Spring is upon us, which means that most of us will begin preparing our homes for the summer. As we rely less on heating appliances and more on the mild, temperate weather of the Pacific Northwest to keep our homes feeling comfortable, there are a number of things we can do in order to make sure our gas heating units are safely and efficiently dormant, while our cooling units are sufficiently ready for use in the summer. Most of these methods are common-sense practice, while a few may require more than a little professional expertise from your local HVAC company, such as Entek. Continue reading for more information about how you can successfully and safely prepare your gas heating and cooling units for summer.
Shut Off the Gas Valve and Pilot Light to Your Heating Unit
Regardless of the type of gas heating unit you own, you can save money and lower energy use by ensuring that both the pilot light and gas valve on your unit are shut off during the summer. The pilot light provides the ignition for the main burner in your gas heating unit. As the pilot light burns gas, fuel is consumed. Even when not in use, a gas heating unit will continue consuming energy. That’s why it’s important to turn off both the gas valve and pilot light.
In older heating units lacking a safety cut-off switch or an effective thermocouple sensor, an unlit pilot light can be dangerous. Understanding the kind of gas heating unit you own and how it operates can help you avoid mishandling it. Manually turning the gas valve to the off position (perpendicular to the gas line on most models) extinguishes the pilot light and prevents gas from leaking through it. Carefully read and follow any instructions provided by the manufacturer and pay attention to the safety labels on your unit.
Take Extra Precautions!
Even when you’re keeping your gas heating unit dormant, it’s important to regularly inspect it. Make sure your unit is clean and free of any clutter or debris that could pose a potential fire hazard. Inspect all gas lines and valves for visible cracks or wear and tear. Take note of any strange smells emitting from the furnace or through your HVAC vents. Listen for any hissing noise from your furnace.
If you suspect a gas leak from anywhere in your home, turn off the source if possible, evacuate your home, and call the fire department.
Invest in and regularly maintain a carbon monoxide detector, and be aware of any signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. It’s important to stay vigilant whether you’re using your gas heating units or keeping them dormant in the summer.
Replace Dirty Air Filters and Inspect Ductwork for Leaks and Clogs
Most HVAC experts recommend replacing your air filters regularly—depending on the type and brand of your filter and the manufacturer’s instructions—as often as once a month to every change in seasons. Using the same air filter throughout the year or failing to regularly change it will reduce your HVAC system’s efficiency to heat or cool your home and compromise your air quality. Air filters will continue to accumulate dust and debris even when your heating and cooling units aren’t in use.
While you’re replacing your air filter, you should also inspect your ductwork for leaks or clogs. Leaky ductwork can reduce the efficiency of your HVAC system by 20 to 45 percent and drive up your energy bill. Duct sealing can remedy this issue if it’s a concern. Visible wear and tear and physical obstructions, such as dirt, dust, and debris, in your ductwork, are easy to detect. But because most homes have a sophisticated HVAC system, a thorough inspection may be difficult. And if your ductwork has been compromised, then hiring a professional, certified local HVAC-based company, such as Entek, is the safest and most cost-effective solution to cleaning, sealing, and repairing your HVAC system.
Clean Your External Cooling Units and Remove Clutter and Debris
One of the most practical ways of ensuring your cooling unit is ready for summer is committing to a routine maintenance schedule. Besides having your unit professionally serviced, there are a number of ways you can maintain the integrity of the unit yourself.
Mud, dirt, leaves, and other natural debris can build up on and around your unit during winter, especially during the rainy season. Clear away this buildup manually, ensuring there are at least two feet of free space surrounding your unit. And to avoid much of the hassle when cleaning your exterior unit (and preventing possible damage from buildup or falling debris during winter), investing in a protective waterproof cover is highly recommended. Be sure your cooling unit is unplugged and hasn’t recently been in use before securing the cover over it.
Additionally, you may need to inspect the slab or base supporting the unit. Erosion from rainy weather and cracks or shifting from tree roots under the slab can throw the unit off-kilter and require it to work harder to cool your home. Check the slab or base with a level and consider repairing or replacing it (leveling the slab with boards or other materials may only be a stopgap).
Before cleaning the inside of your unit, be sure to unplug it first. You can use a hose to clean the outside of the condenser and a fin comb or toothbrush with a mild detergent to scrub the condenser and evaporator fins. When cleaning the evaporator coil, use a commercial coil cleaning solution and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Ensure all moisture has evaporated before reassembling the unit and plugging it back in.
Enroll in a Maintenance Program
Regular maintenance goes a long way toward preventing costly repairs, ensuring your HVAC system’s efficiency, and avoiding potentially dangerous situations. Whether cleaning or sealing ductwork, repairing your gas heating and cooling units, or providing routine pre-summer check-ups, enrolling in a maintenance program with a local professional, certified HVAC company can provide peace of mind and help you prepare for any season.