Vents and RegistersAll air that makes its way to you in the home will pass through your vents and registers within the HVAC system, so caring for these areas is very important. Without attention, vents and registers will build up dust over the course of the year, which in turn makes your air tougher to breathe. Luckily, preventing this is easy. Just use the wand attachment on your vacuum, or even a traditional duster attachment, to reach to these areas and cut down on dust flowing around your home’s air.
FiltersAnother element your air will pass through before reaching you is the filter in your furnace. You should be taking care to check and replace filters throughout the year, to be sure, but this job just takes on increased importance during the winter when there are fewer paths to fresh air in the home. If you have pets, you should be changing your filters even more often than the factory recommendations state.
Thermostat FanAs long as you have updated filters in your furnace, running the fan on your thermostat is a great way to cycle air and clean it out. The fan will automatically run during heating cycles, but you can turn it from “Auto” to “On” and cause it to run all the time. This will continuously run the home’s air through the filter and make it cleaner – but it will also raise your utility bill, so use this tactic sparingly.
Ceiling Fan BladesAnother common area for dust accumulation is on ceiling fans, so you should clean these regularly during winter. In addition, consider flipping the direction of the ceiling fan in winter so the blades move clockwise – this will create an updraft that helps with warming.
Duct CleaningThe worst dust and allergen buildups in the HVAC system often take place in the duct system, where it can be tough to reach on your own or even see in many cases. If you think this might be an issue in your home, talk to us about professional duct cleaning.
Air FiltrationFinally, consider a whole-home indoor air quality machine like our “Clean Effects” device from Trane. Not only does this technology clean all contaminants from your air, it also helps with humidity control as well. If you have consistent air quality issues, this is a great outlet to consider. For more on keeping indoor air quality high during winter, or to learn about any of our HVAC services, speak to the pros at Airtime Heating & Cooling today.
Optimal Humidity LevelsWhen we talk about humidity levels, we’re really discussing “relative humidity,” which refers to the level of water vapor in the air as a percentage of the total saturation point of that air. In general, you want your relative humidity level in the home to range between 30 and 50 percent – you can easily test these levels using a hygrometer, which can be purchased at any Home Depot or similar hardware store. In some climates, humidity will ebb and flow fairly significantly based on what season it is. Winter might see dryer air, with relative humidity levels below 30 percent, while the hot sun can lead to levels well above 60 percent in the summer.
Effects of Improper LevelsOccasional departures from the optimal humidity ranges won’t do much damage, but homes that are consistently outside of this range could present some issues. These issues are found in both personal health and in problems with e home’s structure. They include:
- Skin problems: Conditions like eczema, chapped lips or psoriasis can be significantly worsened by air that’s too dry.
- Mold or mildew growth: On the other end of the spectrum, air that’s too humid can lead to mold and mildew growth in the home – this, in turn, can cause significant respiratory illnesses and other health conditions.
- Smells: Too much moisture from an overly humid home will produce a dank, musty smell that can make certain people feel sick.
- Wood damage: Wood in the home can crack or splinter if it’s too dry, but can also warp if its infused with too much moisture.
Steps to TakeWhether your home is too dry or too moist, there are solutions out there. We have products from Aprilaire and Trane that can help with both humidifying and dehumidifying, depending on which your home needs. These include whole-home options if the entire home is affected, or singular options if you only need solutions for a room or two. For more on humidity in the home, or to learn about any of our HVAC services, speak to the staff at Airtime Heating & Cooling today.
Fall is in full swing, and that means it’s an important time of year for several basic HVAC considerations. One of the most important of these is the furnace, which will be your central resource for combatting the cold of winter once the snow hits.
At Airtime Heating & Cooling, we’re here to help. Our furnace tune-up services are always available if you need a quick bit of maintenance, and we can provide furnace repair if something is broken. As a homeowner, there are also a few things you can do on your own to prep the furnace for winter. Here are a few good examples.
First Time Use
If you haven’t already gotten your furnace warmed up and primed, now is definitely the time. After months without use, the furnace collects dust, which may also collect inside vents. This can create an odor as the dust is burned out of the furnace, but this should come and go in just a few minutes if you have good air circulation. If it lingers for hours, call our technicians for a tune up.
Other precautions you should take when you’re just getting the furnace going:
Change the filter: This should be done every few weeks or so, depending on your usage.
Clear the area: If the furnace is in a storage area of your home, remove any flammable materials left near it. These can be fire hazards.
Test thermostat: Even if the thermostat was working well over the summer, the winter can be a different animal. Take a digital thermometer into each room and make sure the thermostat is heating areas evenly.
Preparations for the Cold
Once the furnace has been warmed up for the season, there are a few other things to consider:
Weather stripping: Have weather stripping on all windows and doors examined, and replace it if it’s worn.
Chimney: If you have a wood-burning fireplace that you use during the winter, have your chimney inspected before your first fire.
Trees: Trim any tree limbs that could fall on power lines or through windows.
Carbon monoxide detectors: Test all your carbon monoxide detects – cracked furnace heat exhangers are some of the most common causes of carbon monoxide leaks, and the furnace is under more pressure during this season.
Oversized FurnaceIn many cases, the problem that leads to short-cycling can be traced back to installation. A furnace that’s oversized or too big for the installation space will consume far too much energy while it tries to achieve your thermostat setting. This process causes warm air to be distributed improperly, and can cause short-cycling. This can drive up energy bills, and can also cause significant wear and tear on the furnace fan. If you aren’t sure whether this is the reason for your short-cycling, contact our experts for help.
OverheatingIn some other cases, the furnace might be shutting itself down early to protect from overheating damage. Furnaces that overheat create risks of cracks in the exchanger – these can lead to life-threatening risks from carbon monoxide. Overheating is generally caused by restricted airflow trapping hot air near the heat exchanger, often the result of a dirty air filter or blocked vents.
Thermostat MalfunctionsFinally, the thermostat itself might be the cause of short-cycling. A malfunctioning thermostat can lead to numerous heating issues, including short-cycling. In addition, a thermostat that’s improperly installed too close to a heat source can cause short-cycling – the thermostat thinks the temperature is higher than it actually is in this case. For more on short-cycling, or to find out about our furnace tune-up services, speak to the pros at Airtime Heating & Cooling today.
- MERV 1-4: Filters that catch large particles like dust, mites, pollen, carpet fibers, insects, and various pieces of insect waste. Most common for residential HVAC systems.
- MERV 5-8: Catch finer particles, mold spores, pet dander and aerosol sprays. Used in some homes, and in most commercial areas.
- MERV 9-12: Filters that grab auto emissions, welding fumes, lead dust and certain larger bacteria. These are rarely used in homes.
- MERV 13-16: Heavy-duty filters that catch all ranges of bacteria along with smoke, oil droplets and even sneezing particles. These are mostly used in hospitals and surgical centers.
- MERV 17-20: These catch viruses, carbon dust and the smallest smoke particles. Generally used in clean rooms where sensitive medicines or electronics are produced.