Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Boy And His Shop-Vac: Getting the Heating System Ready for Winter.

OK, this is way more
vac than I need,
but I kept it out of landfill!
Sometimes I am just a little too enthusiastic about my tool finds at the Mercer Island Thrift Shop, but I always find a home or a use for them ... eventually!
Today, I cleaned the furnace ductwork in preparation for winter, in part on the theory that "The time to dig a well is before you are thirsty!". and in part inspired by this week's Change The World Wednesday Challenge:
"This week clean and test the furnace. Did you know that your furnace needs cleaning? Yep ... it collects all kinds of dust and debris which not only affects it's performance but could cause a fire. Before you really need the heat, get out your owner's manual for instructions on how to clean it. No manual? Check here or call a furnace maintenance company. If you have a gas furnace, have it professionally inspected once a year."
This sounds like a grind, but it was just an excuse to get out the Too Large Shop-Vac! My furnace is in pretty good shape, but I noticed last year when the heating system started up, there was a dusty smell that went away after a few days. The most likely reason would be ... DUST! I figured there must be dust collecting in the system all the time; if only a little bit of it gets past the filter, over the course of a year it could really add up. It would settle out during the summer but when winter hits, the first run of the system would stir it up again, which I wanted to avoid.
I hauled out the filter and cleaned it by hosing it down good outside and letting it dry thoroughly. It's made of something that should be good for a long while if I treat it right. I then pulled all the grills over intakes or outputs to the system, cleaned them, and ran the shopvac hoses as far down the system as I could reason. I got a cup or more of dust out of the system - better it go into the vac than our lungs!
Dusty Fixture ...
The second biggest source of dust was the bathroom ceiling fixture, which combines a line and a heated fan. It disassembled easily but the dust on all the wires couldn't have been good for the fan motor. I'll have to remember to clean it yearly - if the motor ever burned out it'd be a bear to replace!
Cleans up nice!
The absolutely biggest source of dust was in the cold air intake, which is located just outside the bathroom. There was a long pile of dust which suggested that, as it drew air from the house, if fell would within the first yard or so of the system. This might be o.k. in normal operation since the air should go through the filter before being recirculated, but I can see how the initial pulse at the start of the season might pick up the dust pile and overwhelm the filter. The shop vac made short work of that!
All-in-all, this was a good use of an hour or two of time. I have a much better idea of how the system's parts go together, and feel better that I've checked for fire hazards and so forth. The system should be a little more efficiently having been all cleaned out. I even found a quarter that had slipped down a vent.
But ... to be honest ... it was mostly noisy fun with the vac!

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