Your central air conditioner and furnace have allowed you to maintain a comfortable temperature throughout your home all year long. However, using these appliances without having them inspected can lead to serious health problems that may take the lives of one of the members of your household. These problems pose serious threats to your safety and can be prevented by regular inspections:
Damaged Furnace Exchanger
As we all know, the gas that furnaces use and create can be deadly. However, the various safety features in your furnace have kept you from experiencing carbon monoxide or gas poisoning in recent years.
One of the most important safety devices in your furnace is your heat exchanger. Unfortunately, your exchanger can sustain damage and lose its ability to keep your furnace operating safely as your furnace ages.
Your furnace exchanger heats the air entering your furnace and ventilates the fumes created by your burner assembly. Your exchanger experiences massive temperature fluctuations every time your furnace activates. Since your exchanger is made of metal, these fluctuations will cause sections of your exchanger to become susceptible to cracking. When cracks form, your exchanger won't be able to contain the entirety of the combustion fumes produced by your burners.
Small amounts of carbon monoxide will leak from cracks in your exchanger and pollute your indoor air. As these cracks continue to grow, they'll leak greater amounts of carbon monoxide and eventually cause carbon monoxide poisoning in you or one of your household members.
Furnace manufacturers are well aware of this problem. For this reason, your exchanger is built to last about 10 years or more—depending on the amount of operating time your furnace experiences throughout the year. To minimize and nearly eliminate the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, have your exchanger inspected at least once a year if your furnace has been in service for eight years or more. Additionally, make sure your carbon monoxide detectors are functioning properly before the start of every cold season.
Water Tray Bacteria Growth
Your air conditioner cools air by pumping freezing refrigerant through your evaporator coil. As your evaporator coil turns icy cold, the air flowing through the coil is cooled and blown into your home.
However, as air passes through your evaporator coil, your coil begins to condensate. This condensation drains into a water tray. Most water trays are designed to automatically drain their water accumulation, but small amounts of water will remain in the tray.
Although this may not seem like a serious issue, this thinking couldn't be further from the truth. The humid environment created by your air conditioner turns your water tray into an ideal location for bacterial growth—and since a large volume of pathogen-ridden air passes through your evaporator coil every minute, there's a great chance bacteria has already started to grow in your water tray.
As bacteria multiply in your tray, it will begin to pollute your indoor air. The two most common bacterial infections caused by air conditioners are Legionnaire's disease and pneumonia. Similarly to carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a cracked exchanger, these diseases can send you to the hospital with life-threatening symptoms.
Since your evaporator coil creates condensation that leaks into your water tray every time you activate your air conditioner, bacteria growth is an especially troublesome issue. However, frequent inspections (and the use of UV lights or specialized filters) will prevent bacteria from growing deep within your HVAC system.
These life-threatening problems should not be taken lightly. If it's been more than a year since your last heating and air conditioning service, get in contact with your local HVAC contractor to arrange for an immediate checkup. Otherwise, you may find yourself being rushed to the hospital with symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, Legionnaire's disease, or pneumonia within the near future.