The air inside your home has a larger impact on your general health than you may think.
Whether you're trying to make sure your family stays toasty in the winter or are looking to keep them comfortable in the summer, a ventilation system in your home is a vital part of everyday life.
When these systems start acting up, it can feel overwhelming to fix. If you're worried about pollution inside or you're experiencing a more obvious fault in your home ventilation system, there are a few things to consider before you call in your local HVAC specialist.
Repair or Replace?
When something as expensive as a home ventilation system is on the fritz, it can be hard to know whether it's a better decision to repair or replace. While a repair might be more affordable, they won't always work in the long run.
Before calling in an HVAC specialist to look over your issue, our advice is to take a serious look at your finances to know how much you're willing to spend. It's also important to take the time to know the price of new systems before you get a quote on fixing the old one.
If you're looking specifically at air conditioners, most HVAC specialists go by the "5000 Rule". To know whether you should repair or replace your AC unit, simply take the age of the unit by the estimated cost of the repair. If this number comes out to be more than 5000, it's probably not worth your time.
For example, if your 10-year-old air conditioner is estimated to need $500 worth of repairs, you'll be better off buying a whole new system. When you consider that the best portable air conditioner comes at a relatively low cost, the rule of 5000 makes complete sense.
Do You Have The Right System?
If you've decided that you would rather repair your system, there are a few things to look at before and during an inspection by an HVAC specialist.
One of the first things you'll have to consider is whether you had the right system in the first place. If you've been using a heat-recovery ventilator (HRV) when you should have been using an energy-recovery ventilator (ERV), then you may need to consider updating your system to ensure you don't run into more problems in the future.
Unsure of the difference?
While an HRV contains a heat exchanger that will transfer heat from the inside to the outside, an ERV will transfer both heat and moisture. Typically, families in cold-winter climates will need an HRV, while their hot and humid counterparts will need an ERV.
When in doubt, it's best to speak to a professional to get a home inspection done and find out whether you have the proper equipment installed.
Is Your System Being Overworked?
One of the quickest ways to see trouble with your ventilation system is if you're overworking it. Much like us, our machines wants things to be done as easy as possible and if you're putting unneeded stress on your system, it's going to fight back.
While there are a few ways to overwork your system, the biggest culprit is blocked or closed vents. Your unit needs to be able to circulate air freely and when a vent is unexpectedly clogged or blocked, it will make your ventilation system work harder than it has to.
Take the time to take a walk around your home to make sure there's nothing unexpected blocking your vents and consider having the vents professionally cleaned if you haven't done so already.
Is Your Home Air Tight?
Today, homes are built airtight in an effort to increase energy efficiency. A home that's too airtight, however, can result in mold problems and bacteria in the air. If you haven't already had one installed, an airtight home needs to have an HRV -- also knows as a heat recovery ventilator.
These systems pull fresh air from outside, condition it to the temperature inside the house, and then provides you with a consistent stream of fresh air.
Have an HRV and still experiencing stale air?
Consider setting your HRV to thermostat instead of a timer. This way, your HRV will work to bring in fresh air whenever there is too much moisture in the air.
Beware of VOCs and Other Contaminants
If you've ruled out poor ventilation as the cause of your faulty ventilation system, it may be time to look at the amount of VOCs -- also known as volatile organic compounds -- hiding within your home or apartment. VOCs can be laying within a variety of products or materials within your home, including treated wood, insulation, carpeting and paint products.
An immediate solution to reducing the number of VOCs within your home is to discontinue use of products that contain them. When shopping in the home improvement aisle, look for products that contain little to no VOCs -- something that's typically pretty easy to find on the label.
Alternatively, there's also an option to purchase types of drywall that absorbs these VOCs and locks them safely within the board, although, this will require a bit more work to set up in an older home.
If your HVAC system is acting up, don't let it ruin your week. Fixing these kinds of issues just takes a bit of time and a lot of elbow grease. Whether you're calling in a professional or doing the job yourself, it's important to consider the points above to make sure you won't run into even more problems in the future.
Remember to confirm that you're using the right equipment, that all of your vents are operating properly, and that you're not overloading your system with too many contaminants and you'll be well on your way to a fresh-air home before you know it!
Are you planning on fixing your AC or have you done it before? Let us know if we’ve missed anything important.
Patrick Holmes is an indoor air quality specialist at Home Air Quality Guides. His passion is to help people create cleaner, healthier and more comforting environments inside their homes by sharing expert advice that's easy to follow. He enjoys writing in-depth articles on air purification, household cleaning tips, home maintenance advice and more.