Horrors of HVAC: A Clogged Air Filter

This true incident is scary enough to spook any HVAC tech! Read ahead – if you dare.

Our story begins when an HVAC technician received a call from a homeowner stating that their furnace is running, but no heat was traveling through the vents. After troubleshooting, the technician made a terrifying discovery.

With several pets in the house, over time the air filter had accumulated an immense amount of pet hair and dust preventing almost all air flow through the furnace. The technician got to work replacing the air filter, clearing out the registers, and cleaning the blower and burners.

Air filter clogged with pet hair and dust, with a cartoon ghost floating by

Why is this tale so horrifying?

Even though the solution was straightforward, this situation was extremely dangerous for the occupants, and easily preventable. A furnace running with a clogged air filter is starved for ventilation and produces high levels of carbon monoxide (CO) – a colorless, odorless gas than can be fatal for humans and their pets. A clogged air filter can also increase the chances of a fire, further advancing the safety concerns in this home.

Clogged air filters prevent furnaces from running properly and reduce the life of the system. The blower, heat exchanger, burners and other components are all crucial for heating your space. A clogged system puts unnecessary stress on these components, and heating systems are not cheap to replace.

Additionally, furnaces will run longer to compensate a clogged air filter. This increases fuel usage, resulting in higher gas bills and wasted natural resources.

Cartoon skeleton of a maintenance person holding a meter

Should you be scared?

While the safety concerns tied to a clogged air filter are very real – there are a few things you can do to increase the safety in your home.

Change Your Air Filter

Air filters should be replaced every 3-4 months and more frequently if you have pets in the home. If the season is changing, it’s a good time to change your air filter as well.

Check Your Heating System

Call your HVAC technician to complete a combustion analysis test on your system. HVAC professionals recommend yearly tune ups. Click here to learn more about combustion analysis.

Be Aware of Your Home

In the story above, the homeowner called a technician because they realized heat wasn’t blowing through the vents. Be aware of changes in your home and call a technician if anything feels wrong. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!

Education is Key

Learning more about your heating system can help you be prepared if something goes awry. Carbon monoxide is often called the silent killer because of its tasteless, ordorless, and invisible qualities. Educate yourself and your family on the signs of CO poisoning so you’re prepared if anything feels wrong. Common symptoms include headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach or chest pain. If everyone in your home feels sleepy at an odd time of day – it may be a sign. In these situations, immediately remove yourself from the home and call 911.

By continuing to care for your heating system and staying attentive, you help increase the safety of your home while keeping you and your family comfortable.

Want to learn more? Check out our robust line of combustion analyzers here. 

The true story and clogged air filter photo above was provided by Kevin Dorwart, MSA Executive Field Sales Manager.


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