February is a busy time for doctors and veterinarians—it’s the peak season for dog flu and human flu! I know a lot about both, since a) I’m a dog, and b) hang around a lot of humans. But did you know there’s another member of your household that can also get “sick” this time of year? It’s your HVAC system—and I have advice on how you can keep your HVAC system healthy during this time of the year, as well as the rest of the year. A healthy HVAC system means a healthier household overall—for pets and humans!
The Heating System Self-Exam
The best way to see that your heating system stays in good health is to give it a self-exam so you can catch early the symptoms that something is wrong. How can you do this exam? It’s not difficult!
First, even if you don’t need to use your heating system, please turn it on at least once per season so you can make these checks. If you’re already using the heater, you can go right into looking for signs of potential problems.
If you use a gas-powered heating system, such as a furnace, look at the pilot light. It should be burning blue, strong, and steady. If other colors are showing, or the flame is flickering, there may be trouble with the gas line.
Make sure your home is equipped with carbon monoxide detectors. These can potentially save your life if there’s a gas leak since gas is colorless and odorless. Test the carbon monoxide detectors to see if they need new batteries. (Even if the CO detectors are hardwired, they still need a back-up battery in case of a power outage.)
Change the air filter for the heater at least every three months. If you’ve got pets in your home, or your home is dusty, I recommend bumping this up to every month.
Do you have a whole-house humidifier? I recommend having one installed if dry air is causing your nasal passages to dry up—making it much easier to pick up a cold or flu—or is drying your skin. Plus, balanced humidity makes it easier to stay warm, and you won’t need to have the heater work as much.
The Air Conditioning System Self-Exam
You may not be using the AC yet, but you’ll need it soon, and it’s a vital part of the HVAC system. Check on the outdoor unit to see that it isn’t covered up or blocked. You might need to clean off dirt and grime. Look to see that the concrete base of the outdoor unit is level. Once a year, clean the dirt and debris from the system drain and cap it.
As with the heating system, change the air filter every three months. In fact, the heater and AC probably use the same filter.