Whether you own a turn-of-the-century farmhouse with fireplaces in every room, a mid-century modern fixer upper with a furnace, or a 21st-century loft with a thermostat that talks to your phone, maintaining your home’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC) is crucial. From the chimney to the basement, keep your home fit – like its inhabitants, when it’s functioning well, it takes in fresh air, filters it through its lungs, and exhales it back out. When the pipes or the filters get clogged, things get sluggish and can make you and your home sick.
Fireplaces are charming and can augment your modern heating systems, so long as they are well maintained. The most crucial component is the chimney, where creosotes can build up and become highly combustible. In addition to observing safe-burning practices, it’s a good idea to have a professional inspect and clean the chimney regularly.
Change filters on air and water handling appliances – air circulation systems, furnaces, and dehumidifiers – following the directions in their manuals, and keep compressors clear of any obstructions. This will prevent the combustible engines in your appliances from overheating and enable them to do their work effectively.
Replace old thermostats with programmable models, then use them to maintain consistency. Moving the numbers up and down too often minimizes efficiency, but lowering the temps while you are out of the house and bringing them back up as you approach home will lower utility bills without straining your system.
If you feel your home systems are not as efficient as they could be, consider scheduling a professional home-energy audit – there are private inspectors who perform the service, but your utility provider may offer a free or discounted program. Let a professional evaluate the structure of your home and how much energy it loses around doors and windows, water heating, lighting, appliances and heating and cooling systems. You’ll find out what else you can do to maximize the energy efficiency of your home, lower utility costs, improve indoor air quality and maintain your systems safely.
If you replace your HVAC system, consider the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) - the higher the rating, the better – and factor in any future expansions that the system will need to serve. Look for government incentives that can help you manage the costs up front, then watch for the lower utility bills that are likely to come once your home runs more efficiently.
If you’ve ever had a bad cold or asthma, you know how hard it is to function properly when you can’t get air in and out the way your body is supposed to. You and your home will both breathe better when all systems are free, clear and working efficiently!