For an HVAC system to work well, there must be some exchange of indoor and outdoor air, which can provide an opening for the creepy-crawly critters of the great outdoors. While a well-maintained system has numerous safeguards to prevent them from getting inside, many unwanted house guests only need a tiny amount of space to sneak in.

Vermin problems vary by region, so it's helpful to know which pests are most common in your area. It's also important to understand what attracts them to your indoor spaces, how to block their entry and how to eliminate them once they've invaded your home. Fortunately, what's good for pest prevention is usually also good for your HVAC system.

And the Winner Is...

Bloomberg reported on the results of the most recent American Housing Survey, which tracks all sorts of data about the national housing supply -- including the scourge of vermin. In the latest survey, New Orleans led the pack in cockroach infestations, followed by Houston, Miami and Atlanta. As for rats, Philadelphia came in first, just ahead of Boston, New York and Washington, D.C.

The results say a lot about what kinds of environments these pests prefer; cockroaches thrive in warmer, wetter regions, whereas rats are more common in older cities and colder climates. But one way roaches and rats are alike is their shared need for water, food and shelter -- and that's exactly what drives them indoors.

Maintain a No-Pest Zone

Maintaining your HVAC system and controlling pests may seem like two completely separate concerns, but they overlap in many ways. The saliva, skin cells and droppings left behind by pests can be serious irritants for sufferers of asthma and other respiratory conditions, creating an indoor air quality issue. And rodents may even chew up or build nests in your sensitive system components.

Here are a few things you can do to pest-proof your home while also caring for your climate control equipment:

  • Seal off pests' points of entry. A consultation with a pest control professional often involves a detailed inspection to discover where the vermin is getting inside. If pests are using your HVAC system to gain access, a technician can fit vents with protective screens. HVAC professionals can also pinpoint drafts, which usually result from openings large enough to allow insect infiltration.
  • Seal your ductwork. Over time, some duct material may degrade and fail -- especially duct tape. Gaps in your ducts can create a pathway for pests, not to mention waste valuable energy.
  • Control moisture. Avoid puddling water in and around the home, especially near your outdoor air conditioning condenser. Use dehumidifiers in areas where dampness is a problem. Virtually all pests rely on water to survive.
  • Schedule routine HVAC system maintenance. A professional inspection and tune-up is the best way to check for signs of an infestation in your system.
  • Preventative pest control. Semi-annual spraying and pest control inspections help control potential infestations.

If you suspect pests are entering your home through a weakness in your HVAC system, or if you're simply overdue for a tune-up, call upon your local climate control specialists.

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