You may not think about how animals can factor in to how your home stays warm in the winter and cool in the summer, but your HVAC system can be impacted by both wild and domestic creatures. Now that the days are shorter and the weather is cooler, there are some specific things that you should check to make sure your home's heating system is working properly and without problems caused by critters.
1. Small animals damage your ductwork.
Animals like squirrels, rats and even raccoons may want a way to stay warm and cozy as the weather cools, just like you do. Every fall, homeowners are surprised by funny sounds coming from their attics and air ducts. But these creatures can do a lot of damage.
For example, animals can chew through flexible ductwork. Many homes that have been built since the late 1970s incorporate flexible ducts instead of sheet metal, but these are easily damaged by sharp rodent teeth.
The cost of repairing (often unfeasible) or replacing this ductwork can be in the thousands of dollars—an average of $1,000 to $5,000. And you can't leave it: If your ductwork has holes, then heated air can escape and you end up paying astronomically high energy bills. Have your HVAC contractor come out to inspect the system for holes created by furry creatures.
2. Animals die in your ducts.
Another problem with letting animals get into your home is that they can then die there. Animals don't commonly die in the ducts, but they can begin to decompose in other areas of the house, like the attic, where air that goes into the HVAC system is drawn from. This spreads odors throughout the home.
Any method that animals can use to gain entry into your home can lead to them getting trapped. Look for ways that wildlife can access your home, and be sure when you're patching up holes and repairing potential entries that you don't later inadvertently seal up any living creatures.
If you suspect that a dead animal is to blame for a bad smell in your home, your HVAC contractor can inspect the ducts and surrounding areas for critters or other causes of odors.
3. Pet dander spreads through ductwork.
If you have pets, it's likely that their dander is all through your home. And if you or a member of your family is susceptible to pet allergies, like 15 to 30 percent of the population, warm air blowing through your ducts and spreading the dander may increase symptoms.
The best way to minimize pet allergens is by cleaning your forced air system and ducts once a year. Ideally, this would be before you turn on the heat, but it can make a difference any time you do it.
Your HVAC contractor can also look at your ductwork and make sure it is sealed properly. Ducts with gaps or damage can let in unconditioned air that carries more allergens; sealing these holes can help improve indoor air quality.
Talk to your HVAC contractor (like FHA Services) about checking your home's system for problems and open areas before the weather gets truly cold and animals begin to seek shelter in your home. Your HVAC professional can also give your system an inspection and cleaning to reduce or prevent major problems from costing you later.
Do you want a job that doesn't require a four-year degree, doesn't have you stuck in an office all day and allows you to use your special skills and training to help others? You might be interested in a career in heating. My name is Carly, and I have been a heating technician for more than 10 years. I am truly a lifesaver to people whose heat suddenly goes off in the middle of winter, and you can be one of those special people too. Read my blog to find out how to get the training you will need to fix and install heaters.