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After the Fire: Preventing Damage to HVAC Systems and Your Health

Oct. 18, 2017
California's epic wildfires pose health risks even to those who missed the flames. But mechanical maintenance can prevent permanent damage, say experts.

Recent fires in and around Riverside County, Calif., have left many homeowners with catastrophic damage. For homeowners who escaped burn damage, HVAC experts are urging maintenance and air quality checks to ensure the health of their systems and their family.

Ashes, soot and airborne particulate matter settles into HVAC units and clog internal mechanical workings. This causes motors to run harder, increased utility bills and shortens the lifespan of the unit. Of greater concern, though, is ensuring residents are not breathing contaminated air riddled with pollutants.

Airborne particulate matter can settle into HVAC units and cause motors to run harder, increase utility bills, and shorten the lifespan of the unit.

"Ash and other particles are so small that HVAC filters do not catch them and when units are turned on, these particulates are blown into the homes polluting the air and building-up in the ductwork," said Ken Goodrich, owner and CEO of Phoenix, Ariz.-based Goettl Air Conditioning, which expanded into the region over the summer. "For small children, the elderly and others with existing respiratory problems, this situation is particularly concerning. HVAC systems are like the lungs of the house – when clogged or not working correctly, that's when bad things happen."

Soot clogged systems force units to run with higher refrigerant pressure, which can lead to failing components. Oftentimes, the buildup of soot and ash leads to poor air quality. The air quality problem is amplified when homeowners close their windows when turning on their HVAC. Goodrich recommends residents open their windows before turning on their units and run the HVAC for 60 minutes to allow for proper ventilation.

Maintenance, cleaning – and conducting system and air quality checks – are a homeowner's best pathway to prevent future headaches and to help ensure indoor air quality. "We want our neighbors and customers to be healthy," added Goodrich, an industry veteran who has HVAC operations in Southern California, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Tucson – some of the harshest environments in the U.S. for HVAC systems.

"Our experience has proven that post-fire events, homeowners often don't know what to do to make sure their homes are free of contaminents and have air that doesn't make them sick," he adds.

Operating since 1939, Goettl Air Conditioning sells and maintains AC and heating equipment in the Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas, and now Southern California markets. To see the original press release, go to