As a homeowner, there is a large number of important tasks to undertake as part of your year-round routine maintenance. High on your list of priorities is your air system, both the home’s heating and HVAC units. Aside from avoiding the costly repairs that damaged units can bring, there is also the potential for danger should you notice any airflow issues throughout the house. With an eye on the safety and health of your family, let’s look at a few ways in which blocked vents could be dangerous should they go unchecked.
The Tell-Tale Signs of Vent Blockage
Before looking at the potential safety concerns, it’s important to know what signs to look for if any of the vents in your home have become obstructed. Simply put, blocked vents obstruct airflow, and that airflow can build up into a bigger problem. First off, always remember to keep the vents from your furnace or heating system, as well as those from the air conditioner, uncovered by furniture or other items that could block the airflow. Likewise, during the winter months, check your chimney and keep valves free of any snow accumulation. Keeping these in mind can extend the whole life of your system.
A common problem with an HVAC unit is built-up allergens, dust, and debris within a dirty filter. However, other issues aside from the air filters can cause higher health risks. Once you’ve checked to make sure all the registers are open and air filters are clean, any warning signs will become much more noticeable. With your HVAC system, it’s a good idea to keep at least a few of the unit’s registers open throughout your home at all times. Any cold spots or leaks may put a damper on your comfort, but when all the vents are shuttered, the potential for frozen coils could damager the unit’s compressor to the point of no return. The same idea goes for the air conditioner’s ductwork. Closing all of your registers at the same time can cause the pent-up airflow to make any minor leaks of cold air significantly greater, and that pressure could eventually cause a dangerous burst duct. Your home’s heating system requires just as much attention, as toxins can leak throughout the house, many of which can be undetectable if left unchecked.
Mold and Biological Toxins
Aside from damaging your HVAC unit or heating system, leaving your registers closed indefinitely can also lead to numerous potential health risks. Within those closed ducts and pathways, condensation can build in the any unused rooms in your home. Over time, mildew can lead to mold spores and some forms, such as black mold, can actually become deadly over time. If you spot mold anywhere in your house, it’s easy to clean. However, service technicians should be consulted for routine maintenance, as mold can also accumulate within the air vents and air ducts themselves.
Believe it or not, certain types of life insurance for homeowners even stipulate that proper maintenance of the home takes place annually. Depending upon the life insurance company and the type of policy, health risks that come from improper home maintenance or irresponsible disregard of avoidable, health-related factors on behalf of the policyholder can bring about an end of the term clause or invalidation of future payouts. Aside from the crucial concerns regarding the health of you and your family, your life insurance and ultimate financial wellbeing can sometimes hinge on your competency in caring for your home.
Carbon Monoxide and Chemical Toxins
Although biological toxins can lead to high levels of mold and other allergens throughout the house, the single most dangerous outcome of vent obstruction is the potential for a carbon monoxide leak. While your home should have multiple carbon monoxide detectors in different rooms, be sure the batteries are full and the units are functioning. As an odorless, colorless gas, carbon monoxide is undetectable without the aid of a properly installed unit. To be on the safe side, let your home’s air flow freely by leaving the air vents opened. This will help prevent build-up of the dangerous fumes.
In general, carbon monoxide leaks are often caused by either a blocked vent, which can damage your household’s furnace or heating unit, or a cracked pipe or rupture in the system itself. Although there are warning signs (dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, or a dull headache, among them), carbon monoxide poisoning acts quickly. If a leak is detected, it’s crucial that you and your family evacuate the house right away.
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