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Do Heat Recovery Ventilators Need Maintenance?

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Ventilation is an essential component in any HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) system.

But until just recently, ventilation could have been considered a third wheel beside the power couple of A/C and heat.

Today, ventilation is coming into its own in the wake of escalating energy conservation concerns and subsequent changing building standards. The modern method of ventilating is to install a heat recovery ventilator or HRV.

If you haven’t yet heard of the heat recovery ventilator, prepare to be amazed.

You may even discover this is just the appliance you have been looking for to improve your indoor air quality and HVAC output! You will quite likely also have questions about what type of maintenance HRV units need.

In this blog post, find out what you need to know about the heat recovery ventilator's operation and maintenance requirements.

What Is a Heat Recovery Ventilator?

For reasons of energy conservation, today’s “tight” (aka “airtight”) homes and workplaces must be built to keep up to 100 percent of temperature-controlled air in. 

This is great for lowering utility bills. It isn’t so great for your lungs.

Without some way to ventilate itself (ventilation being a home’s way of “breathing”), the air inside is going to get very stale and toxic very quickly.

Enter the heat recovery ventilator. This nifty appliance is like a set of mechanical lungs for your airtight home or workplace. It “breathes in” fresh, oxygenated air and “breathes out” stale, toxic, carbon dioxide-loaded air.

But it also does one more incredible thing. It conserves otherwise wasted heat energy to further reduce your utility bills. Some units are able to conserve up to 95 percent of heat energy and funnel it toward pre-heating incoming air in winter and even pre-heating water.

Now that you have a more complete picture of exactly what a heat recovery ventilator does, let’s take a look at the HRV's maintenance needs.

Heat Recovery Ventilator Maintenance

While heat recovery ventilators as a whole are simple, sturdy, efficient and long-lasting appliances, they do need regular preventative maintenance to deliver optimal performance.

In fact, many of the maintenance needs of the average heat recovery ventilator are quite similar to the needs of the average furnace and air conditioning system

How often do HRVs need maintenance?

You will be happy to hear that heat recovery ventilators generally need only once-annual preventative maintenance.

As long as the appliance receives this annual maintenance inspection, cleaning and tune-up, you are unlikely to experience any surprise repair needs or outages during the months in between.

What type of maintenance is required?

There are 10 basic steps that ensure your heat recovery ventilator is performing optimally and safely.

  1. Clean the exterior of the unit, including the vents.

  2. Clean the interior of the unit, including the fan housing and blades.

  3. Clean the core and filters and/or replace them.

  4. Check and clean the defrost damper.

  5. Check and clean the cold air sensor.

  6. Check, clean and rebalance the air flows (intake/exhaust).

  7. Check, clean and reseal the duct connections.

  8. Check and clean ceiling/wall air registers.

  9. Check and test the heat exchange system.

  10. Check and test the HRV wall control unit.

After completing this maintenance checklist, the HRV service technician will advise if any minor repairs are needed as well.

The Importance of Indoor Air Duct Cleaning & Maintenance

Just like your heating and air conditioning components, the heat recovery ventilator works directly with your ductwork to remove stale, toxic air and replace it with fresh, oxygenated air.

Every component relies on the others to deliver the best and most efficient performance.

This means that if your ducts themselves are not clean and well maintained, it will not be possible to receive the full benefit of what a heat recovery ventilator can do.

Even if your ductwork is brand-new and airtight, every single time your HVAC system cycles on, small amounts of the toxins trapped in your ductwork will get pushed back out into your home.

Over time, aging duct systems, in particular, may degrade, sag, even rip or tear away from connection points. In this way, ducts soon become a major part of the indoor air quality issues inside a home.

(To get a bird’s-eye view of what our technicians see weekly during professional duct cleaning service calls, watch this short video!)

How often do ducts need maintenance?

Unlike the other major components of the typical HVAC system, ducts do not generally require annual maintenance.

As long as your HVAC technician does a basic visual check of all the component-to-duct connection points annually, the average air duct system can go for three to five years or longer between professional duct cleanings.

However, if someone in your home smokes or vapes or uses a lot of air fresheners or commercial cleaning products, you may need to schedule more frequent cleanings. The same holds true if someone in your family struggles with asthma or severe seasonal allergies or you have an indoor pet.

What type of maintenance do ducts need?

There are three types of maintenance that a central duct system needs to stay efficient and effective.

Basic repairs and resealing

When ducts start to sag, they may need to be replaced before they pull away from connection points.

Ducts often need to be resealed at the connection points. Minor tears may also need repairs.

Insulation

Insulating ducts will not only give your energy efficiency a giant boost, but it will also make it that much harder for bugs or critters to creep inside.

Professional air duct cleaning

Through October 31, 2019, save 10 percent on all air duct cleaning packages. Purchase the Gold package and get a free UV light!

Get in Touch

Contact us online or give us a call at 905-544-2470.

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Save $600 & Boost Air Quality with Duct Sealing and Duct Cleaning

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Ducts are not the superstars of your typical heating and air conditioning system.

As supporting cast members, your ducts are out of the limelight. Only rarely does anyone think to see if they need to be cleaned, repaired or replaced.

But ducts have a really important job to do! They are responsible for getting your temperature-controlled indoor air to its final destination, clean and pristine and still just as warm (or cool) as when it sets out.

However, because air ducts generally can’t be easily seen or accessed, they are also rarely blamed when things go wrong. It is easy to misdiagnose a problem as arising from the furnace or A/C, only to get more and more frustrated when repeated repairs do not resolve the issue.

In this article, learn how to take care of your ducts this winter so they can keep taking care of you!

Ducts Are Top Energy Wasters in the HVAC System

If there is one award no HVAC component wants to win, it is “top energy waster.” And yet, according to industry news, that is exactly what the average duct system does. It wastes energy.

Up to 40 percent of the temperature-controlled air you pay for each day gets busy leaking out of the average air duct before it ever reaches its dedicated air register.

The average Canadian homeowner spends approximately $2,358 per year on energy. Sixty-four percent of that expense goes to air conditioning and heating. Forty percent of that is just over $600.

If you would like your $600 back (and then some), read on to find out what to do before winter – the most expensive HVAC season in Canada – rolls in again.

2 Steps to Fix Your Old, Leaking, Dirty Ducts

Up to 95 percent of older homes are outfitted with elderly, leaking air ducts. But since you can’t readily view your ducts, it is easy to blame the air filter or furnace for dust, dirt, odours and mould inside your home.

This is especially concerning during the winter season, when the air is often less humid, causing allergies and asthma, sinusitis, cold and flu cases to develop more easily.

Step 1: Duct Sealing: Repair and Insulate (or Replace)

The first step on the road toward duct efficiency is sealing. Imagine your duct system way back when it was brand-new. It was clean and shiny both outside and in. All of the individual ducts connected seamlessly to each other and the master air output.

The moment your HVAC system cycled on, forced air would blow through the ducts and absolutely none of it would leak out. Amazing, right?

This can all be yours again, but your duct system is going to need some help from you to get there.

Since ducts tend to be somewhat difficult to access, not all homeowners choose to tackle this project themselves, although it certainly can be done. Otherwise, your professional HVAC technician can perform this service for you.

There are four general steps to restoring the basic structure and function of your duct system:

  1. Assess your air ducts for rips, tears, cracks and leaks and repair them.

  2. Replace any ducts that are damaged, collapsed or sagging beyond restoration.

  3. Seal all connection points against leakage.

  4. Insulate the exterior of each duct.

In some cases, an inspection may reveal that most or all of your ducts are in poor condition. While the average duct system will last for one to two decades before needing a full replacement, some duct systems will last longer than this.

It all depends on HVAC usage patterns, prior maintenance history, duct material (some are more durable than others), quality of initial installation and similar factors.

As well, if your HVAC technician discovers a “ductopus” – an industry term for ductwork that is so poorly routed it looks more like a many-legged marine animal than an air conduit system – it may be time for a replacement.

Once your ductwork has been repaired and restored or replaced, it is time to move on to step two: duct cleaning.

Step 2: Duct Cleaning: Clean and Sanitize

The reason you want to do your duct sealing, repair and/or replacement first is because of how a professional air duct cleaning is done.

There is only one way to make sure that all the trapped dust, debris, pet dander, insect remains, rodent waste, volatile organic compounds, particulate toxins and other matter is securely and fully removed from your ducts.

They must be completely sealed from the outside first!

Once they are sealed, our professional air duct cleaning technicians can attach the industrial-grade negative pressure vacuum to securely suck out all trapped matter and scour the interior walls of your ducts so none remains.

Then we can send in our sanitizing agent to remove any remaining traces of mildew or mould, bacteria or fungi, all the while ensuring not one spec makes it into your inside air itself.

A professional indoor air duct cleaning done right will give you your brand-new duct system back – but only if your ducts are sealed before it is done.

Otherwise, doing an air duct cleaning on leaking ducts can send as much as 30 percent of trapped toxins into your inside air in the very same way that leaking ducts send heated or cooled air out behind your ceilings and walls.

Get in Touch

Are you concerned about indoor air quality this winter as cold and flu season rolls in once again? When was the last time you had your ductwork assessed for repairs and cleaning? We can help on both counts – just give us a call!

Contact us online or give us a call at 905-544-2470.   

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Get Your Air Ducts Ready for Winter & Save Up to $746

insulating ductwork

Air ducts don’t get a lot of press – either good or bad. Mostly, your ducts languish forgotten behind walls, floors or ceilings.

Yet you rely on your air ducts to do some seriously heavy lifting, especially during the often-extreme winter season.

If your air ducts don’t do their job well, your health, carbon footprint and bank balance (not necessarily in that order) will all be impacted.

In this article, we explain how you can save up to $746 just by getting your air ducts ready for the winter season.

Seal Up Your Ducts for a 20 Percent Energy Savings

According to Energy Star, taking the time to seal up your air ducts can trim up to 20 percent off of your energy use.

As long as you can access your ductwork, duct sealing itself isn’t particularly difficult work. You just need to ensure each duct is securely connected to the rest of the network so that it doesn’t leak all that expensive heat out.

Completing this task before winter arrives can be especially important during the energy-intensive winter season, when an estimated 61 percent of your annual energy bill is devoted to heating.

The average homeowner reports spending around $2,358 per year on energy. Sixty-one percent of that is $1,438. So a 20 percent energy savings represents $287 back into your pocket annually.

Insulate Your Ducts for a 10 Percent Energy Savings

Energy Star states that the combined impact of poorly sealed and under-insulated (or uninsulated) ducts can cause air losses of up to 30 percent of your HVAC output.

That is a lot of temperature-controlled air you are paying for but not benefitting from!

We already know that sealing up your ducts can keep about 20 percent of that airflow inside your ducts so it gets to its final destination. But what about the other 10 percent?

The best route to recapture that other 10 percent is to insulate your ducts. This is especially the case if you have metal ducts, since metal is not designed to act as an insulating medium on its own.

Like duct sealing, insulating your ducts is not terribly difficult to do as long as you have easy access to your duct system. All you need to do is purchase insulation and then securely wrap each duct.

Taking time to complete this task adds another $143 in average annual energy savings back into your pocket.

Clean Your Ducts for an 11 Percent Energy Savings

The National Association of Duct Cleaning Professionals (NADCA) reports that making the investment into professional air duct cleaning can trim up to 11 percent off of your annual home energy costs.

Air duct cleaning is just beginning to catch on throughout North America as concerns about indoor air quality increase.

Here at Clean Air Solutions Hamilton, we have seen inside a whole lot of air duct systems over the years. If the contents of the average air duct were spread across your kitchen counter or dinner plate, we feel sure you wouldn’t want to eat off either!

Yet it is all too easy to forget about the dust mites, dirt and debris, animal dander, pollen, bacteria, mould spores and other toxins slowly and quietly building up inside those narrow air corridors.

Over time, like a trash can that never gets emptied, air ducts can actually start to fill up with detritus to the point where it is hard to fit any air inside them!

The 11 percent energy savings quoted here comes from cleaning slightly dirty air ducts. You can expect to double those savings if your air ducts are very dirty.

The average annual energy savings you can expect to see ranges from $158 to $316.

Air Duct Maintenance Can Save Your Life This Winter (Literally)

Current estimates indicate the average person in North America comes down with about 2.5 colds annually. 

Cold and flu season is not just miserable – it can also be expensive in more ways than one. But what does all this have to do with your air ducts?

Unsealed or poorly sealed sagging, leaking, uninsulated air ducts are notorious for trapping moisture along with pathogens. This makes the average air duct quite an inviting place for mould, mildew, bacteria, fungi, microbes and viral germs to take root and replicate.

When insects or animals have managed to find a way inside your ducts, their waste matter can take health concerns to a whole new level.

The combined impact of these continually circulating micro-particulates may not actually cause a cold or the flu (although they could), but they will certainly keep your immune system busy fighting off one threat or the next.

So when your path inevitably does cross with whatever strain of the flu is going around this year, your body will be less able to fight off the pathogens.

Currently, the flu is listed as one of the top 10 leading causes of death each year in Canada. About 3,500 Canadians die from contracting flu strains annually.

Sometimes, a little timely air duct maintenance and cleaning really can end up being priceless – it might even save a life!

About Our Air Duct Cleaning Packages

Our three popular professional air duct cleaning packages are each designed to deliver maximum value for an affordable price.

Bronze level

Vacuum supply/return air ducts, deodorize and sanitize and clean all air registers.

Silver level

All bronze-level services plus clean furnace fan compartment and A/C coil.

Gold level

All bronze- and silver-level services plus 21-point furnace inspection and maintenance service.

Get in Touch

Are you ready to get your ducts in order before winter arrives starting next month? We can help!

Contact us online or give us a call at 905-544-2470.

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