August 28, 2019
Heating systems and air conditioning are an irreplaceable part of modern life. Whether you employ separate utilities for them , or you have a single unified HVAC system that performs both functions for you, you definitely depend on them.
So, for something so important, you have to be able to maintain it in peak condition. Otherwise, the systems will deteriorate. Their functionality will drop, which will make your energy bills skyrocket. On top of that, you will get way less heating or cooling out of them.
Of course, there are some maintenance and repair tasks that you should not be undertaking on your own. Even the best and most detailed online how-to guide can never replace a proper commercial HVAC contractor with actual life experience in the field. That said, there still is plenty you can do with your own two hands. So today we gathered some tips and tricks on how to properly care for your HVAC, right from the horse’s mouth!
When should you do maintenance?
That depends on what type of a system you have running.
If you have only a furnace to think about, then give it some tender loving care a minimum of once per year, before heating season. If you decide to check on it a couple of more times throughout the year, it will thank you!
Conversely, if your setup is one that serves cooling purposes only, again you should do some maintenance work on it at least once each year, before the cooling season starts. And again if you have the mind to take a few more looks at it during the rest of the year, that would be great!
Finally, if you have an HVAC that both heats and cools with one system, then you will need to care for it minimally twice a year: once each spring and once each autumn. These are known as “pre-season tune ups” and they do wonders to protect your system from buckling when extreme temperatures roll around. It is also a way to optimize efficiency, meaning you get to lower your energy bills. For more info on the various different types of HVAC systems out there, check out this link.
What can you do on your own?
Okay, so what can you fix and polish without calling anybody who will charge you for it? There are about four things, so let’s look at each.
First, clear out your supply and return vents. Go around your residence and check each of them to make sure nothing is interfering with the air flow. The most common obstructions include children’s toys, pet hair, human hair, carpets, and furniture. Get them off of your vents. If the flow of air faces interference, the system has to work that much harder.
Second, take care of your outdoor unit. Get rid of any surrounding debris like leaves, weeds, plants, fallen branches, rocks, and random trash. Sweep the fins clean with a soft broom, and occasionally wash down your condensing unit with a regular hose. Check extra carefully for any birds, rodents, or reptiles that may have built their nests beneath, around, or even inside the unit.
Insects are another problem, most infamously wasps, which use the AC (especially window units) as a nesting place and gateway to your home. Find some tips on how to get rid of them at this link: https://www.hunker.com/12595278/how-to-keep-wasps-out-of-air-conditioners
Third, be consistent in changing your air filter. Do a checkup each month, and either clean it or completely replace it every three months at a minimum. If your checkups show you that dirt, moisture, debris etc. build up faster, feel free to clean or change the filter more often. This is the simplest thing you can do, but it saves you loads of trouble. Dirty filters will require greater system effort. This will wear it down much faster, not to mention raising the costs of the cooling or heating itself.
And fourth, make a point of regular maintenance. Add your HVAC care routine into your regular home keeping sessions, whether you incorporate it into spring cleaning, summer hedge pruning or whatever else.
What should you leave for the pros to handle?
There are a few things that are best left to experienced hands. The best time to call in the professionals are spring, before heat increases much, or autumn, before any serious temperature decreases. Here are the tasks you should entrust to contractors:
System diagnostics. This is like the all-points examination at the general doctor’s. Your system will be checked for its electric control sequence, air flow in the evaporator coil, and whether the controls operate per relevant industry standards.
Maintenance diagnostics. Check for whether other maintenance procedures are needed, e.g. unplugging condensate drains, adjusting or cleaning blowers, fixing electrical issues, tightening loosened connections, lubricating motors and so on.
Thermostat functionality. If your thermostat is not functioning properly, you could be faced with anything from increased expenses, through heat discomfort, to explosions. Have it regularly examined.
Amount of refrigerant. If the level of refrigerant in your system is too low or too high, not only will the efficiency drop, the lifespan of the unit will also be significantly decreased.
Ductwork damage. Bad connections, holes, and leaks in the ducts cause air loss. This means more cooling/ heating struggle for the system, meaning higher bills for you.