Summer is coming up, and the last thing you want to be doing in a heatwave is worrying about a broken HVAC system. As the temperature outside rises, you’ll be using AC more. If your HVAC fails, it could be more than inconvenient and uncomfortable – it could even be dangerous, especially for children and elderly people. To avoid sweating while waiting on the phone for an HVAC technician, follow these essential tips to maintain your HVAC system and avoid needing local AC repair.
Get your HVAC System Inspected Twice a Year
We’ll look at some maintenance techniques you can do yourself, but it’s important to point out that a skilled and experienced HVAC technician should take a look too: ideally twice a year. We recommend calling in a residential AC repair company to check your system in the spring and fall, before the important summer and winter seasons when you’ll need heating and air conditioning the most. This timing allows a qualified HVAC technician to do AC repairs and cleaning or adjustments before you rely on the system most of the time.
During routine maintenance, a qualified HVAC technician will do a comprehensive inspection of your system from top to bottom. The technician will clean and service various components, check for any wear and tear or damage, and make sure that everything is running safely and efficiently. By identifying any potential issues early on, you can prevent them from snowballing into bigger and more expensive HVAC fails down the line. If any issues need to be repaired, the technician will let you know all about it and get to work fixing it.
Failing to schedule regular maintenance checks can lead to more costs and even dangerous situations. HVAC fails are inconvenient in the spring or fall, but it is both more expensive and more dangerous during a summer heat wave or a winter storm. Neglected systems can pose other safety risks too, such as the potential for harmful or even fatal carbon monoxide leaks. Lastly, failing to schedule regular maintenance can hurt your wallet. A poorly maintained HVAC fails more often, requiring AC services, and can be less efficient, resulting in higher energy bills and wasted resources.
Do a Visual Inspection
You don’t need to wait for an HVAC technician to check your system. A simple visual inspection can help you identify problems in advance, at any time of year. However, most HVAC owners don’t even know where to start. Let’s break it down:
First, take a good look at the outside of your unit. Look for any signs of damage or wear, like dents, scratches, or rust that could indicate a bigger problem. Next, it’s time to get inside. Open up the access panel and take a peek at the interior. Keep an eye out for any signs of wear or damage, like frayed wires or loose connections. You can’t know whether all the components are installed correctly, but take note of anything that isn’t fitting in place.
Don’t forget about the fan blades! Make sure they’re clean and free of any debris that could cause your system to work less efficiently and cost you more money on your energy bill. After that, check the refrigerant lines for any signs of wear or damage. Leaking refrigerant can be bad for both the environment and your HVAC system’s performance.
Lastly, don’t forget to check your air filters. Dirty filters can impede airflow and cause your system to work harder than it needs to, which can drive up your energy bill. If they’re looking pretty grungy, it’s time to replace them. Let’s look at that process in a little more detail!
Change HVAC Filters
Regularly changing filters is something you can do all by yourself to maintain your system and avoid HVAC fails. Changing filters is an essential part of home HVAC maintenance because dirty filters lead to problems. They can trap pollutants, dust, and allergens, affecting your air quality. They also obstruct airflow, causing your system to work harder than it needs to and consume more energy, which leads to higher energy bills.
Clogged filters can strain your HVAC system, forcing it to work harder and potentially leading to costly repairs or even premature replacement. Regularly swapping out dirty filters for clean, new ones can help you avoid all these problems, improve air quality, increase efficiency, and extend the lifespan of your system.
To change your HVAC filters, start by turning off your HVAC system to avoid any accidents. You don’t want to do this while the unit is running! Unplug the entire unit if you feel unsafe or unsure.
The filters are usually located in the return air duct, near the air handler or furnace. Carefully remove the old filter from its slot, noting its position so that you can replace it correctly. Install the new filter in the same position as the old one and make sure that it fits snugly in the slot. Finally, turn your HVAC system back on.
Changing HVAC filters is a relatively simple process and you can do it yourself without an HVAC technician by following these instructions and the directions you receive with the filters. However, if you run into problems, don’t troubleshoot them yourself – go to the experts.
Clear Space for your HVAC Unit
Your HVAC unit needs space to breathe. Maintaining a clean and clutter-free space around your HVAC unit improves its performance and efficiency. When debris and clutter accumulate around the unit, they can impede airflow and cause the system to work harder than necessary.
Stacking papers, books, boxes, or anything else around your HVAC unit can lead to increased energy bills, reduced comfort levels, and even HVAC fails. Crowding your HVAC can also create a fire hazard, putting your home and family at risk. To stay safe and get the best performance from your HVAC unit, regularly remove any objects or debris that may be in the way. This includes boxes, storage containers, and other items that may be stored around the unit, obstructing airflow.
Check on Your Condenser
The condenser is the ‘outside’ part of your HVAC unit, and it’s just as important to care for. Here is how you can examine your condenser for issues or damage, and clean and care for it so it will last a long time.
Safety first! Before you begin any inspection or maintenance, turn off the power to the condenser to prevent any accidents. Next, give the unit a once-over, visually inspecting the exterior. You are looking for any damage or blockages and clearing away any debris or clutter. Just like your indoor unit, the condenser needs to be clear and unobstructed to do its job efficiently.
Take a closer look at the condenser coil’s fins. Bent fins can cause airflow problems and reduce your system’s efficiency, so use a fin comb to straighten any of them that look crooked. If you don’t have a fin comb or you’re anxious about the process, you can get an HVAC technician to help you the next time you schedule regular maintenance.
Cleaning the condenser coil with a garden hose can help remove any dust, dirt, or debris. But be careful! Using too much water pressure can cause damage to the fins and coil. Never use a pressure washer for this and diffuse the pressure of a garden hose if you can.
You don’t need to be an expert to check on the electrical components of the unit and make sure everything is securely connected and not damaged. If anything looks disconnected or wrong, don’t try to fix it yourself. Instead, schedule an appointment with a skilled HVAC technician.
If you have regular problems with your condenser, especially in the spring as you are preparing for summer, consider surrounding the condenser unit with a protective cover during the winter months. This can prevent snow and ice from accumulating and potentially causing damage. If you live in a cold climate, this is an important thing to check in the spring. If the condenser for your HVAC fails because it is damaged, it will affect your entire system.
Watch Your Temperatures and Power Bills
If you’re regularly doing visual inspections of your HVAC unit and scheduling regular maintenance, there is still another HVAC alarm you should pay attention to: the temperature in your house and the amount on your power bill. This can tip you off in advance to potential issues with your HVAC system so you can deal with them before they become more costly.
Are you too cold? Too hot? If you’re sweating or shivering in your own home, it’s a clear sign that your HVAC system may not be working correctly and might require maintenance. Plus, keeping an eye on your power bills can give you an indication of how efficiently your HVAC system is running. If you notice a sudden increase in energy bills, it could be a sign that your HVAC fails to operate efficiently as it should. By addressing any issues right away, you can save a considerable amount of money on your energy bills and avoid a big repair bill in the future.
You don’t even really need to pay attention, yourself. Let’s not forget about the convenience of modern smart thermostats! These devices can provide detailed information about your HVAC system’s performance, including energy usage and how often it runs. This can help you make changes or schedule repairs.
Clean HVAC Ducts Every 3-5 Years
Ducts are a much-neglected and forgotten part of HVAC maintenance. A good duct cleaning can improve indoor air quality, extend the lifespan of the system, and increase energy efficiency. However, cleaning ducts can be a complex and challenging process and we recommend hiring a professional HVAC technician to perform the job safely and effectively.
HVAC ducts should be cleaned every three to five years. How often you do a duct cleaning should depend on the level of use, the type of filter used, and the presence of pets or allergies in the home. If you notice an increase in dust or debris in your home, unusual smells or noises coming from the system, or your HVAC fails to regulate the temperature due to decreased airflow, it may be time to clean your ducts.
Every HVAC duct collects dust, debris, and allergens which can cause health problems, reduce the system’s efficiency, and damage its components. Dirty ducts can also increase energy consumption and lead to higher utility bills.
Professional HVAC technicians and duct cleaning companies have the training, expertise, and specialized equipment needed to clean ducts safely and effectively. They use high-powered vacuums, brushes, and blowers to remove debris from the ducts and ensure that the system is working efficiently.
Replace Your HVAC Unit When It’s Time
Eventually, even HVAC systems reach the end of the line. Deciding when you need an HVAC replacement can be a tricky task, but several signs can help you determine whether it’s time for a full replacement.
One telltale sign is that your HVAC unit is not operating efficiently, even after regular maintenance and repairs. This can cause your energy bills to skyrocket, uneven temperatures throughout your home, and frequent breakdowns. If your HVAC fails after showing these signs and is over 15 years old, it may be more cost-effective to replace the unit rather than continue with repairs. If you’re on a first-name basis with your HVAC technician and getting costly repairs done multiple times a year, it’s probably time for a new unit.
The lifespan of an HVAC unit depends on various factors, including the type of system, how often it is used, and how well it is maintained. Typically, an HVAC unit can last anywhere from 10-25 years, with the average lifespan being around 15-20 years. Although you probably know when you need an air conditioner replacement, it’s always a good idea to seek advice from a professional technician. They can be more accurate about the remaining lifespan, and recommend the most cost-effective option for you – whether it is repair or replacement by an air conditioner contractor.
Caring for your HVAC system makes sense, and can save you time and money. This is especially true ahead of a busy season like summer when you’ll be running more AC. By following these maintenance procedures and working with skilled and experienced HVAC technicians, you can make it easier on yourself and live in comfortable temperatures year-round.