Winter HVAC System Check

There is a bit of a chill in the air as the calendar reads closer to winter. A fully functioning heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system is important through the colder winter months, whether one resides in frigid Fairbanks, Alaska (the nation’s coldest city), or in warm-weather states such as Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina or Alabama.

There are several types of home heating systems according to About.com and its home repair pages, and all of them require seasonal adjustments.

Forced Air System

The forced air system is the most common home heating and cooling system. In this system, air heats in a furnace and flows through ducts into various rooms in the home. The forced air system is relatively inexpensive and it works for both heating and air conditioning.

Radiant Heating System

The radiant heating system derives from several sources, including in-floor water tubes or even coal- or wood-burning potbelly stoves. An in-floor system distributes hot water generated from an energy-efficient boiler and is fueled by propane, oil, electricity or gas.

Baseboard System

Baseboard systems are either electric resistance coils or tubes that carry steam or hot water behind shallow panels. These systems are mounted along baseboards and operate similar to a radiant heating system. Baseboard systems are quiet and energy-efficient.

Steam Radiant System

The one- or two-pipe steam radiators are cast iron. They distribute heat through steam pipes. Very few modern homes utilize these nostalgic steam radiators.

No matter which system you use in your home, there are seasonal steps Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Alabama homeowners should take routinely to keep their HVAC system operating smoothly.

Conduct regular moisture checks. Any leaks or breaks in the air barrier around pipes, walls or roof connection points can cause unbalanced airflow. This is more problematic during the warm summer months when high humidity causes moisture condensation in air-conditioned homes. If your HVAC system creates moisture condensation, consider taping or sealing ducts to prevent duct leaks.

Check HVAC air filters monthly. Dust and pet hair accumulates on air filters, inhibiting air flow. If you have pets, you may want to change filters more frequently or spend a little extra for higher-quality or washable air filters.

Check your drain pans regularly. Clear any obstruction so that water flows smoothly into the drain. Household bleach can help to prevent dirt, algae, grass or rust from inhibiting the drain. Roof condensate may also be a sign of a clogged drain and over time can lead to roof leaks and other damage.

Inspect your furnace burner before the weather gets too cold. Make certain the furnace flame is blue with a yellow tip. It is often difficult to find the flame inside the furnace. If you have difficulty finding the flame, or if the flame looks odd, contact an HVAC professional for assistance. Propane flame should be bluish green with a bit of yellow at the tip. Natural gas flame should be bright blue with a yellow trace at the tip, as well. Visit this link for more information on what to look for in a normal furnace flame.

Check any gas exhaust area, including chimneys and vents. Make sure the air flows freely from the exhaust areas.

Beware of a cracked heat exchanger, known as the “firebox.” This furnace component divides the combustion function of the furnace from the air supply side. The heat exchanger separates dangerous carbon monoxide gases from the air supply. Clearly, a cracked heat exchanger is a dangerous condition. If you see any flame outside the heat exchanger, chances are it is cracked. Immediately contact your HVAC pro to fix this serious problem.

If your HVAC system has air coils, they tend to collect dust. Vacuum the coils regularly to help keep the coils free of dust, pet hair and dirt.

Some heating systems require much more diligence. Wood-burning stoves, pellet stoves and space heaters can be especially hazardous when used improperly. Make sure there is adequate clearance surrounding these heaters. Protect all fireplaces with a glass or metal screen. Never use a flammable liquid to ignite a fireplace flame.

Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Alabama homeowners should plan to ensure proper maintenance and utilize safe operating practices for their heating systems. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety offers a thorough checklist for HVAC systems.

For a seasonal insurance policy review for North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida or Alabama homeowners insurance needs, talk to a Frontline Insurance Agent today. If you are not currently a Frontline partner, visit our website for a free quote.

Please remember that the comments contained in this blog are general in nature and that coverage under any specific policy of insurance will depend upon the terms and conditions of such policy.