4 Strategies for Enjoying a Safer, Healthier HVAC System

Clean Air Slide

Residential HVAC systems can provide homeowners and their families with important health benefits as well as comfort. Efficient air circulation can reduce airborne irritants. Effective cooling systems and other components can help control moisture levels in the home while protecting residents against extreme temperatures.

Unfortunately, an HVAC system may fail to deliver these benefits if it develops mechanical or electrical problems, in some cases posing health and safety risks instead of mitigating them. Employ the following four strategies to ensure that your HVAC system provides a safer, healthier environment.

1. Find and Fix Standing Water Problems

HVAC systems dry the air as well as cool it. The evaporator coils contain cold, pressurized refrigerant that chills surrounding air rapidly. The temperature drop causes water vapor to condense. The liquid water drops out of the air and into a drip pan. A hose then drains this water to a tub or other receptacle.
Any malfunction in this part of the system can cause water to accumulate instead of draining normally. The standing water can harbor mold spores, which may produce asthma attacks or allergic reactions when blown through the air ducts. Water can also spill onto electrical components, potentially creating short-circuits.

Standing water in your HVAC system can even present an injury risk. For instance, if an overhead service panel leaks water from a corroded or overfilled drip pan onto a slick floor, occupants could sustain slip-and-fall injuries.

Have your HVAC technician check any water spots or puddles that might stem from your HVAC system. You may need to have corroded parts replaced or unclog a blocked drain line. Make sure that none of the surrounding electrical or mechanical parts show signs of water damage.

2. Control Your Humidity

Standing water represents just one way a poorly functioning HVAC system might encourage mold growth. Mold can also develop throughout your home if your humidity levels remain abnormally high. Check for an evaporator, blower, or condenser failure that keeps the system from removing airborne moisture.

If your humidity problem persists despite normal HVAC operation, ask your HVAC service provider whether you need a smaller system for your home. (Too large an air conditioner may shut on and off too frequently to dehumidify a home properly.) Your technician can also add a separate dehumidifier to your current system.

3. Bust That Dust

Dust, dander, and pollen can affect your respiratory health and comfort just as mold spores can. No matter how carefully you sweep and vacuum your home, new particles will migrate from pets and people onto surfaces. Your HVAC system can help control this problem, but only if it functions as it should.

Air filters placed at the ends of air conditioning ducts can block much of this material. Instead, these items feature a mesh or porous material that allows air to pass through while removing all particles of a certain size from the air.

Eventually, however, the filters become so clogged by dust and dander that they can barely move air at all. The resulting lack of air circulation means that dirty air no longer gets pulled into the ductwork for filtering instead of accumulating until you experience respiratory distress.

You can often avoid this health challenge simply by changing your air filters regularly. If your current filters don’t seem to get the job done, ask your HVAC service technician to recommend more specialized products such as HEPA filters, which can filter out much smaller particles than ordinary filters.

Your airborne particulate problem may require more than a simple filter change. For example, you may need to have your HVAC ducts thoroughly cleaned, or you may want to have an air purifier installed for more comprehensive air filtration.

4. Minimize Fire Hazards

Homeowners should always guard against any conditions or malfunctions that might cause a fire. In addition to obvious dangers posed by lightning strikes or combustion of flammable materials, HVAC system problems can also present fire hazards.

Your HVAC system depends on electricity to operate its moving parts and regulate its processes, from proper thermostat function to power for motors, fans, and belts. As smoothly as this arrangement normally operates, electrical systems can still present potential hazards, including the risk of fires, if they suffer damage.

HVAC electrical damage can occur in gradual or subtle ways. For example, rodents can chew their way through electrical wiring, stripping the wiring of its protective insulation. Wiring connections can even come loose for no obvious reason, posing a fire risk every time they receive electrical current.

Regular HVAC inspections can catch these problems in time to prevent disaster. However, if you smell burning plastic or smoke near your HVAC wiring, shut off the system and seek immediate professional assistance.

Furnaces and heat exchangers can also play a role in household fires. The heat radiated by these items can ignite nearby chemicals, paper products, or other debris. Keep the areas around these components clean and free of garbage and other flammable items.

A little awareness and some proactive strategies can help you keep your HVAC system (and your family) safe and healthy. Contact Derek Sawyer’s Smart Energy Heating & Air for evaluations and repairs.

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