Suffering from a broken heater or air conditioner is bad enough, but dealing with problems in both can be exponentially more frustrating. Luckily for you, there is one major common element between the two that might be responsible for your current woes: the ventilation. Even better, you can often diagnose this problem all on your own.
So why is the ventilation responsible?
If you have central heating and central air conditioning, then both heavily rely on a functioning ventilation system to work. These appliances are often far away from the parts of your house that are frequently occupied, such as bedrooms and living rooms, which means that the benefits that they offer are of extremely limited value without a system to distribute their hot/cold air to the rest of the house.
The ventilation system can develop blockages, perhaps from a buildup of too much dust, or can even find itself the unfortunate host to a dead animal. If that does happen, then you might have diminished heating and air conditioning as well as a disgusting smell that permeates the entire house.
So how can you determine if your ventilation is to blame?
The process for verifying this problem is actually quite simple. First, you will want to check and see exactly which rooms are affected.
To do this, you are going to want to run the heater or air conditioner. If you suspect that there is a dead animal that is responsible for your lack of heating/AC, then don't use the heat, since that will speed up the decomposition process, making the smell and mess a lot worse.
Close every window and door that you can, since this will help create a contained environment in every room. Ideally, this will give each room time to heat up or cool down according to how much hot/cold air is being delivered to the room without regards to the natural airflow of your home. If everything is working correctly, then each room will have roughly the same temperature after 20-30 minutes. On top of that, you should be able to place your hand over the vent cover in each room and feel roughly similar temperatures and airflow.
What do the results mean?
If you do find that some rooms have drastically different temperatures after about half an hour, then you can determine that the blockage is somewhere in the ventilation system before those vent covers, yet after the ventilation system forks off and goes to the rest of the home.
If all of the rooms are roughly similar, then the problem is likely at the very beginning of your ventilation system, before it branches off to go to any separate rooms. This will make the blockage much harder to reach and thus much harder for you to handle on your own.
In some cases, you can open up the vent cover of the room in question and actually reach the blockage. If this is the case, then you can likely break it up and remove it as well, using a long, thin object (like a broom handle) or a vacuum with a hose attachment. Of course, your ventilation system is quite large, and most of the system cannot be accessed within easy reach of a vent cover. In cases like these, hiring a professional vent cleaning service is often your best bet. Such companies have specialized equipment that allows them to access deep inside your ventilation and clean out blockages as effectively as possible.
Contact a company like Don's AC Service, Inc. for more help.