particular, they can interfere with electrical connections and cause circuit breakers to trip or, in the worst cases, cause components and circuit boards to burn out.
Pieces from Halloween decorations that come loose and make their way inside the outdoor unit can have similar effects.
Fragments of cotton from artificial webs, bits of cloth or paper from ghost decorations, or even whole decorations could cause problems with your HVAC system if they get inside the unit.
Also, be sure to avoid hanging small décor in the trees above or near the unit to keep it in the best shape after Halloween. Even small elements can get inside your outdoor HVAC system and become entangled in its components. When this occurs, its efficiency and performance can be impaired and eventually cause costly problems.
Beware of those fake spider webs for HVAC safety
“Double, double, toil and trouble. Fire burn and cauldron bubble.” – Macbeth, William Shakespeare
Speaking of spider webs, since fake webs are such an easy decoration to put up, they’re a mainstay for millions of households during Halloween each year. The fake webbing you pick up at your nearby grocery store or specialty store provides an inexpensive way to get into the spirit of Halloween. Add to it some plastic spiders, and the creepy factor only builds up.
However, if you decide to add them, you need to be mindful of the potential for loose fibers getting into your air. This can speed up the rate at which your system’s air filter clogs up in addition to negatively affecting your home’s air quality.
After the holiday, be sure to check the air filter for possible replacement.
Fog machines, candles and oil lamps
“She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven’t you?” – Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho
In terms of indoor quality, you also need to be aware of how Halloween decorations and special effects can impair air quality. Fog machines, candles, and oil-burning lamps are the “biggies.”
Nobody would argue that fog machines create an authentically scary ambiance.
To create the spooky effect, some machines use a water mixed solution with glycol, glycerin, or mineral oil. These chemicals can trigger breathing problems in allergy and asthma sufferers, including coughing, wheezing chest tightness, and shortness of breath.
To be safe, it’s best for people with allergies and asthma to stay out of rooms where smoke and fog machines are being used to avoid these potential triggers.
The bottom line: Avoid fog machines that use this “fog juice”. These put a lot of eerie pollutants into the air. However, if you opt to use one of these, you should replace your air filter soon after.
Hocus Pocus, we’re again talking about changing your air filter. And we’ll keep repeating the importance of this to make sure everyone gets the message. Of course, it’s always good to change your air filter regularly. Still, the fall is an especially good time to update air filters as new allergens are in the air, and you’re getting ready to use the furnace often, blasting air that has been stagnant all summer throughout your home.
Minimize fire risks
“My candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open…” – Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
Keep any eerie candles burning in your home to a minimum and, when possible, choose higher-quality candles, which produce less soot. Soot reduces your indoor air quality and can build up inside your ducts.
Place any open flames away from your air vents. Airflow from these vents spreads devilish soot around your house and, in the worst-case scenario, can blow sparks far enough to start a fire. Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors before you light your candles.
To really keep things safe, stick with LED lights, which pose only a minimal fire risk.
Use Safety-Approved Decorative Lighting
“Shadows of a thousand years rise again unseen. Voices whisper in the trees, Tonight is Halloween!” – Dexter Kozen
Decorative electrical lighting is a great supplement to those hanging pumpkins on your walkways, railings, and front yard. Using it with caution is essential to prevent fire or electrical hazards, especially when placed near your HVAC outdoor unit.
To ensure safety, use only the approved electrical lighting as part of your Halloween backdrop. Everyone dreams of making each year’s Halloween creepier by incorporating something new to their decorations. But as you explore your heart-pounding creativity, be sure your HVAC system’s safety is not compromised.
Beware of added energy costs
“His corpse shall not be to the ground, I shall be against him as a crocodile on the water, as a serpent on earth, and as an enemy in the necropolis.” – Curse carved on the stele of Sarenput I
The amount of added electricity that courses through a home’s veins depends on your celebration of the holiday. Small electronic items like witches that cackle and ghosts that shake or a spooky recording that plays all day and all night don’t use a lot of extra power, so they’re probably not something you should be too concerned with.
But if you’re the type of person who loves to dive right into this scary holiday, you might be planning on setting up strobe lighting, speakers that emit spooky, spine-tingling sounds, or even projectors and screens.
All these things will add to your monthly energy bill. So, be mindful of the added costs and, more importantly, the safety issue involved with running wires.
Bring the Fun Outdoors
“That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange aeons even death may die.” – The Call of Cthulhu, H.P. Lovecraft
Instead of decorating inside your home, you might think about using your porch or front yard to create a spooky, hair-raising spot. With this idea, you don’t need to constantly open and close your door once the trick-or-treaters come to grab some candies.
Rather, you have a bowl of candy from which they can take a handful of treats. It surely is safer while saving you energy since the heated air is kept in your home.
Some final thoughts
“Listen to them – children of the night. What music they make!” – Dracula, Bram Stoker
Celebrating Halloween is a treasured fall tradition for many people in the Pittsburgh region. The personal risk from some Halloween activities, like trick-or-treating door-to-door, may seem lessened, because people are outdoors, and interactions may be brief. But, when lots of people take part in lower-risk activities simultaneously, it increases the potential for the coronavirus spreading across the region.
It’s crucial to abide by best practices to help stop the virus from spreading. Wear a mask that completely covers your nose and mouth, wash your hands frequently, and maintain at least 6 feet of distance from people outside your household. Steer clear of crowds.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, there are ways to minimize the risk of catching or spreading the virus while having fun on Halloween.
Think carefully about how you might lower the risk, not only for yourself and your family but also for your community.