Common Seasonal AllergiesThe most common individual fall seasonal allergy is ragweed, which can travel all over the country through wind currents that pick it up and move it around. Ragweed causes eye and lung irritation symptoms, and is generally felt by those who also suffer from spring allergies as well. In addition, mold is a common allergy trigger that often tends to show up in greater quantities during the fall period. This is because as temperatures get colder, moisture and humidity often increase, which improves the conditions for mold to grow in. Another factor here is leaves piling up around the home, restricting air, holding in water and generally increasing the risk of mold forming.
HVAC MaintenanceThere are several distinct strategies you can take to benefit your home’s air quality while also increasing HVAC efficiency:
- Cleaning: Take time to clean dust, dirt and other debris off every area of the HVAC system, including the outdoor AC condenser. Dust is another common allergy trigger, but one you can significantly reduce within your home through basic cleaning.
- Ducts: Another area to clean is the ducts within your HVAC system, which can also become dusty. You likely won’t be able to clean the entire duct system on your own, but our HVAC pros are happy to help.
- Home cleanliness: Even areas like raking leaves, vacuuming dirt and other household chores will limit allergy risks.
- Filters: Perhaps the most important tactic listed here is changing your HVAC filters, which should be done on a regular basis throughout the year for many reasons. Filters keep the air quality high and your HVAC components functioning optimally.
Other Air Quality ProductsFinally, if you’ve done all the above and are still experiencing allergy or air quality risks, contact our team about our air quality products, which will clean either individual rooms or your entire house and leave you with nothing but healthy air. For more on air quality or any of our other HVAC services such as furnace installation or repair, speak to the staff at Airtime Heating & Cooling today.
Keep an Eye (And an Ear) OutFor starters, maybe the single most valuable thing you can do as a homeowner is simply pay attention to your HVAC system on a regular basis. Once you have a basic idea of how your system operates when it’s functioning properly – how it sounds, how long it runs for during heating or cooling season, how often filters need to be changed, etc. – you should also be able to identify occasions when the system is not operating normally. In many cases, the first signs here are noises like rattling, grinding, buzzing or thumping. In others, you may notice actual performance issues like weak airflow, malfunctioning thermostats or pooling water near indoor units. The keener your eyes and ears are, the sooner you’ll spot these issues and can immediately remedy them before they worsen.
Regular Filter ReplacementEvery 30 to 90 days, depending on the filter type and the details of your system, you should be changing out your air filters. This frequency increases if you have pets in the home, which add to the dust and dander levels in the air. Not only does changing filters at the proper intervals lead to cleaner, healthier air, it also keeps several HVAC components functioning optimally rather than wearing down too quickly.
Cleaning AreasThere are a few areas you can clean regularly to keep your HVAC system in peak shape:
- Vents: Vacuuming in and around vents helps remove dust and dirt that might block airflow.
- Outdoor unit: Outdoor AC condensers need regular maintenance too – make sure they’re free of leaves and other debris, plus cut back any nearby shrubs to give them space to breathe.
- Ductwork: If your home has ductwork, schedule an inspection at least once every couple years with our HVAC technicians to ensure there are no blockages or leaks.
Inspection, Maintenance and Service PlansFinally, involve our team as often as needed to ensure your system stays in good shape and never presents major costs. Our basic inspection and maintenance services are easily affordable on any budget, designed to limit larger risks that come with high price tags down the line. For more on how to keep your HVAC costs low through basic approaches, or to learn about any of our heating and air services, speak to the team at Airtime Heating & Cooling today.
Health and SafetyFor starters, regular inspections of the furnace and overall HVAC system keep everyone in the home safe and healthy. While certain furnace problems might just lead to temperature issues or discomfort, others – such as a cracked heat exchanger, for instance – can be much more serious. In these cases, the risk of carbon monoxide gas entering the home in dangerous amounts is a very real one. However, our HVAC technicians will detect issues like these early and immediately repair them on the spot, heading them off before the main heating season is in full swing.
Detecting Issues and Improving LifespanAnother benefit of this kind of early issue detection: It improves not only the short-term functionality of the furnace, but also its long-term lifespan. Issues in furnaces that aren’t regularly inspected will simply grow over time, often resulting in large-scale problems that require costly repairs or even an early replacement of the system. When you have pros on hand to catch the signs of these problems early, however, you don’t face these risks. Many well-maintained furnaces well exceed their general 15-year average lifespan, and many can work for 20 or more years.
Pressure and EfficiencyA common issue for furnaces that have been unused for several months at a time is a lack of pressure, which can limit the efficiency of the system and raise your energy bill. But our technicians can use professional tools to test your system’s pressure and locate any issues that might be limiting it, improving efficiency and bringing you quality heat for the minimum possible cost.
CleanlinessAnother common result of a furnace sitting idle for the summer: It builds up dust, which if uncleaned will give off a foul burning odor for the first several uses of the furnace during the cold season. Our basic tune-ups will include cleaning these buildups and lubricating any parts that require it.
Warranty AdherenceFinally, if your furnace is on the newer end and is still covered by a manufacturer’s warranty, most such warranties actually require these kinds of regular inspections and tune-ups. If you neglect to schedule them and something goes wrong with the system, requiring replacement, you might find that you’ve voided your warranty and have to cover the cost yourself. For more on why fall furnace inspections and tune-ups are so important, or to learn about any of our HVAC repair services, speak to the staff at Airtime Heating & Cooling today.
Indoor Humidity LevelsEven before you begin to notice cooling issues, which we’ll get to in a moment, you may notice that your space also becomes a bit more humid when refrigerant begins to leak. This is because refrigerant not only pulls hot air from the space, but also moisture content at the same time. Particularly if you notice any condensation or dripping water in strange areas, this could be a sign.
Limited Cooling CapabilityParticularly during the hottest parts of the day, have you noticed that your air conditioner just can’t keep up? The thermostat says a lower number as the target, but the actual temperature stays high. Now, to be clear, this could be due to a refrigerant leak – or one of several other issues. But if you notice this problem along with any of our other signs in this blog, you’re on the right track to finding the cause.
Rising BillsEven if you don’t notice specific issues with your cooling or humidity, you might notice them on the next month’s utility bill. Systems that are compromised have to work harder and harder to cool, which raise your bill in a hurry.
Extended CyclesAnother physical sign you might notice is an air conditioner that runs in extremely long cycles. If your AC is running for a half-hour at a time without stopping, for instance, this is a clear sign that it’s running behind the thermostat and has an issue like a refrigerant leak.
Hissing or BubblingIf you want to test whether one of the issues we’ve listed above is due to a refrigerant leak, turn off your AC system temporarily and go outside to your outdoor condenser unit. Can you hear a bubbling or hissing sound? If so, the issue is almost certainly a refrigerant leak. One note: No hissing or bubbling doesn’t necessarily mean refrigerant isn’t the issue, but in cases where it is, it’s likely not severe – more significant leaks will almost always create this noise.
Ice on CoilsFinally, another clear sign that will help you narrow down refrigerant leaks versus other issues is the presence of ice on the evaporator coils of your outdoor unit. There’s no reason frosty ice crystals should be forming out there in the sun – unless they’re coming from leaking refrigerant, of course, at which time you should call our team. For more on telltale signs your AC has a refrigerant leak, or to learn about any of our HVAC services, speak to the staff at Airtime Heating & Cooling today.
Humidity ControlOne of the simplest ways to limit or completely eliminate dust mites is to control the humidity in your home. Dust mites thrive in higher humidity environments, especially anything above 70 percent; however, they simply cannot survive when the humidity drops below 50 percent, and anything up to 55 percent will not encourage their growth. If you’re concerned about dust mites, head to your local home improvement store and buy a basic humidity detector – they’re very cheap. From here, test the various rooms in your home for their humidity. If rooms are too high, consider purchasing a dehumidifier or simply leaving windows open for a few days to even things out.
Clean, Clear DuctsOne of the top areas for harboring several allergen types, including dust mite excrement or skin? Dirty, unkept air ducts. Not only will cleaning these regularly help keep your system functioning at peak capacity throughout the year, it will also limit any allergen deposits and help you control air quality more effectively.
Vacuuming ConsiderationsIf you have carpet in your home, it should be vacuumed regularly for the sake of those with allergies. While doing so, if you’re one of the people in the home with allergies, we recommend wearing a mask and then leaving the room for a few minutes afterward.
FloorsWe mentioned carpet above – if you’re moving into a new home soon and have a choice in the matter, we recommend hardwood flooring instead. If your current home has major dust mite or other allergy issues, you could consider replacing carpet with a hard floor.
HVAC ProsOn top of everything we’ve discussed here, it’s important to speak with our heating and air professionals about the ways you can go about preventing dust mites and other allergens from becoming a problem. We’re happy to offer high-level expertise on the proper filters needed, air purifier options, humidity control and any other areas you need assistance with. For more on any of our air quality services, or to learn about our HVAC programs today, speak to the staff at Airtime Heating & Cooling.
Changing FiltersChanging filters in the HVAC system is vital for a couple reasons. For starters, it ensures that the air remains clean and healthy in the home. For another, clean filters prevent the buildup of dust and other debris – buildups that, over time, can wear down several major HVAC components while also raising your monthly heating or cooling bills. Changing furnace filters is extremely easy, and landlords with trusted tenants can usually rely on them to do this as necessary. Most filters require changing roughly once a month, while some others may last for multiple months. As a landlord, you should always have at least one backup filter on hand at your rental properties, and more than one if possible. If your tenants are not reliable, you can place a clause in the rental agreement that allows for you to come and change the filters regularly.
Replacing HVAC ComponentsFor some landlords, it can be tempting to let certain HVAC issues linger – you aren’t living in the space, after all, and many HVAC issues are relatively minor. This is a major risk, though, in large part because you could be risking the health of various components in the system. Replacing or repairing worn down components will increase your energy efficiency, plus make it last longer.
Vacant PropertiesAs a landlord, you may deal with periods of vacancy in between your tenants. These periods allow you to be a bit more relaxed with your HVAC system – you can turn the thermostat off during the summer if no one is living there, for instance, and you can lower it to between 50 and 55 degrees during winter. The only reason you must maintain this temperature during winter is to prevent frozen pipe issues. Just be sure to check in regularly during vacant periods to make sure there are no building issues, such as rising humidity or mold growth.
Checking InSpeaking of checking in, this is a great way to keep things functioning well during the day-to-day operations with a tenant in place as well. By “checking in,” we really just mean regularly communicating with your tenants – actually showing up to the property unannounced is almost always prohibited under standard rental agreements. But simply asking your tenants about any issues regarding the HVAC system or heating and cooling concerns can go a long way. For more on maintaining your property’s HVAC system as a landlord, or to learn about any of our heating or cooling services, speak to the pros at Airtime Heating & Cooling today.
Initial Inspection Before BuyingFirst things first: Whether or not you’re planning to rent a home after buying it, a major part of your inspection process should involve the HVAC system and its various components. All home purchases should be made after a professional third-party inspection and appraisal, one where this objective party can let you know if there are any issues with the air conditioner, furnace, water heater, vents and several other related areas. If such issues are present, you have a couple options. The first will be to demand a price reduction, which you’ll often get. The second would be to require that the seller attend to the issues themselves before you pay their original asking price. In either case, don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of and discover HVAC issues after you’ve already signed the paperwork.
General Landlord ApproachWe’re often asked by our clients, particularly those attempting landlord services for the first time, how to approach this situation. Our broad recommendation: Proceed as if you expect nothing out of your tenants. Of course, many good tenants will be diligent about their HVAC responsibilities. They will change furnace and AC filters regularly if you provide replacement filters, for instance, and will keep an eye out for signs of HVAC issues and report back to you. Unfortunately, though, not all tenants are like this – many will neglect these responsibilities, even if they’re in the lease. You have to be prepared for the lowest common denominator here: Assume you have to do everything when it comes to HVAC care, and adjust accordingly if your tenants prove otherwise.
Standard MaintenanceGenerally speaking, the primary role of a landlord with regard to the HVAC system is checking in for standard maintenance. The landlord is in charge of bi-annual tune-ups, for instance, during which components can be inspected to ensure they’re functioning properly. This will not only keep you in compliance will all laws and regulations, but will also extend the life of several components and save you money in the long run. For more on how to operate as a landlord when it comes to HVAC care, or to learn about any of our heating or air conditioning services, speak to the pros at Airtime Heating & Cooling today.
Different Warranty TypesNot all warranties are created equal in the HVAC world, and not all are even termed in the same ways either. Here are some broad warranty types to consider:
- Guarantee: Generally provided by manufacturers, this is less a warranty and more a promise that covers previous equipment and manufacturing processes. Essentially, it guarantees that everything was made properly and will function as expected, with no additional charge to you as a customer. If this guarantee is not met, a free exchange is usually allowed.
- Manufacturer’s warranty: Unlike a guarantee, this is a specific legal document provided by the manufacturer that states a few specific things. For one, it identifies a period of time the warranty extends for. From here, it states that certain faulty parts or products will be covered during this period of time, with specifics on which kinds of damage are covered (some warranties will cover user error while others won’t, for instance).
- Labor warranty: In some cases, HVAC companies like ours will offer labor warranties that cover system installations and any resulting issues.
- Extended warranty: Sometimes available from either manufacturers or installers, an extended warranty provides additional protection, usually for an extra cost.
Areas to ConsiderAs we noted above, not all warranties are created equal when it comes to HVAC materials – they can differ between areas, components and even manufacturers. Our HVAC installation technicians are happy to answer any questions you have on warranties, which can often make the difference in which product you select and which you discard. Here are some areas to consider asking about:
- Sold home: If you happen to sell your home during the life of a warranty, what will happen to the warranty? Will it transfer to new owners?
- Invalidation: Are there any behaviors or events I need to avoid that might invalidate or void my warranty?
- Lifetime warranty: This is a term used by some manufacturers, but it can be misleading in some cases. Does “lifetime” refer to the person buying the part, the part itself, the home, or what? Ask for specifics here if this kind of warranty is being offered.
- Warranty access: If something does go wrong that’s covered by a warranty, how easy is it to utilize the warranty quickly and efficiently?