Before winter sets in, homeowners should make sure their heating systems are in proper working condition. There are a few things each homeowner should consider as a part of their fall maintenance schedule.
Understand your Heating/Cooling equipment dust filtration process . Common filtration systems are:
- Disposable 1″ thick fiber filters. These filters are designed to be changed monthly, or bi monthly – depending on the level of dust collected on them while in use. They are typically located in the wall, floor or ceiling inside your home. They can be many different sizes, but common sizes are 14 x 20, 16 x 20, 14 x 24, 20 X 20, etc. Plan on changing these filters between 1-3 months, but check them monthly for dust accumulation.
- “Long Life” 4″ thick media filters. The benefit to these filters is that don’t need changing every 1-3 months. They are large enough to allow proper airflow within the HVAC system while collecting up to 8-12 months worth of dust. The down side to these filters is that homeowners may forget about them as they are “out of sight”. These filters are located at the indoor air handler unit, and may not be easy to get to. Most indoor air handler units are located in the crawlspace, attic, basement, or occasionally in garage or utility room. Frequently we see systems where someone did not know they had a 4″ media filter in the crawlspace or attic, and they also installed the common 1″ thick filter in the return grill located inside the home – this is a No No…. This should not be done as it will reduce the total airflow moving across your heat exchanger/or coil – which in turn will reduce the operating life of your system, increase power consumption and decrease comfort levels.
- Electronic Filtration devices. These dust collection systems are located at the indoor air handler unit, and have the same downsides of the 4″ “long life” filters…homeowners often forget about them, and they are often difficult to access. These filters typically have a “pre filter” which needs to be cleaned as needed (when you see dust collecting on them). The main electronic plates also require annual cleaning. Your owners manual will outline the specific cleaning process required for maintaining these filtration system.
- “I didn’t know the system has a filter”. Occasionally we come across homeowners or new customers who are not aware that their HVAC system must have a dust filtration system. If your system has been run without a filter for a significant period of time, you should cease its operation, and have the coil/heat exchanger inspected for dust accumulation by a professional technician.
- Check both your return air filter and filter housing.In addition to changing the system filter on a regular basis, homeowners should clean out the frame and housing the filter sits in. If you have a filter that is located in a wall inside the home, be sure and look behind the area the filter sits in and clean out any dust that may be this area. Any dust in the return duct system will eventually make its way into the “coil” of your heating system and reduce the system’s effectiveness, and increase wear and tear on the systems major components.
- Gas or Oil Heating Systems: Check to make sure your fresh air intake and exhaust ventilation system is not blocked. It is important to verify the condition of these vents at the start of the heating season. Sometimes mice, birds and other critters may have utilized these vents as a home and partially or fully blocked these vents – or they may be blocked by shrubs/fast growing summer vegetation. Vents can be made of metal, or 2″ – 3″ PVC pipe – if you are unsure of the location of your gas HVAC systems vents, be sure and ask your HVAC service technician where these are located. Both natural gas and propane systems should also have the burner tubes, and heat exchanger components inspected and cleaned on an annual basis by a qualified technician. This is even more important in propane systems as they tend to collect more post combustion bi-products in the system than natural gas.
- Oil Heating Systems: In addition to the ventilation and heat exchanger components, the fuel delivery system should be inspected. Depending on the condition of the fuel tank, the fuel filter will need to be changed periodically to ensure fuel flow. Typically the fuel filter does not need to be changed annually. Oil systems have a lot of post combustion bi-products (soot, etc) and should be inspected annually by a qualified technician.