Posts

HVAC Filter Maintenance

Part of responsible homeownership includes, of course, regular home maintenance.  And there are some tasks that, if deferred, can lead to a home system that’s inefficient and overworked, which can result in problems and expenses.  One such task is changing the filter of the home’s HVAC system.  It’s simple and inexpensive, and taking care of it at least every three months can mean the difference between optimum comfort and avoidable repairs.

What Can Go Wrong
Most homes have some sort of furnace or heat pump, and many of those homes (especially newer ones) have combined heating, ventilation and air-conditioning or HVAC systems.  Each type uses some type of air filter or screen to prevent larger airborne particles (up to 40 microns) from entering the system and clogging sensitive machinery.  A system that has a dirty filter can suffer from pressure drop, which can lead to reduced air flow, or “blow-out,” resulting in no air infiltration at all.  Any of these conditions can cause the system to work harder to keep the home warm or cool (depending on the season and the setting).  And any mechanical component that has to work harder to run efficiently puts undue stress on the whole system, which can lead to premature failure, resulting in repair or replacement.

Also, a dirty filter that’s exposed to condensation can become damp, which can lead to mold growth that can be spread throughout the home by the HVAC system.  This can lead to serious health consequences, not to mention a compromised unit that will likely require servicing and may require replacement, depending on the severity of the moisture problem.

Types of Filters
Most HVAC and furnace filters are disposable, made of biodegradable paper or similar media, and shaped in cells, screens or fins designed to trap as much airborne debris as possible.  Filters can typically be purchased in economical multi-packs, and there are many types that will fit different models of furnace/HVAC units.  It’s important to use the appropriate filter for your unit; using the wrong filter that doesn’t fit the unit properly can create the same types of problems as having a dirty filter.  Your HVAC installer can show you where the filter goes and how to remove the old one and install a new one.  Your unit may also have an affixed label with directions for easy filter replacement.

How Often?
Your HVAC or furnace technician should service your unit once a year.  Because a furnace/HVAC unit contains moving parts, it’s important that belts are not cracked and dry, ventilation ductwork is not gapped, cracked or rusted, and components, such as coils and fans, are clog-free and adequately lubricated for unimpeded operation.  This sort of evaluation is best left to the professional, unless you’ve had the appropriate training.

The filter of the unit, especially if it’s an HVAC unit that will tend to get nearly year-round use, should be changed by the homeowner at least every three months, but possibly more often.

Check your filter’s condition and change it once a month if:

  • You run your unit six months a year to year-round.
  • You have pets.  Pet dander can become airborne and circulate through the home’s ventilation system just as typical household dust does.
  • You have a large family.  More activity means more household dust, dirt and debris.
  • You smoke indoors.
  • You or someone in your household suffers from allergies or a respiratory condition.
  • You live in a particularly windy area or experience high winds for extended periods, especially if there are no nearby shrubs or trees to provide a natural windbreak.
  • You live in an area prone to or having recently experienced any wildfires.  Airborne ash outdoors will eventually find its way indoors.
  • You have a fireplace that you occasionally use.
  • You live on a working farm or ranch.  Dust and dirt that gets kicked up by outdoor work activity and/or large animals can be pulled into the home’s ventilation system, especially through open windows.
  • You have a large garden.  Depending on its size and how often you work it, tilling soil, planting, pulling weeds, using herbicides and pesticides, and even watering mean that dirt, chemicals and condensation can be pulled into your home’s ventilation system.
  • There is construction taking place around or near the home.  You may be installing a new roof or a pool, or perhaps a neighbor is building a home or addition.  Even if the activity is only temporary, dust and debris from worksites adjacent to or near the home can be sucked into the home’s ventilation system, and this increased activity can tax your HVAC system.

Change the filter immediately if:

  • The filter is damaged.  A damaged filter won’t work as intended.
  • The filter is damp.  A filter affected by moisture intrusion, system condensation, or even high indoor humidity can quickly become moldy and spread airborne mold spores throughout the home via the ventilation system.
  • There is evidence of microbial growth or mold on the filter.  Mold spores already infiltrating the home via the HVAC system are not only bad for the unit itself, but they can pose a health hazard for the family, ranging from an irritated respiratory system to a serious allergic reaction.

Tips on Changing the Filter

  • Turn off the unit before replacing the filter.
  • Use the right filter for your unit and make sure it’s not damaged out of the package.
  • Follow the directions for your unit to make sure you’re installing the filter properly.  For example, many filters use different colors for the front and back (or upstream and downstream flow) so that they’re not installed backwards.
  • Make sure there aren’t any gaps around the filter frame.  If this is the case, you may have the wrong size filter, or the filter itself may be defective or damaged.
  • Use a rag to clean up any residual dust before and after you replace the filter.
  • Securely replace any levers, gaskets and/or seals.
  • Turn the unit on and observe it while it’s operating to make sure the filter stays in place.
  • Note the date of filter replacement in a convenient location for the next time you inspect it.  A filter that becomes dirty enough to change within a short period of time may indicate a problem with the unit or ventilation system, so monitoring how often the filter requires changing is important information for your technician to have.

Call a technician for servicing if:

  • Your unit fails to turn back on.
  • The fan is slow or makes excessive noise, or the fins are bent.
  • The coils are excessively dusty or clogged.
  • You notice moisture intrusion from an unknown source anywhere in the system.

Homeowners who take care of the easy task of changing their HVAC filter can help prevent system downtime and avoidable expenses, as well as keep their families living and breathing comfortably.  Your InterNACHI inspector can provide more useful tips and reminders during your Annual Home Maintenance Inspection.

SaveSave

Are you running your home AC during the winter months?

So the cold weather is here… kinda.  Even though we have officially entered winter, there are plenty of winter days here in Oklahoma that will tempt us to turn on the air conditioner.  If it is sunny and 60 outside, chances are it’s heating up well over 75 in your home and that can lead to us feeling a little stuffy.   Add to that some holiday cooking, and we can see that thermostat moving quickly to the 80s.  What to do?

Well, back in the day, I know it might be hard to believe, but we would actually open the windows.  That’s right kids!  We opened the windows.  I know that sounds snarky but I really think people have forgotten about this option, much to the enjoyment of your neighborhood HVAC professional.  Also, today’s homes are not really designed for this.  In the early 20th century, homes were built with lots of windows and often had a “whole-house fan” that people would run, with the windows open, to keep everyone reasonably cool.  I’m always happy to tell buyers about this feature when we come across a functional unit.

So, even though we don’t have as many windows, I’m recommending using them next time your home gets stuffy this winter; for the following reasons:

  1. Compressors are designed to run in hot weather.  They are lubricated with summer grade oil.  When you start your AC in the winter you are putting a terrible strain on the compressor and likely shortening its life.  I know you don’t want to buy another AC unit this spring.
  2. Windows left shut and not operated year after year, lose their lubrication, and when I open them at inspections, the springs often do not operate.  The next time you sell a home, you are probably going to be asked to fix that.  Using them frequently will keep them functional or at least remind you to lubricate them occasionally.
  3. Using your windows instead of your AC saves you money — immediately.  Open a couple of windows, and turn your fan to “on” at the thermostat.  It will circulate the stale air, introduce new fresh air, and cool down your home.  It will take a little longer, but you avoid risk of damage to the compressor.  Also, it is a lot cheaper to run a fan than a compressor.

Scott Price, CPI, #1532
Certified Home Inspector
Home Run Inspections
405-905-9175
homeruninspections@icloud.com
We cover all of the bases!

Serving the Oklahoma City metro and surrounding areas including Edmond, Guthrie, Cashion, Yukon, Moore, Norman, Chickasha, Midwest City/Del City, Bethany, El Reno, Shawnee, Harrah, and more.

Schedule Inspections Online at:
www.Home-RunInspections.com
Like us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/homeruninspections
Follow us on Twitter: www.Twitter.com/HomeRunInspect2

Floor Vents/Boots Deteriorating and/or Full of Sand

 

image

I don’t think I have come across a newly built home with the HVAC ductwork in the concrete floor.  That’s not to say builders do not do that any more but I think it’s fair to say they avoid that practice.

It was a common practice in the 1970s and 1980 to place the homes ductwork in the sand and soil prior to the pouring of the homes slab.  I actually worked for a heat and air company while in college and did several of these myself.  The system was designed to last a very long time, but even with the efforts we took, time often takes its toll on various aspects of these systems.

The most common defect I see on “in concrete duct work” as a Home Inspector is rusted, deteriorating floor boots and poor air flow at various locations in the home.  If the problem is minor, replacement of floor boots is all that is recommended.  If most or all of the boots show deterioration and or accumulation of sand, I recommend further evaluation by an HVAC professional with a duct scoping.

With the HVAC being one of the most important systems in your home, I recommend all buyers and realtors lift up a floor register or two if they find the perfect home that happens to have in floor duct.  I inspected a home yesterday in Edmond that was built in the 90s and the boots looked like they were installed yesterday, so you really never know what you will find.

Depending on the extent of any damage found, the repairs could range from $200 to $8000.  Repairs could be as simple as replacing a couple of floor boots to having to install a whole new system, moving all the duct work to the attic or other alternative location.  There are so many different types of home configurations the solutions are numerous.

Scott Price, CPI, #1532
Certified Home Inspector
Home Run Inspections
405-905-9175
homeruninspections@icloud.com
We cover all of the bases!

Serving the Oklahoma City metro and surrounding areas including Edmond, Guthrie, Cashion, Yukon, Moore, Norman, Chickasha, Midwest City/Del City, Bethany, El Reno, Shawnee, Harrah, and more.

Schedule Inspections Online at:
www.Home-RunInspections.com
Like us on Facebook: www.Home-RunInspections.com
Follow us on Twitter: www.Twitter.com/HomeRunInspect2

Seasonal Maintenance Checklist: In the Spring

springhome

Spring has sprung!  March 20th was the first day of spring, so as you are spending more time outdoors, take a few minutes to address some Spring home maintenance items that will help to maintain the value of your investment:

  • Roof:  Check for damage to your roof.  Especially here in Oklahoma you should do this after each big spring storm.
  • Exterior Siding & Trim:  Check all the fascia and trim for deterioration and caulk as needed.
  • Masonry:  Check for masonry cracks or voids and tuck-point as needed.
  • HVAC:  Have an HVAC professional inspect and maintain your system as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Water Heater:  Check your water heater for leaks or rust.  Drain water heater tank to reduce sediment (consult a licensed plumber first if you have not been doing this annually for your water heater).
  • Fire Extinguishers:  Check you fire extinguishers.  I recommend you have one for your kitchen and garage.
  • Kitchen Exhaust:  Clean the kitchen exhaust hood and air filter.
  • Concrete:  Repair all cracked, broken and uneven driveways and walks to help provide a level walking surface.
  • Plumbing:  Check the shutoff valves at the plumbing fixtures to make sure they function.
  • Dryer Exhaust:  Clean the clothes dryer exhaust duct and damper and the space under the dryer.  Ensure that your dryer is venting to the exterior and not to the attic or garage.
  • Gutters:  Clean gutters and downspouts.  Repair as necessary.  Make sure water is diverted from the home.
  • Filters:  Replace HVAC filters, water treatment system filters, water filter in the refrigerator, and any other filters as needed.
  • Concrete:  Pressure wash deck, drive, and walkways.
  • Exterior:  Walk exterior perimeter of house and check for potential entry points for critters.
  • Detectors:  Replace batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

 

Scott Price, CPI, #1532
Certified Home Inspector
Home Run Inspections
405-905-9175

homeruninspections@icloud.com
We cover all of the bases!

Serving the Oklahoma City metro and surrounding areas including Edmond, Guthrie, Cashion, Yukon, Moore, Norman, Chickasha, Midwest City/Del City, Bethany, El Reno, Shawnee, Harrah, and more.

Schedule Inspections Online at:
www.Home-RunInspections.com
Like us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/homeruninspections
Follow us on Twitter: www.Twitter.com/HomeRunInspect2

http://www.home-runinspections.com/

#springhomemaintenance  #timeoutdoors #greatoutdoors