How to Maintain Air to Air Heat Exchangers How to Maintain Air to Air Heat Exchangers

What You'll Need
Brush attachment
New air filter (optional)
Mild dish soap
Owner's manual

Air to air heat exchangers are used to recapture some of the energy which was used to heat the house. The air leaving the house passes through the exchanger, at the same time new air is being taken, in allowing a heat transfer. Like many electrical appliances, routine maintenance of air to air heat exchangers is key to proper functioning. Before doing any maintenance, be sure you have turned the power off, and flipped the breaker switch.

Step 1 - Filters

Since the job of a heat exchanger is to transfer heat from 1 air stream to another, making sure the airways and filters are freely flowing is the most important part of maintenance. Check filters every 3 to 6 months. Be sure to clean washable filters. Most washable filters can be placed in the dishwasher, or scrubbed with a soft bristled brush. Vacuum the area surrounding the filters and air intakes. Replacement filters can be found online, or at most any home improvement store.

Step 2 - Air Intakes

Every 3 to 6 months, check both air intakes, to be sure there are no objects obstructing airflow, or debris clogging the area. If the air intakes cannot receive optimal air, the exchanger will run harder, and shorten its lifespan. This can also cause the exchanger to become unbalanced--more air is being either going in or out--and create a pressurized house. Be sure to go outdoors and check the exterior intake as well.

Step 3 - Condensation Pan

As the air is exchanged, condensation is created and collected in a pan. The liquid is discharged through plastic tubing which has a U-bend, to prevent odors and backups. Every 3 to 6 months, check the pan to insure it is operating correctly, by slowly pouring a quart of water into the drain. The water should drain into the plastic tubing connected to the drain at a steady rate. If it does not, there is a clog in the tube, and it should be replaced. Use a damp rag to wipe any debris out of condensation pan.

Step 4 - Clean the Core

This step should be done once a year. Be sure to completely read the maintenance manual for the exchanger, so the warranty is not voided and proper precautions are taken for the individual system. Remove the core as advised in the manual. Soak the core in warm soapy water, scrubbing gently. Completely rinse when finished, and allow to dry before replacing. If the exchanger has a summer core, do not use any water. Vacuum the core with a brush attachment. 

Step 5 - Cleaning the Fan

Cleaning the fans should be handled by a professional, unless you are completely comfortable removing the entire fan assembly. Often, the owners manual will not cover this step, and outside sources of information are needed. This can be done when the core is removed for cleaning, but only needs to be serviced every 1 to 3 years.

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