Welcome to Part 1 of my Fall Home Maintenance guide! This first installment will be all about HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning).
Fall is an important time to do a bit of home maintenance to prepare for the upcoming season. With the extreme temperature changes we experience here in Ottawa, it is important to ensure that your HVAC systems are all working properly so that you can stay toasty warm in the winter and cool in the summer. So, what should you be doing for basic HVAC home maintenance?
Your attic insulation plays a big part in how efficiently your heating and cooling systems work in your home. If there is insufficient insulation, this will mean an increase in your energy bill as these systems have to work harder to maintain your desired temperature. Basically, insulation works to prevent the heat from exiting your home in the winter and entering in the summer. While you are up there, is also a good time to make sure any animals have not already taken up residence in your attic.
How do you do this?
The first way to check if your attic insulation is to scan your attic floor and pay attention to where the insulation ends. If it is level or just below your floor joists, you should add additional insulation. If you cannot see the floor joists at all, you probably have enough. Make sure that it is distributed evenly and not dipped down in areas.
If you do need more insulation added, gauge how much more you will need based on where your insulation sits in relation to the joists.
When shopping for insulation, the R-Value, which indicates levels of thickness, density, and makeup, is what you want to pay close attention to. The higher the R-Value, the better your insulation will perform in the winter months. R-38 is the recommended level for most attics and measures approximately 10 to 14 inches in depth, depending on the type of insulation. If you do not feel comfortable completing this task on your own, there are many professional companies to help!
You can have insulation installed at any time of the year, however the ideal time is in the spring and summer. If you have waited until the winter months to do this step, don't worry! You can also bulk up your insulation in the extreme cold, learn more HERE!
Other insulation areas that may need to be tended too, but will most likely require a professional, are the walls, basement, and under the floor. To check to see if your basement insulation is an issue, try this test! For more information about wall insulation, click HERE!
Clean out your dryer lint trap and household vents with the change of each season. Not only does this chore protect your family, as a clogged lint trap or vent could very easily lead to a fire, but it will also save you some money on your energy bill as everything will be running more efficiently.
How do you do this?
After each use of your dryer, empty your lint trap. Give your lint trap a scrub in some warm soapy water every few months to completely clean it. Rinse thoroughly and let it fully dry before replacing.
To see if any lint has escaped through any gaps of the dryer drum to the dryer cabinet, turn off the power source, open up the lint filter (will be located in different places depending on the model, usually the top or front of the machine), and remove any excess lint that has collected with a brush and vacuum. Reassemble following your models instructions. This should be done every 3 months.
You should inspect your dryer exhaust vent that leads to the outside of your home at least once a year, depending on how often and the volume of laundry you do. To clean your dryer vent, unplug or turn off your dryer, pull the dryer away from the wall and disconnect the duct. Pick yourself up a round brush with an extendable wand (can be found at many home improvement stores, like this one from Canadian Tire) and use it to dislodge the built up lint. Vacuum out the excess. Do the same for the vent on the outside of your home. Inspect the duct work for any kinks or holes and replace. For a detailed video, click HERE!
Make sure that your dryer is not pushed up too close to a wall and that there are no kinks in any connections when you reassemble.
A good hint as to whether it is time to have your dryer serviced or not is whether it is drying your clothing as quickly as it used to. If it takes longer, have your dryer serviced by a professional.
To clean your bathroom vents, remove the cover and vacuum out the lint and debris. Use a wet cloth to wipe down the fan and cover.
To clean your kitchen vent, it is best to soak the cover and any other bits you can remove to help get rid of the grease build up. After a good soak and scrub, let dry and replace. For a great homemade recipe for your kitchen vent and cleaning tips, click HERE!
While we are on the topic of furnaces, it is a good idea to have your furnace inspected and cleaned annually, especially considering how much we use our furnaces in the winter here in Ottawa. A dirty furnace will work less efficiently than a clean one, which means a colder winter for you and your home.
How do you do this?
To help your furnace run as efficiently as possible, change your filters quarterly. These filters do a big job and collect lots of debris and allergens. The more clogged the filter gets, the less efficient your furnace will be. Luckily, replacing or cleaning the filter is easy! Simply remove your old filter, slide the new one in! If you do not have a disposable filter, remove it and hand wash with ONLY a non-toxic cleaner and tap water. Allow to fully air dry and replace!
The two other areas to check and clean are the blower and motor. Before you begin, be sure to unplug the power source as you could seriously injure yourself.
To check the fan, remove the cover panel (you may need a screwdriver for this) and slide out the fan. Most are on a track, which allows you to easily pull it out to inspect. To clean, remove the fan and use a mixture of part soap and water with a toothbrush. Get into every little space you can. Wipe down any belts and the motor housing, allow to dry fully. If you have a gas furnace, turn off the gas and use a brush to scrape away the build-up. Use a vacuum with a small attachment to clean out the chambers. For more information, click HERE!
You should have your Furnace inspected annually, but ideally both in the spring and fall for a gas furnace.
Because you will not be turning on your air conditioner for a while, now is a good time to clean out any debris and check the state of the belts and pulleys after a hot summer. Any debris left in your AC could retain moisture and cause serious damage to the unit. This will both allow your AC to work well when you spark it back up next summer as well as deter insects or rodents from building a home under the cover or inside the unit during the cold winter months.
How do you do this?
Switch off your air conditioner unit, remove the fan cover and unit (being careful not to damage any connecting wires or cords), and clean out any debris that has accumulated inside and around the unit.
Next, inspect the fins on the heat exchanger. They are made out of aluminum and are very delicate, so do this step with care. Look for any areas of damage and delicately straighten them out if you can. You can purchase a tool like this to do this step. These fins are what allows air into the unit from the outside and blow out the top fan. It is important to remove dust or debris from the fins if they are clogged. To check this, use a flashlight pointing through the fins from the inside of the unit. If you cannot see any or very little light, it's time to clean!
You can use a coil cleaner product and follow the instructions on the bottle. Most foaming sprays are applied inside the unit and work outwards. After you let the spray sit for the time designated on the bottle, use a hose to spray the fins outwards from the inside, being very careful to not cause any damage to the delicate fins. You may need to do a few rinses to get it completely clean. After, rinse the outside of the unit.
If your AC has a drip pan, be sure to empty that as well. Inspect any filters and clean or replace for next spring. Leaving a dirty filter in the unit over the winter can introduce contaminants to the system. Reassemble the unit afterwards! For an instructional video, click HERE!
It is debated as to whether it is best to cover your AC unit for the winter or not. On one hand, it will prevent any debris from entering through the winter. On the other hand, it does create an ideal, warm, and cozy environment for small animals to hunker down during the winter. A good compromise is just covering the top of the unit.
This is also the best time of year to have your AC unit inspected! Ideally, you should have your unit inspected annually and going into the winter is the best time to do so.
Be sure to completely turn off your central AC for the winter. This is done to prevent unwanted startups in the spring, especially if you did not clear out any debris in the unit the previous fall. This can cause a lot of damage to your AC. For an in depth cleaning article, click HERE!
To care for a window air conditioner unit, you will do essentially the same thing, as a window unit will require the same type of care as a permanent unit. Watch this video for more information! Simply store away for the winter and re-install in the spring!
During the months you are using your AC, you should be cleaning or replacing the filter monthly.
“Bleeding” your radiator means to remove air that has collected, which stops hot water from properly circulating in order to heat up properly.
How do you do this?
You may need to purchase a radiator “key” if you do not have one (from any hardware store!). Insert the key in to the valve at the top of your radiator. Turn clockwise until water begins to drip out. You may also need to add more water to your radiator as it lowers the pressure system as you bleed the excess air. The basic rule of thumb when reading your pressure gauge is 1 pound of pressure for every two feet of rise. The amount of pressure will depend on the tank. For a more detailed walkthrough, click HERE!
Stay tuned for next week's post for part 2 of fall home maintenance! If you need any professional refferals or are looking to buy or sell your home, give me a call!