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Get The Buzz On Keeping Air Inlets Clear

Get the buzz keeping air inlets clean

With all that can happen, good and bad, with a central air system, there's one section of the system that absolutely must be checked throughout the year: The air inlet opening. Failure to do this regularly could result in an air clog of epic proportions.

Heating contractors tell stories of calls they receive from homeowners and business owners who say their HVAC motor is running, but no air is coming out of the interior vents. A common problem is some sort of obstruction that keeps air from the outside flowing freely into and then through all the moving parts. Typically, dust is the culprit. It builds up within the system and limits the amount of free-flowing air. But this tends to occur across every aspect of your heating and cooling system.

But what about that all-important spot where air first enters the inlet ducts? It is imperative to keep this area 100% free of any obstruction whatsoever. How you go about this depends on the type of system you have. For those with a multi-functioning set-up like HVAC or a heat pump, the air inlet is installed in an easy-to-get-to spot. One heating contractor in Wyoming, a seasoned and well-respected veteran, said more often than not; this is where the airflow problem begins and ends.

System Running But No Air Flowing … Why?

He received a call from a concerned homeowner who described the aforementioned "the heater is running, but there's no air coming out of the vents" service call. Upon arrival, he went directly to the system opening, which was installed at ground level off the back of the house.

The homeowner had done a good job keeping the area free of shrubs growth and leaf blockage. So he grabbed a golf ball out of his pocket, and after removing the vent cover, gently threw the ball in. He went to the basement next, only to find the golf ball had not come out the other end. The blockage did not have him perplexed, however. Since it was early fall and insects were beginning to slow down as the temperature began to drop, he suggested a hornets' nest likely blocked the 4-inch PVC. Regular furnace maintenance likely would have revealed this problem.

The challenge was to get the nest out without disturbing what would likely be very angry hornets. So he asked the family if they could live without heat for a day or two so he could spray the line to kill as many hornets as possible before removing the nest.

This proved to be excellent advice. When he returned 24 hours later, dozens of dead hornets lay at the base of the air inlet outdoors, and just as many were around the base of the furnace. He vacuumed up the dead hornets, put an extension on the vacuum, stuck it in the vent, and sucked up even more dead hornets and even a few that were still struggling to stay alive. Then, as if on cue, he was able to extract not one but two 4-inch-wide, 1-inch-thick hives. They were perfectly symmetrical - quite impressive, actually.

Spray Away Winged Stingers So They Don't Come In

Lesson to be learned? You can take several steps to keep your heating and cooling ducts free of blockages. But sometimes, it isn't enough. To prevent winged insects from setting up shop, he suggested keeping a closer eye on this opening, and applying an over-the-counter extermination product, liberally applied in the evening, would be an effective deterrent.

And if you don't want to mess with winged stingers at all, contact a heating contractor to conduct heater maintenance.

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