Autumn in the Northeast is a beautiful time as all the leaves begin to change colors. However, when this happens, you know it won’t be long before you’re raking up huge piles of leaves in your yard. While all those leaves can be a pain to clean up, they can also cause major issues with your HVAC system. Both your heating and air conditioning systems can be affected by leaves, and here is how it happens.
The Effect of Leaves on Your Furnace
If your home has a gas furnace, leaves can affect how well it runs and even potentially create a serious health risk. Gas furnaces have two vent pipes, and these can sometimes become clogged with leaves.
The intake pipe works to draw air into the system so that it can be heated. There is also an exhaust vent that funnels the carbon monoxide and other dangerous combustion gases outside of the building.
These pipes usually exit the building close to the foundation and near the furnace. The pipes may also go up and out through your roof. In this case, there is usually nothing to worry about since pipes in the roof are much less likely to get clogged with leaves and debris. However, if your pipes are close to the ground, leaves can easily get trapped inside.
When leaves clog the intake pipe, it prevents air from getting to the furnace. This results in your heating system not working properly since there will be no air inside the unit for it to heat.
Leaves clogging the exhaust pipe is a much more serious problem. When this happens, it can cause carbon monoxide and combustion fumes to flow back into the house. Your furnace has a built-in safety mechanism that should automatically shut the unit off if the exhaust system isn’t working properly. However, this mechanism may sometimes fail, creating a dangerous health risk as carbon monoxide fills the home.
The good news is that cleaning out these pipes doesn’t take long. If you’re not sure where the pipes are, look around the outside of your house that’s closest to the furnace. You should see two PVC pipes exiting the building. Once you’ve found the pipes, look inside and remove any leaves and other debris to ensure they are clear. It is recommended that you do this before turning on your heating for the year. You should also periodically check the pipes throughout the winter just to make sure they are still clear.
The Effect of Leaves on Your Air Conditioning
Leaves can also have a major effect on your air conditioning system and can damage your AC condenser or prevent the system from working properly. The issue here is that leaves can clog the sides of the AC condenser unit outside your home.
The condenser is the heart of your AC system. It supplies cold refrigerant so that the air handler and evaporator coil can absorb heat and moisture from inside the building. It also works to release the heat that the system took out of the house.
If the sides of the condenser become clogged with leaves or other debris, it prevents the unit from being able to disperse heat. When the heat can’t be dispersed, it causes the pressure inside the refrigerant lines to rise. This makes the compressor motor work much harder as it has to pump against the high pressure. As a result, the compressor motor can start to overheat and fail. The problem can also increase the wear and tear on other components as well.
The fact that the motor has to work harder also means that the system will use more energy. In addition, this problem typically causes your AC to cool much less efficiently. This means that the system will need to stay on for longer periods, which further increases energy use and wear and tear.
If you have your AC system professionally maintained every spring, the technician will clean out the condenser to make sure it isn’t clogged. However, you should also make sure to regularly check the unit throughout the summer and early autumn. If you see any leaves or other debris stuck around the sides of the unit, you should easily be able to remove them with a vacuum or blow them out with condensed air.
If you are experiencing any problems with your home’s heating or air conditioning systems, WK Mechanical, Inc. is here to help. We have more than 75 years of professional HVAC experience and are proud to be the top-rated HVAC contractor in Middletown and the Hudson Valley. Our technicians repair and service all brands and all types of heating and cooling equipment, and we also specialize in installation. For more information, contact us today.