Living room with proper heating and AC maintenance done to ensure safety for homeowners

Heating & AC Maintenance Facts Homeowners Should Know

Your comfortable home environment depends on your HVAC operating effectively during every season it’s needed. Regular maintenance is vital to have your system working at peak efficiency. For most people, the HVAC equipment’s complexity means they rely on qualified technicians to perform this work. But what should you expect from maintenance technicians, and how often should you schedule them? See these crucial heating and air conditioning maintenance facts homeowners should know.

Air Filters

Regularly changing or cleaning air filters for heating or cooling equipment is a primary maintenance task. It’s the single most effective heating and AC conditioning maintenance job you can do to keep your indoor air at a high-quality level.

Changing air filters is also relatively easy for most homeowners to do on their own. It’s not highly technical; it just relies on knowing which specific air filter to purchase and finding where it is located in your equipment. In most cases, you should be able to simply slide out or click the existing filter and install a new one in the same manner.

The type of filter and its location should be detailed in the user manual or technical specification accompanying your equipment purchase. If your equipment was installed before purchasing your home, an online search will probably retrieve the needed instructions. Or you can always contact the relevant call center to get the details.

Inspection and Detection

When an HVAC service call is scheduled, you should expect your technicians to provide you with a comprehensive list detailing the equipment inspection tasks. They should also discuss any minor repairs you can expect as part of the service call. For example, whether ductwork will be sealed where gaps have been detected or exactly what air duct cleaning will entail. Ensure you also discuss any concerns with them about odors, noises, or poor air flow that you’ve noticed.

Ask to have a look at the technicians’ checklist and see that it covers the following:

  • Thermostat testing
  • Checking and replacing air filters
  • Airflow tests
  • Checking the levels of refrigerant
  • Inspecting equipment connection points
  • Testing electrical connections
  • Examining blower mechanisms
  • Lubrication, tightening, and sealing of connection points and moving parts
  • Looking at drain lines and water collection pans
  • Identifying and notifying any pests or contaminants that have taken up residence in the ductwork, and
  • Reporting on the general condition of the system.

An important outcome of the final report is to give the owner a heads-up on the expected remaining life of the equipment. Any hint of equipment failure that may happen in the future without replacement or major repair is also helpful. Better to be prepared and have money set aside for such eventualities.

Some Common Problems to Focus On

HVAC equipment has some common fail points, mainly when heating and AC maintenance has been irregular. These include leaks in connector and drain lines and corrosion of metal parts where moisture accumulates, such as connecting wires.

AC units can often develop faults in circuit breakers or fuses. If airflow becomes a problem, check that the space around the unit is clear and open. Furniture or household items may have been inadvertently misplaced and be a hindrance.

Furnaces can fail for several reasons; thermostats malfunction, ignition switches fail, and blower motors stop. If a furnace is not pumping out heat in its usual manner, often the culprit is dirty filters hindering the free flow of air.

Scheduling Heating and AC Maintenance

Most maintenance plans for HVAC equipment include two service calls each year. One service will focus on inspecting, servicing, and any necessary repairs on the air conditioning equipment. Scheduling should be planned so that all work is done well before the hot weather begins. Similarly, the heating component will be serviced before cold weather sets in.

With a set maintenance plan, you minimize the worry of anything going wrong with your equipment when needed most during the peak of summer or winter. It’s not worth skipping maintenance even if you think you can get by for a year. Little problems can quickly turn into severe ones in a heavily used HVAC system.

Of course, an annual service will be satisfactory if you only have an air conditioner or a heating component.

HVAC Cleaning Services in Northern Virginia

Six Penny Chimney in Northern Virginia has an intimate understanding of the local weather and the impacts on your heating and cooling systems. We provide expert maintenance for chimneys, fireplaces, gutters, furnace flues, and HVAC ductwork. Book your service with us today

Clean air ducts in a well-lit and clean building hallway

7 Common Air Duct Cleaning Questions Answered

Opinions on how often air ducts need cleaning are mixed. For example, a new home heating and cooling system is unlikely to have a build-up of mold or dust and may not require cleaning for some years. On the other hand, old HVAC equipment or a location near an industrial estate may be exposed to elevated dust and contaminants, and annual cleaning is justified. Here are seven air duct cleaning questions, answered to give you the information to decide when services are needed.

1. Do Air Ducts Need Annual Cleaning?

The answer to this is — it depends. Deciding how often to have your air ducts maintained depends on the level of contaminants in your system. If pollutants have built to a high level, there can be health implications in breathing poor-quality air. An annual HVAC inspection should highlight any ducting issues that justify cleaning.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has examined the issue of air duct maintenance and has fallen short of recommending that annual cleaning is necessary. However, the agency has delivered some guidance on instances when servicing is indicated.

2. Does the Presence of Mold Justify Air Duct Cleaning?

This is undoubtedly an instance where servicing is necessary. If mold or fungi have found a suitable nook or cranny to lodge and grow, the problem will likely continue and could expand rapidly. Spores can be blown through the ducts into rooms, lowering air quality and causing health problems.

It can be difficult for you as a homeowner to view any mold, as parts of the system aren’t easily accessible. Technicians use specialized equipment to view inside the HVAC ducts. Ask the technicians to show where mold is present if you have any doubts.

3. How Can I Tell if Mold is Really Growing in the HVAC Air Ducts?

Substances like stains or debris may give the appearance of mold, though they are relatively harmless. For a reasonably small charge (under $100), you can get a sample vetted by a microbiology laboratory and confirm its exact nature. If the result shows a harmless element, you may save unnecessary air duct cleaning costs.

4. If Mold is Present, How are Insulated Ducts Cleaned?

Unfortunately, cleaning is impossible when the insulation material has become wet and then moldy. The insulation should be removed and then a new product inserted. You should make sure that the cause of the moisture and mold entering the HVAC has been identified and repairs made before replacing the insulation.

5. What Do I Do If there are Pests or Vermin in the Air Duct?

It’s bye-bye pests time. If you’ve heard animal noises or noticed an odor of rodents or insect droppings, the pests must be expelled. Either call in a pest controller or see whether local air duct cleaners will get rid of the wildlife and then clean the air ducts. Of course, you will want thorough air duct cleaning after dealing with this problem.

6. Is Visible Dirt and Grime Normal?

If heavy dust and grime are clinging to air vents, then this is probably a good time to consider getting the HVAC ducts cleaned. Continual build-up of dirt will affect air quality in your home, interfering with airflow through the system. In turn, the build-up will make the system work harder, becoming less efficient and raising your energy bills.

7. Should I Allow Chemical Biocides to be Applied in the Air Ducts?

After cleaning mold out of your HVAC, some service providers may want to apply a chemical biocide to destroy any residual spores and stop future infestations. There are pros and cons to the use of these types of substances, and you should judge their use in regard to the circumstances applying in your home. Any potential toxicity should be carefully assessed. However, there are EPA-approved disinfectants and mold-destroying products that should be relatively safe to use.

Local Air Duct Cleaners in Northern Virginia

If you’ve had to ask any of the above questions about your HVAC, then your system is probably overdue for air duct cleaning. At Six Penny Chimney, we provide thorough expert cleaning using Power Vac trucks with industrial strength equipment. After we vacuum dirt, grime, and biological substances out of your ducts, we then use additional tools to remove any clinging substances. Your HVAC will be fresh as a daisy when we’re finished.

If you’re a Northern Virginia resident, get in touch for a free no-obligation quote on air duct servicing. We can also look after your chimney and fireplace inspections, repairs, and any chimney sweeping needs.

4 Common Air Polutants Gathering in Your Home (And What to Do About Them)

Clean, high-quality indoor air is vital to our health. So, it may surprise you to know that the air in your home may contain pollutants at higher levels than outdoors. How does this happen? Well, there are many ways that contaminants and toxins can be brought indoors or produced inside and held in the air that you breathe. Here are four common air pollutants that may be gathering in your home and what to do about them.

1. From the Outdoors In — Radon

Uranium is present in many soils, and as it breaks down, it forms radon gas, releasing it into the atmosphere. Radon’s radioactive properties make it a contaminant to be excluded from the home as much as possible. The gas is implicated in thousands of lung cancer cases in smokers and non-smokers every year.

Radon typically enters homes through cracks and holes in the foundation and gaps in walls. Poor ventilation can then allow the gas to build up to dangerous levels. Radon exposure occurs in every US state.  

How to Remedy

While you cannot eliminate radon from your home, you can reduce it to safe levels. Inexpensive home testing kits are an easy, quick option to show the amount of radon in your home. An unsafe gas level is four picocuries per liter of air (4 pCi/L) and above. Professional technicians can seal problem areas in the house and install venting systems to bring radon to a safe level.

2. The Dangers of Particulate Matter

Eliminating and reducing common air pollutants in your home is a constant chore. This is especially so if you have an open fireplace or use unflued gas or kerosene heaters. As fuel burns, it releases what’s called particulate matter — a mix of tiny solid and liquid particles floating in the air. Smoke, soot, and ash, for example, are frequently found in particulate matter.

When these noxious chemicals are inhaled, they are detrimental to health, especially those who suffer from respiratory illnesses, such as asthmatics.

How to Remedy

You can minimize particulate matter caused by burning fuel by making sure fireplaces, chimneys, and flues are regularly inspected and cleaned. Air duct cleaning is also important in maintaining good air quality in your home.  

3. Molds are Common Air Pollutants

Molds travel through indoor and outdoor air constantly, and in low concentrations, don’t usually cause health problems to people. However, if they find a damp, dark area in your home, attach themselves, and start growing, then that’s a different matter. Mold can spread rapidly, covering large surface areas and damaging the underlying material they are growing on.

From a health perspective, molds can trigger allergies and asthma attacks.

How to Remedy

Mold can be removed with water and detergent and wiped or scrubbed off the surface. Vinegar can also be used by spraying the affected area, leaving for an hour, and then scrubbing off. However, to permanently stop mold, you must find the source of the dampness and fix the cause. For example, if a leak causes the moisture, get that repaired. If the air in your house is too damp, then improve the ventilation and consider investing in a dehumidifier.

4. Inhaling Dust Mites Cause Allergic Reactions

A common cause of allergies in many people result from exposure to dust mites. These microscopic spidery bugs feed off the skin shed by people and burrow into household dust, bedding, carpets, and other fabrics. They are present in most homes, breeding quickly in warm, humid environments.

While live mites themselves aren’t usually in the air we breathe, their waste and dead body parts are. It’s these particles that are inhaled and trigger allergies and asthma.

How to Remedy

The prevalence of dust mites makes them almost impossible to eliminate. However, their numbers are reduced by keeping humidity in the home low. Cleaning sheets weekly, airing blankets and bedcovers, and reducing dust levels in the house will help significantly. Certified asthma and allergy vacuum cleaners can trap more airborne particles stopping dust mite waste from getting into the air.

Local Air Duct Cleaning in North Virginia

The duct and filter components of HVAC systems operate to trap airborne particles, remove stale air and exhaust air and moisture into the outdoors. Therefore, one of the most important ways to eliminate or reduce common air pollutants is by regular air duct cleaning.

You will receive expert peace of mind service by engaging Six Penny Chimney in North Virginia to inspect and clean your chimneys, fireplaces, and HVAC air ducts. Get in touch for a free quote and speedy service to meet all your expectations.

How to Prevent Dryer Vent Clogging and Potential Fire Hazards

Sometimes, it’s the most innocuous things that can spell disaster for households. One of these is the humble air dryer, a commonplace piece of laundry equipment in millions of homes. Across the U.S., more than 15,000 fires a year have been said to be caused by laundry dryers. Most of these fires are attributed to poor dryer vent cleaning. See how to prevent dryer vent clogging (and potential fire hazards) and keep your home safe.

Why Do Laundry Clothes Dryers Catch Fire?

Laundry dryers move and roll wet clothes around inside a dryer drum like the action of a washing machine. However, instead of water, air is drawn into the equipment through vents located on the outside of the machine. Heated and blown through the dryer by fan action, hot air soon dries out the clothing items. During the drying cycle, air continuously flows into the machine, is blown through a lint screen, and vented outside through a rear duct.

Lint, dirt, and fibers are forced from the clothes during the drying process due to the tumbling action and the blowing hot air. As a result, grime and material specks build up within the lint trap and the rear vent duct and, when dry, are highly flammable. As debris builds up, it clogs up the vents, reducing airflow. At best, this buildup slows the time to dry clothes properly. At worst, overheating of the dryer can occur with the lint sparking a fire.

While there are variations, for example, there are ventless dryers, overall, this is the process resulting in a very high percentage of home fires.

How Often Should You Clean the Clothes Dryer?

The National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) provides some startling statistics, showing that up to 92% of home fires have been associated with clothes dryers. Furthermore, the leading cause of these fires has been identified as inadequate dryer vent cleaning.

So how often should the dryer be cleaned? According to Consumer Reports, a non-profit organization that provides independent product reviews, there are two cleaning tasks with dryers:

  1. Clean the lint filter after every clothes load is finished, and
  2. Clean the vents and the rear exhaust duct at least once a year.

Aside from preventing fires, regular maintenance cleaning will minimize clothes drying time and subsequently keep your energy costs lower. 

How to Properly Carry Out Dryer Vent Cleaning

Cleaning the rear exhaust duct thoroughly every year can be a little tricky due to the location. First, after disconnecting the power, the dryer usually must be moved away from the wall. Next, you must manually disconnect the duct from the back of the machine and then use a vacuum to remove as much lint and debris as possible. Finally, you must reconnect the duct, tighten the clamps or other fasteners, and move the dryer back against the wall.

Contact your local service provider if it looks like you’ll need help with dryer vent cleaning.

Some Tips for Preventing Dryer Fires

Aside from regular cleaning, here are a few extra tips to help reduce the odds of a dryer fire in your laundry.

  1.     If you have to go out, don’t leave the dryer on at home while you’re gone. Many dryer fires have happened when the owner has stepped out, causing significant damage before being noticed.
  2.     Never place clothing items that contain plastic or rubber pieces in the dryer. These substances can melt in the heat of the machine and combust.
  3.     Keep drying loads within recommended limits. Overloading dryers puts strain on the motor and may cause overheating.
  4.     Ensure the dryer vents are kept clear of items that may restrict airflow. Again, this may cause overheating and a potential fire to start.
  5.     Pay attention to any burnt smells coming from the dryer when it’s operating. The motor may have overheated, or lint be in a state ready to combust.
  6.     Be extra careful with any clothing soiled with flammable elements, such as gasoline, grease, or oil. It’s best to wash these a couple of times if necessary and hang them on a line to dry. These are substances you don’t want to get into the dryer.

Expert Dryer Vent Cleaning in North Virginia

At Six Penny Chimney, we provide the highest quality cleaning services for chimneys, fireplaces, and clothes dryers. So, if you haven’t checked the dryer lint trap or exhaust duct for some time, it’s probably time to call us in. If you reside in North Virginia, let us give you a free no-obligation quote on our cleaning services.