Written by Brad Crawford
A fall tune-up for your HVAC system is something that should never be put on the back-burner. As a matter of fact, tabling your tune-up can be downright dangerous.
But, a thorough check is more than just checking the thermostat and changing out the air filter, which you can do by yourself. A professional fall tune-up will include the inspection of your entire HVAC system, ensuring that all electric, mechanical and gas-bearing parts are in proper working order and safe winter operation. After all, wouldn’t it be nice to have a little peace of mind this winter, knowing that you don’t have to worry about your furnace going out?
A professional HVAC technician will start the fall tune-up by checking your thermostat. This is “mission control” for all of your winter comfort. If your control panel is not working properly, you need to know about it. A certified technician will be able to tell you if the settings on your home’s thermostat are energy efficient and if the current temperature is right.
There are many parts to your HVAC system besides the AC and the furnace. You need to consider what you air vents have in them and whether or not they need to be cleaned out. Return air vents are a haven for insects and rodents. They build nests and leave droppings, which can lead to respiratory problems if your filter is missing or not working properly. The return air vents can also be a source of decreased efficiency if they have holes in them or are not properly insulated. A technician will be able to check for these common pitfalls during the fall tune-up.
The mechanical parts used within your HVAC unit are complex and delicate. When they sit for a full summer or winter without moving, they tend to rust and get covered in dust and dirt. Gas connections also need to be checked. This is a necessity to ensure there are no leaks. The pilot light will also be tested and litduring your yearly fall tune-up.
As the technician reaches the heart of the furnace, he is basically doing janitorial work. These units do not run well, or at all, when there is an accumulation of dirt and debris. This can also be the case when insects have nested in there. Either way, they need to be cleaned out. At the same time, all electrical connections need to be tested and cleaned out of the HVAC system, especially close to the heat exchanger and the burner.
While checking the electrical connections, the technician will also test the motors and controls for effective operation. In some cases he may need to apply lubrication to the blower bearings and blower motor. This is a recommendation by the manufacturer and it is best to stick to these recommendations.
Adjustments to the burner and heat exchanger come next. This is a critical part of the fall tune-up and helps ensure the safety of your family in your home. Not only do you run the risk of a fire if the burner and heat exchanger are not working properly or have grimy debris all around them, but if the heat exchanger is cracked, you will have a carbon monoxide problem circulating through your home. Carbon monoxide is the result of organic matter that did not complete the oxidation process. Basically, the matter did not complete combustion, which in turn releases the by-product of carbon monoxide.
Did you know there are hundreds of deaths every year from carbon monoxide poisoning? We sometimes don’t think we need a fall tune-up because we start up our furnaces and they work. Even with the dirty burning smell that comes every year, we feel comfortable that everything is safe. The smell we associate with the switch to heat is normal and safe, but the threat of carbon monoxide is odorless and deadly. While most people think carbon monoxide smells like a car exhaust, it doesn’t. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, tasteless and toxic gas. If you are exposed to enough of it (100PPM or more), it can kill you in minutes, without you even knowing it is happening. It does cause flu-like symptoms, but most people think they are getting the flu and stay in their home – only exacerbating the problem.
A fall tune-up is a great time to think about installing a carbon monoxide detector in your home, which allows you to know if your symptoms are CO2 related. They do not have to be installed on the ceiling and they can probably save you and your family’s lives. Long-term exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide can lead to depression, confusion and memory loss
Regular Maintenance Reigns Supreme
There are a few things that you can also do on your own to make sure that your HVAC system stays in proper running order throughout all seasons. It is highly advisable that you make sure there is nothing around your furnace that is flammable or can easily catch on fire. Lawnmowers, gas cans, or even dead grass that has fallen off your lawnmower are bad things to store around your unit. There is compressed air being heated in the furnace and if one of them catches the pilot light, you can easily have a home fire.
HVAC systems also need to stay clean on the outside as well. Cleaning off the dust and debris that have accumulated around the unit is a good idea. You can do this once every few months. During the process, take the time to test your heater while it is warm out, so that you can be made aware of any issues and relay them to your fall tune-up tech.
Proper air filter changes are imperative and this process should be performed monthly for best results. Even changing the filters on a three-month rotation will add extra life to your unit by increasing the airflow and efficiency of the HVAC system. The number one reason you do a fall-tune-up is to make sure it is in proper working order – and dirt is the number reason HVAC systems fail. If you keep your
air filter changed every month then you make everyone’s job easier and you have a happy and running furnace every winter.