Green Business Bureau Blog
Keeping Your HVAC Systems Healthy
Only a few years ago Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems were only used in large industrial buildings. HVAC units use a single system to provide heating and cooling to a building. Today, HVAC systems can be found in most newly built homes. With over forty percent of utility costs going to heating and cooling, consumers can save almost half that cost by consolidating their equipment into a single HVAC system.
As with everything, there will always be two sides of the story. Yes, there can be a savings in utility bill costs, but the systems have to be maintained and cleaned carefully and often. The failure to maintain and clean HVAC systems can cause a multitude of health and hazard problems. The parts of a system that make it efficient are the same parts that can cause hazards: insulation, single heat source, forced air, and duct work.
Warm and Fuzzy
One important task when choosing a house with an already installed HVAC system, or if you are planning to have one installed in a home you are building or retrofitting, is the insulation. There is a great chance in older homes that the insulation used for the ducting could contain asbestos. Before it was found to be a carcinogen, asbestos was used widely because of its ability to fire proof and insulate cost effectively. Even though not all asbestos cause cancer, just saying the word terrifies people enough that your house might be unsellable. Because of the difficulty in cleaning out asbestos whether carcinogen causing or not, it is best to avoid houses that have it already or companies that still use it.
Light My Fire
Every HVAC system has to have a heat source; however, that heat source must be annually maintained and cleaned to ensure that it is functioning properly. No matter the heat source in the home, a carbon monoxide detector is key. Every year, thousands of people become sick with carbon monoxide poisoning. This deadly gas is odorless and replaces the oxygen in the air. An improperly functioning furnace can cause carbon monoxide to be released straight into the forced air system, pumping the deadly gas into every room. The effects can be subtle if the problem is minor, but the end results can be major with death as a possibility if not caught early.
Huff and Puff
Before heated air is forced throughout the home, a filter system is in place between the heat source and the duct work. There is also a filter on the intake side of the heater. These filters are important because they not only keep dust and bugs out of the home, but with proper HEPA certified filters they keep out bugs of the micro kind. Another major health hazard with HVAC systems is that microbes and bacteria can form and thrive in the heated air. These fungus, mildew, and bacteria can then spread through home being pumped right into all the living spaces. This is the main cause for the term developed decades ago, called a “sick building”. If the filters are not changed frequently and the duct work not cleaned often, then the microbes can become severe enough to cause sickness, asthma, and even hospitalization.
Duct, Duct, Goose
Be sure that the duct work has no leaks, is not dented, and is cleaned. Dented duct work can make cleaning difficult and can give bacteria and fungi a protected place to grow and become silent monsters in the night. Leaks in the duct work can allow unfiltered air into spaces and also causes the system to expend more energy since the heated or cooled air is not reaching its destination. If the outside air is not clean, say due to construction nearby, then that dirty air could potentially be pumped at pressure straight into your home.
Let It Breath
Care needs to be taken to not be over zealous in sealing the home. Making sure that windows and doors are sealed properly to not allow heat loss is a must in saving energy. However, going overboard and not letting the house “breath” can cause health problems in their own respect because there is not enough fresh air being circulated into the house. Ensure your safety by making sure that the professionals installed the HVAC system do a seal test to make sure after installation that the home is bringing in enough fresh air and no excessive leaks are happening. Keep your system well maintained, and update to a new Energy Star efficient model if your system is more than 10 years old, and you can keep that fine balance between your pocket book and your health. Wholesale Goodman Air Conditioner.