Now that fall has arrived, it’s time to turn your attention on your home. The changing of the season acts as a call to action for fine-tuning your home, and the onset of fall is no different. It’s no fun to turn your heat on for the first time, just to see dust floating through the air. In addition, on that first cool crisp evening, when building a fire in your fireplace, the last thing you want to have is smoke and other contaminants traveling through the air in your home instead of out the chimney.
While chimney, air duct and dryer vent cleaning is often overlooked, keeping these systems clean can help you boost energy efficiency, safety and air quality in your home before the cold weather arrives. To help you do so, we asked a few of our Home Service Connections partners for advice.
Clean your air ducts regularly to improve efficiency and air quality.
Just like any other space, the air ducts in your home gradually accumulate dirt, dust, allergens and other particles. Your family could be exposed to these contaminants each time you turn on your heating system. According to Jennifer Robinson, manager of All-Star Duct Cleaning, Inc., your home’s air ducts should be cleaned every two to three years and more often if you have pets, family members with allergies or asthma, or have had water damage or just completed a remodeling project.
“Air ducts are the lungs of the home,” said Robinson. “There is one duct to intake the air and another duct that supplies the air.” She adds that viruses can become airborne and attach to air ducts, which in turn, can infect everyone in the home. Another advantage to a clean HVAC system is that it doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain the temperature you desire, resulting in less energy use and more cost savings.
It’s also possible for dust, dirt and even mold to build up to the point that it interferes with air flow. Frequent cleaning will guarantee not only that your family breathes in the cleanest possible air, but also helps with the efficiency and longevity of your system.
Schedule annual fireplace and chimney cleanings for added home safety.
Chimney cleaning this time of the year is also an important safety measure. A chimney can accumulate soot and creosote – a brown or black flammable tar caused by wood smoke that forms in the lining of the chimney. “It’s important to have your chimney cleaned once a year,” said David Childress, owner of Childress Masonry & Construction. “Use someone who is certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America to be sure you are getting the best service to protect your home from potential chimney fires.”
Childress noted that fall’s dry leaves and twigs can get caught in the chimney. Sparks from your fireplace can catch this debris on fire. Birds, squirrels and other critters often build nests in chimneys, so be sure you have a chimney cap to prevent them from making their home there.
A good chimney cleaning company should not just clean your chimney; they should do a thorough inspection of your chimney, which can help uncover masonry problems before they develop into larger and more expensive chimney repairs. “If the company says they will clean it only, hire another inspector,” said Elizabeth Zimbro, office manager of The Chimney Doctor NOVA, Inc. “Even gas fireplaces need to be inspected to be sure they are air tight and the venting system is in good working order, so that carbon monoxide is not leaking into your home.”
Improve your home’s safety and efficiency with periodic dryer vent cleaning.
The lint that builds up in your dryer vents can make your dryer work less efficiently and can be a potential fire hazard. Cool, dry fall weather increases static electricity, which can ignite lint that has built up in a dryer vent. Robinson recommends dryer vent cleaning at least once a year or every six months, if you do four or more loads of laundry per week. She added that it’s important to clean from the dryer to the lint’s exit point, which is usually on the outside of the home.