October 10, 2013

Warding Off Illness by Keeping Up with Furnace and A/C Maintenance

Sore throats, runny noses, itchy eyes, aching heads - it might seem like a cold or the flu, but these are all symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome. No, it's not the building that feels lousy, but its occupants.

It is, however, the building that's causing these ailments.

The label SBS is used with people who all work in the same structure and have all experienced health problems or discomfort that can be linked to being in the building, but isn't due to a specific illness. Eventually, you might be able to pin the cause on flaws in the heating, ventilation, or air conditioning units. In many cases, keeping up with regular HVAC maintenance can stop or prevent these symptoms from occurring. 

cold-blocked-nose
If you feel like you're suffering from allergies, check your HVAC unit.

Potential Problems
As a furnace ages, it increasingly runs the risk of causing health problems for building occupants - particularly if it hasn't been maintained properly. The furnace could develop cracks in the heater exchange, and carbon monoxide might leak into the home.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas, so your only sign - if you don't have a carbon monoxide detector - might be frequent headaches, a burning sensation in your eyes or nose, nausea, disorientation, or flu-like symptoms. If you suspect carbon dioxide, open windows immediately to air out the building and contact a gas service technician.

Another sign of a problematic furnace is feeling like you have allergies, dry nose or throat, or excessively dry skin. This indicates that your furnace lacks the ability to moisturize and clean your home's air.
It's not just your furnace - a worn-out A/C unit can cause problems, too. An air conditioner is called that - a conditioner - because it's conditioning the air to remove things you don't want to breathe, such as mold and spores. When the filter needs to be cleaned or changed, it's not removing those particles that can cause allergy-like symptoms. 

HVAC unit
Service your HVAC unit one to two times a year.

Getting the Units Serviced
If you have a system that both heats and cools, you should do regular maintenance in the spring and fall to ensure that everything is working properly and efficiently. If your system only heats or only cools, you only need to do maintenance once a year.

Routine maintenance of HVAC systems include regular cleaning or replacement of filters; cleaning out dirt, debris, or leaves; inspecting coils and cabinets; lubricating motor and replacing fan belt, if needed; inspecting for gas leaks; and cleaning or replacing air filters, to name a few items.

If you're knowledgeable about the unit, you might be able to perform regular maintenance yourself.

However, it's better to call a professional at least once a year to make sure the unit is in working order.
With regular HVAC maintenance, you can banish Sick Building Syndrome for good and breathe easy, knowing the air in your house is clean.

Kelsey Castle is a freelance writer who focuses on residential and small business topics and personalities such as Steve Wynn. She has a degree in journalism and has worked at a newspaper, regional magazine, and national association.



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