Tag Archive for: HVAC Maintenance

How Bad Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger?

An HVAC with a gas furnace generates heat for the home by burning gas and using a heat exchanger unit. Air blowing through the HVAC ductwork heats up as it passes over the mechanism, warming the dwelling. Any damage to the heat exchanger is hazardous, as this is where toxic exhaust gasses collect before being vented outdoors. So, how bad is a cracked heat exchanger, what are the dangers, and how will you know if it happens to you? Find the answer here.

How Does a Heat Exchanger Get Damaged?

Subject to intense temperature swings and heavy use during wintry weather, the stress on heat exchangers can result in what is known as thermal fatigue. This damage results in cracks forming in the equipment and gas leaks developing.

Additional strain on the heat exchanger increases by the furnace not being the right size for the home area needing heat. Other stressors include obstructed airflow from dirty filters and blocked vents. Neglecting annual maintenance raises the likelihood of damage happening unnoticed. Over time, even the best-looked-after HVAC wears out, needing repair or replacement.

What Happens When a Heat Exchanger Breaks?

Fire Hazards Take Hold

Damage to the exchanger unit can result in dangerous fires. Gas leaking from the exchanger unit results in the wrong mix of gas and air needed to keep a steady, safe combustion process working. As a result, the exhaust gasses can build up to an explosive level, and a furnace fire can take hold.

Deadly Gas Leaks into the Home

In properly operating home heating systems, harmful exhaust gasses vent out of the home via a flue. However, blockages and damage to equipment can interfere with the venting process, forcing a build-up of gas in the system and release into the home’s air.

The critically serious problem resulting from a cracked heat exchanger is the release of carbon monoxide — the deadly odorless gas. As it seeps through cracks in the equipment, the poisonous gas mixes with the air blowing through the ducts into the home.

Every year in the US, more than 50,000 people are rushed to emergency departments suffering from accidental carbon monoxide exposure. And more than 400 people die annually from inhaling the deadly gas.

How Do You Know You’ve Got a Cracked Heat Exchanger?

It may not be immediately evident that there’s HVAC damage, particularly where tiny fissures and breaks are just beginning in the exchanger. However, a quick inspection of the furnace and heat exchange unit may show visible signs that something is amiss:

  • The furnace flame should be a consistent blue color. A yellow hue shows the gas and air mix is out of kilter.
  • See whether there is soot collecting around and in the heat exchanger unit. The soot shows there is a problem with the gas-burning process.

As carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, you’re unlikely to identify that such a leak is happening by visually inspecting the exchanger unit. However, there are several carbon monoxide symptoms to look out for. If family members are suddenly getting headaches, feeling giddy, nauseous, or throwing up, these are indicators your heating system might be the culprit. Other signs include coughing, chest pains, and mental confusion.

Turn off the HVAC, quickly get medical treatment, and then your next step should be to contact your local HVAC company for emergency assistance.

What to Do — Repair or Replacement?

If inspection and assessment of your HVAC by qualified technicians have shown that a cracked heat exchanger is indeed your problem, it’s time to think about replacing or upgrading your system.

Furnaces, heat exchangers, and other components of your heating equipment are typically manufactured to last between 10 to 20 years. So, if your system has reached that age it’s probably time to upgrade. On the other hand, if there’s plenty of life left in the furnace, you can opt to replace the heat exchanger but expect this to cost several thousand dollars.

Additionally, if you haven’t already got a carbon monoxide monitor in place, the value of such a device should now be apparent. It’s a minor expense for protection for the family.

Avoid Carbon Monoxide Risk in Northern Virginia

Servicing Northern Virginia and nearby counties, Briggs HVAC is your go-to company for keeping your home heating and cooling systems in peak condition. With an HVAC Maintenance Plan, you will avoid the dangers of unexpected wear and tear to your heat exchanger. And if you face such a problem, get in touch with us, and our emergency assistance technicians will be with you as quickly as possible.

What’s in Your Ductwork?

Keeping your HVAC ductwork clean and in good condition is essential to achieving high-quality air in your home. Lack of regular maintenance and HVAC servicing is the number one cause of pests and pathogens in system ducts. So, do you know what’s in your ductwork? You may be shocked to find what ductwork contaminants are in your system.

Here are Several Common Problems to Look Out For:

Signs Your HVAC Servicing is Overdue

If you can’t remember when HVAC servicing was last carried out, your home may be experiencing some unpleasant consequences. Nasty odors, and noises like rattling, squeaking, and squealing that seem to be coming from the HVAC are clear signs that equipment inspection should be done pronto. Additionally, you may notice a smell of dust in the air, or sudden mustiness, or family members may be experiencing intense allergy symptoms.

Large, Furry, or Feathery Intruders

Old houses are prone to wear and tear, creating openings in external and internal walls. These small gaps entice and enable many types of rodents to work their way inside and make their homes inside wall cavities and ductwork. Let’s talk about mice and rats, for starters.

If your HVAC vents through a chimney, there’s also the potential for storm damage to the chimney cap and more furry and feathered friends to install themselves through openings from the roof. Furthermore, as an HVAC system ages, normal wear and tear will also contribute to gaps and weaknesses in the ductwork providing entryways for small critters.

Small and Creepy Invaders

If rodents and birds can make a nuisance of themselves in chimney structures and ductwork, then it’s even easier for tiny and not-so-tiny, creeping, crawling, and scuttling nuisances to come inside. Insects and arachnids that frequent HVAC ducts include dust mites, spiders, cockroaches, and silverfish.

Your unwelcome lodgers can breed quickly in the cavities, sheltered nooks, and crannies of ducts. A small problem can soon become an explosion in numbers and a significant headache to get rid of. Fortunately, many HVAC companies perform basic pest control as part of their servicing and will readily capture and dispose of small critters.

Hidden but Toxic Ductwork Contaminants

It’s usually fairly obvious when rodents or birds make themselves at home where they’re not wanted. Still, the less obvious ductwork contaminants can be highly detrimental to the air quality in your home or workplace. Organic pollutants include fungal and mold spores, pollen particles, and harmful bacteria and virus spores. These airborne particles can easily make their way into the ducts from the outdoors.

Your first sign that these microscopic particles may be lodged in your HVAC ducts is when you or yours develop respiratory symptoms.  Excessive sneezing, coughing, a tendency to develop sinus problems, colds, and flu can all be signs that pollutants are present in heavy concentrations in the air. Over time too much exposure to these pollutants can weaken the immune system in susceptible people and cause constant respiratory problems. Reducing such health risks requires that air filters be regularly changed and upgraded to HEPA filtration levels if necessary.

How Regular HVAC Servicing Prevents and Removes Problems

Professional, qualified HVAC technicians follow strict processes when servicing your HVAC. They inspect, lubricate, and adjust moving parts, including motors, belts, controls, and valves. Air measurements are performed to ensure there are no blockages or leaks and that blower mechanisms are working correctly. Thermostat controls are checked along with electrical connections.

The ductwork is inspected to identify and repair any gaps that have allowed entry by animals or biological pollutants. Air filters are inspected and replaced.

Removing Pests and Pollutants

If large rodents such as squirrels, snakes, or raccoons have invaded, a professional pest control company may have to be called in before HVAC cleaning begins. Insects can be blown out of the system as the ducts are cleaned and vacuumed. Industrial-strength vacuums can also remove small dead creatures such as mice and spiders.

Severe contamination levels may require pesticides, antiseptics, or disinfectants to be applied. The Environmental Protection Agency lists registered and recommended products that can be used for cleaning purposes.

Tackle Ductwork Problems with Your Local HVAC Experts

Briggs HVAC is your local Northern Virginia for all HVAC maintenance and servicing. Our technicians give superior service, expertly inspecting, cleaning, and remediating your HVAC equipment. With a regular maintenance plan, you get a twice-yearly service and head off a host of potential problems. Servicing includes ensuring your equipment is properly sealed to prevent animals and other ductwork contaminants. Contact us today for more details

Fall HVAC Maintenance Tips to Follow & Why

The summer months are all about trying to beat the heat and leaning heavily on the air conditioner in your home to keep things comfortable. If you have a traditional, centralized HVAC system, this means your chilled air is running through the ducts and into every room in your home.

However, this same series of ducts and vents is going to continue to be used in autumn and winter as temperatures drop and you switch back to your furnace to stay warm and toasty. Once the seasons change, you should think about conducting fall HVAC maintenance.

Your Filter Needs Changing

For central HVAC systems, a filter change is part of tried-and-true HVAC maintenance. The filter in your furnace works continuously, as long as your air conditioner is on. It screens out harmful particulates that can affect your air quality. However, as a physical screen, it can fill up eventually. When that happens, it can actively block airflow, causing your HVAC system to work harder and longer than it needs to. And that means you pay higher bills.

The recommended interval to change filters is every 90 days or three months. In other words, when you see that the season is changing, it’s time to put in a new filter.

Clean Your Vents

The air vent or “register” that you find on the floor of every room is the exit point where warm or cool air is pumped, helping to adjust the room temperature to the desired level. These vents receive dirt, dust, and other particles from two directions. They get dirty because of dirt in the rooms themselves, such as fur from pets or lint from fabrics. But they also trap any dirt coming from the ventilation duct network.

So, if you haven’t taken a close look at these registers in some time, now is your opportunity. Proper heating and cooling is about unobstructed airflow. Take some time to clean out those registers.

Check for Leaks & Drafts

Over the course of the summer, there may have been accidents in and around the house. Or, the weather may have blown through with an intense storm that took off shingles and damaged windows. Time and weather may have weakened some parts of your home’s structure, such as sealant around pipes and window frames. Rodents and other animals may have damaged the exterior or interior of your home, such as insulation barriers.

When your house’s seals and insulation are compromised, your air treatment system isn’t as effective. For instance, in the winter, warm air will start to escape areas of your house, and cold air can also enter. Don’t ignore even the smallest hole or other structural weakness. Leaving them open and exposed also paves the way for rodents and other pests to get into your home. If you don’t want your home to be a refuge for pests in the winter or to raise your heating bills, plug those holes up.

Get an Energy Audit

If you want to see how many ways you can reduce your energy bills, consider getting an experienced professional to conduct an energy audit. An energy audit is a specialized type of inspection. It’s where the energy auditor looks over your home and evaluates just how energy-efficient and well-insulated your home is.

A proper audit can track down leaks, tell you where you are losing money, and tell you what you can do to improve your energy efficiency. Improvements may include getting new insulation or upgrading your HVAC if it is very old. Regardless of the results, it’s up to you to decide if and how you want to follow the auditor’s advice.

Get an Expert Inspection & Maintenance

If you want to keep your home secure and your HVAC system running optimally, let the pros handle HVAC maintenance. This way, you have professionals examining your furnace and getting it ready for another season. They will also conduct important maintenance such as cleaning out the air ducts, which is difficult to do on your own.

If you’d like to have the peace of mind that comes from professional inspections and HVAC maintenance, contact us today. We’re ready to get your HVAC system back up to speed.