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Hazards and your HVAC: Important Safety Information

Hazards and your HVAC: Important Safety Information
Olivia Minnier
Content Writer

About This Article

In this article, we educate homeowners on the dangers of performing their own HVAC repairs and the importance of hiring a professional to do so.

Hazards are everywhere in the modern day and age. From your car, your home, to even cooking in your kitchen, safety standards must be followed. Your furnace and air conditioner are no different.

There are serious hazards to not following proper HVAC safety protocol for a job. Most average consumers should not handle HVAC repairs on their own due to the safety hazards. However, it is vital to understand and know the risks associated with heating and air conditioning equipment so that you can be more informed and understand the risks.

Most Significant Hazards with Air Conditioning and Furnace Equipment

The most significant and most immediate hazards from your home’s HVAC system come from the refrigerants and the potential for carbon monoxide to be released from your system.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that is formed from the incomplete combustion of carbon. It is lighter than air and is released naturally during certain events in nature, such as a forest fire; it can also be released through processes that we as humans have created. Fumes from small engines, such as lawn mowers, cars and gas stoves, fireplaces, and furnaces all cause a carbon monoxide release.

Because of its odorless and colorless nature, it has been given the nickname “silent killer.” Exposure to this gas can be toxic and even deadly. Each year carbon monoxide poisoning kills more than 430 people nationally, according to the CDC. Approximately 50,000 people go to emergency rooms each year for accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.

Refrigerants

The refrigerants that are in your air conditioner are also very dangerous if not handled correctly or if there’s a leak in your system.

If you or someone else mishandles air conditioner refrigerants, it can cause frostbite or sight impairment from coming in contact with your skin or eyes. In addition, inhaling a refrigerant can lead to asphyxiation, loss of coordination, increased pulse rate, and deeper respiration when oxygen levels in the air are reduced to 12-14%, caused by displacement.

Improper handling can also have serious environmental risks, and releasing refrigerants into the air can damage the ozone layer.

Special steps are taken by contractors to avoid risks, such as eye and respiratory protection. This is why an average consumer should not handle refrigerants or think that they can do the job of an HVAC technician. Technicians are required to have an EPA 608 certification before they are allowed to handle refrigerants. Another reason why consumers should not be handling refrigerants.

Other HVAC Safety Hazards

Falls

One of the most significant hazards to the area around your system is something you wouldn’t think about, which is falling, especially if you have an HVAC system located inside a crawl space, an attic, or a tightly enclosed area. You may want to think twice about doing the work yourself. The potential of falling in these areas is very high. Professionals can take extra precautions and have insurance policies for on-the-job accidents for a reason. If you fall trying to make an HVAC repair you don’t know how to do, you end up with two issues, a system that isn’t fixed and an injury, whereas with a professional, you will have your system fixed.

Additionally, tightly enclosed spaces can present similar challenges.

Confined Spaces

OSCHA considers confined spaces to be one of the most significant hazards in the construction industry. HVAC is no exception to this. As stated above, enclosed spaces present numerous hazards. Especially with HVAC, if your equipment is located in a tight closet, tight crawl space, or an attic that’s small, it can be a hazard. Not only is it tough to install equipment in those spaces, but you are at a higher risk of accidents and falls.

In addition to space issues, there are other hazards to consider that can be harder to control, such as the weather and your electrical supply.

Electrical Hazards

HVAC installations and repairs present significant electrical hazards too. For example, furnace and air conditioning systems are appliances that require power. Professional technicians follow LOTO, or a “lockout, tag out” policy for machines with electrical issues, protecting workers from hazardous energy overloads and keeping them and the home safe.

Especially if you are not an electrician, you should not be dealing with anything electrical. Improper electric handling can result in electrocution, burns, falls, and electric shock. Always have a professional or your technician with the proper safety gear handle any electric work.

Additionally, weather can present a whole host of uncontrollable hazards.

Weather Issues

Weather can present a whole host of issues when it comes to heating and air conditioning repairs, especially those that need to take place outside on a condenser unit. Technicians are required to assess work conditions for the job, including weather, and are required to stand down or reschedule if the repair or replacement cannot happen due to the weather. In addition, weather can cause equipment to fall and not be installed correctly, in addition to the safety hazards already present.

When in Doubt, Call an HVAC Technician

With the system in your home, there are real and present hazards that present themselves when making repairs or working on your system. Generally speaking, we recommend you call an HVAC technician for any repairs.

Keeping Your System Maintained as a Homeowner

However, there are some essential maintenance items that you can learn to do yourself, such as:

  • Changing and cleaning your filter, generally every three months
  • Cleaning and adjusting any vents
  • Checking your air ducts for leaks
  • Keeping an eye on any sounds from your system

These items are all generally safe tasks for someone who is not licensed in HVAC and easy for you to complete to help maintain the life of your system.

Keeping Your Furnace and Air Conditioner Up-to-Date with Maintenance

One way to ensure you are keeping up-to-date with regular HVAC maintenance is to sign up for a maintenance agreement with your contractor. At Fire & Ice, we have three maintenance packages that can be offered to our customers to help maintain their systems. Rather than list our maintenance agreement services, we discuss a few critical aspects of the plans and why they exemplify the desirable traits listed earlier.

For specifics and a complete list of services in our available maintenance agreements, check out our Services Page.

Repair Warranty

Repair warranties for replacement parts sometimes last as little as 60 days from the manufacturer. With our three maintenance agreements extending this warranty to, respectively, one, two, and three years, there’s peace of mind knowing that a repair wasn’t done just to collect a paycheck and get it running for a short while. If we aren’t confident about the repair or think that it won’t last for years, we will not do it, but you’re covered either way.

Lifetime Workmanship Guarantee

Guarantees like this are rare in the industry. Ours states the following:

“We guarantee the following items for the lifetime of the equipment against defects in materials or workmanship from the date the system is installed:

  • All ductwork we install
  • All ductwork insulation we install
  • Other items we install include sheet metal straps, clamps, fasteners, hangers, locks, drivers, drain piping, and fittings.
  • All high-voltage electrical wiring, wire nuts, straps, ties, and connectors we install
  • All refrigerant piping we install (does not include the cost to gain access to underground or other inaccessible piping)
  • Refrigerant insulation we install
  • All equipment pads, stands, jacks, and vibration elimination devices we install

Proper maintenance is what allows us to offer this unique guarantee. The only requirement to keep this protection in force for the lifetime of the equipment is to renew your annual maintenance program when due.”

And if you think these are empty words, I can again promise you that we’ve honored this agreement on those rare occasions when the work is done improperly. We pride ourselves on attention to detail, but no HVAC contractor is beyond fault. Having a guarantee like this is a protection for the customer.

No Overtime Fees

If a contractor is paid by the job, you run the risk of them doing a quick, poor job simply to rush to the next one. But if they’re paid hourly, a homeowner might worry about extended jobs. Protections like this are designed to hold a repair technician accountable, hold a company responsible, and standardize costs for customers.

Collective Energy Savings

Things like equipment tune-ups, free filter replacements, and evaporator or blower cleanings add up. All the reasons we discussed earlier apply to these everyday tasks, and guaranteeing that you’re having them done when they’re needed (often at a reduced cost) will benefit you over the life of your system.

Don’t Wait to Give Your Furnace and Air Conditioner Care it Deserves

At Fire & Ice, we know that maintaining your HVAC system and learning when to call in a professional can be complicated. If you have any questions, feel free to give us a call. If you’re in the Central Ohio area, check to see if you are in our service area using the zip code map below.

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