By Stephanie Hell
Your furnace or heater has been running for the entire winter, and although the cold temperatures haven’t changed, maybe the heat in your home has.
Maybe you’re starting to hear ominous noises coming from the basement. The air is dry and the static electricity is driving you crazy. Maybe you’re not just imagining it that your house hasn’t felt quite so cozy lately.
Before you tumble down the rabbit hole of second-guessing your best guess, read these sure signs that your HVAC system needs a checkup, and then you’ll know what to do next.
1. The Dust is Uncontrollable
If you are dusting the furniture and wood floors every day, there’s probably something going on. Keep in mind your furnace or heater is constantly recycling the same air over and over.
If you are getting too much dust or dirt cycling throughout the air, it could be a few things, but probably easy to fix. It may be leaky ductwork. If there are small holes or tears in the duct system, dust and dirt from attic space or the basement may be getting into the forced air system.
There are some simple procedures to patch the holes, and the tears can be sealed with mastic. You’ll want to have a professional do the work as they are trained to find the culprits, and a do-it-yourselfer may miss small leaks.
The common mistake of using duct tape to repair ducts is well documented. The heat in the system will quickly reduce the patch job to clingy mush.
You may need new filters. There’s a reason HVAC professionals make a point to tell their customers to regularly change their filters. The filters are designed to protect the system from damage, and when the filter gets clogged, all that dirt and dust is being blown into your home, as it also significantly reduces the efficiency of the system. When the system is running constantly in the winter, the filters can become clogged much quicker. The system needs cleaning.
If you are using a furnace, it may need a thorough cleaning. This is a very easy job, and very inexpensive.
2. There are Strange Noises
First, try to find out exactly where the noise is coming from, and then try and get a clear idea of what the noise might be. If the noise is emanating from the vents, there may be something stuck behind the vent or in the duct. It is pretty astonishing what some HVAC professionals have found in there. Mold, debris, mice, and rats are all common occurrences. Eww! Of course, this is also a job best left to the professional.
If the noise is coming from the system itself, and it sounds like metal is rubbing against metal, there may be some damage to the fan, or it may just need to be tightened. These are minor issues that can be quickly repaired. The worst case is the fan needs to be replaced, and if that’s the case, it’s best to turn the system off and call for service ASAP.
If you have a furnace and hear a loud “POP!” when the system turns on, the furnace burners may need cleaning as the noise may be warning you there’s a delay in them igniting the gas. The popping noise may also come from metal ducts expanding, but may also signal the ducts are too small for your system. Make sure to get a technician out to check the burners and clean if necessary. This is not something to put off for too long. If you hear more whining and high pitched squealing from the system than a cranky 2-year old, this could signal a frayed motor belt or shaft bearings in need of oil. Both can be easily fixed by a professional.
The most important sign your HVAC may need some help is your comfort. If you notice less heat and less comfort, the best thing to do is make sure your HVAC system is running efficiently. It will not only make your home more comfortable, but saves money over the long haul. By signing up for a twice-a-year maintenance checkup, any issues can be found and addressed before the winter and summer seasons.
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