It is difficult to imagine living in sweltering heat since air conditioning hit the scene more than a century ago. In 1902, the New York Stock Exchange was one of the first air-conditioned buildings and it’s easy to understand why. Cool air helps keeps people comfortable, stress lower, and energy higher.
Shortly after, in the 1920s, movie theatre operators realized they could get movie- goers to enjoy more summer movies if they used new technology to keep the theatres cool. Once air conditioning was introduced to movie theatres, it didn’t take long for patrons to start expecting cool and comfortable environments everywhere they went.
Since then, air conditioners bring comfort to most companies, small businesses, and modern homeowners. Today, central HVAC systems are expected in any home you buy. Most older homes are quickly updated to include air conditioning and furnace capabilities in order to stay marketable.
HVAC has become a part of American life, and it’s easy to understand why. When your unit isn’t working right, it’s instantly uncomfortable. Suddenly the air feels stuffy, stagnant, clammy or damp. Keeping your system running smoothly requires regular HVAC maintenance.
HVAC Preventative Maintenance
If you never got your oil changed or tires rotated, you’d end up with some pretty big car issues. The same goes for your HVAC system. The difference is, unless you go looking for it, you rarely see your HVAC up close. It can be easy to forget about until something goes wrong.
No matter what type of system you have, any HVAC system needs a regular tune-up. An HVAC unit with a fresh tune up provides instant benefits and prevents future problems. Some of the most beneficial aspects of HVAC maintenance include:
- Cost Savings: Although your thermostat might stay the same, keep a close eye on your energy bills. You might notice a change when a neglected system has to work harder to provide the same level of comfort. After a fresh tune-up, your HVAC system works more efficiently, which can reduce your energy bills.
- Prevention: Everything is fine until you have an AC breakdown in the middle of July or your heater goes out on Christmas morning. Calling for maintenance on a regular basis, or as soon as you notice a strange noise or odor can prevent catastrophic breakdowns later.
- Longevity: An HVAC system can last anywhere between 10-20 years as long as it is treated to professional maintenance on a regular basis. Regular HVAC maintenance and cleanings keep your entire system running smooth and can add years to the expected equipment lifespan.
- Safety: Your furnace and AC unit use dangerous components and systems to heat and cool your home. That’s why it’s important to have a professional take care of maintenance. Without it, you may be dealing with a cracked heat exchanger, carbon monoxide leaks, flooding, refrigerant on the floor, or a fire hazard.
Semi-Annual Professional Maintenance Checklist
Formal HVAC maintenance should be scheduled once in the spring and once in the fall. This ensures that your unit is ready for heavy use during peak usage times in winter and summer months.
While there are some things you can do yourself to maintain your system throughout the year, these semi-annual tune-ups are best left to the pros. They have the expertise and experience to complete efficient maintenance, but also notice, diagnose, and prevent future problems. Here’s what to expect at your semi-annual maintenance appointment:
- Calibrate the thermostat: A programmable thermostat that is correctly calibrated ensures that you are comfortable all year long. This also gives you the opportunity to update or replace your thermostat if necessary.
- Check connections: A certified technician measures voltage and current on the equipment to ensure it is running on a proper circuit and all connections are secure. This seems like a simple step, but it prevents possible dangerous situations caused by loose electrical or fuel line connections.
- Draining: All cooling equipment creates some type of condensation. If the pipe or collection pan is blocked, it can create overflow and serious water damage. Your HVAC technician can check for draining issues, and then proceed to take care of any that may exist.
- Cleaning: Several areas of the HVAC system require regular cleaning to ensure efficiency. The blower, evaporator, and condenser coils all need to be cleaned. Over time, clogged and dirty parts have to work harder. A simple cleaning can lower your energy bills and prolong equipment life.
The truth is, what you don’t know can hurt you. HVAC units are highly technical. The unit uses a large amount of voltage electricity. It’s best to stay away from these components if you don’t have the proper training or safety gear. If you know your system needs a fix, find a contractor in your area and we’ll get the job done for you.
Health Benefits of a Clean HVAC
Besides cooling and heating the air, HVAC units bring additional benefits to indoor spaces by keeping the air clean and clear. HVAC maintenance keeps your environment comfortable and your energy bills lower, but it can also keep you and your family safe.
- Cleaner Air: Through the science of staying cool, we have also introduced circulated and filtered indoor air, reduced irritants and pollutants. This is especially important for anyone who is sensitive to seasonal allergies. Irritants in the air can cause problems to your health. Clean and filtered air is especially helpful to anyone who suffers from respiratory illnesses such as asthma, lung disease, or other issues that make it difficult to breathe normally.
- Dehumidification: That sticky, muggy feeling you get from outdoor humidity is cleared out when your HVAC unit is working at its best. Moisture that occurs naturally in the air can cause problems in your home. Especially when combined with moisture created in the home, it can lead to mold, mildew, and health issues. Your HVAC unit pushes air out of the home and recirculates it. In turn, it pulls moisture from the air, creating a more comfortable space.
What You Can Do to Help
While semi-annual HVAC maintenance visits are best left to the professionals, there are a few things you can do throughout the year to prolong the life of your unit. These are easy to do and only take a few minutes, but they can give you advanced notice of potential problems.
- Change your HVAC air filter on a regular basis. Some units have a light that indicates when it needs to be changed, others don’t, but filters are a must. Don’t skimp on air filters either; buy a high-efficiency pleated filter that is the appropriate size for your unit. These filters are more expensive, but they have an electrostatic charge that works like a magnet to grab the tiniest particles, especially those that carry bacteria. They simply work better than the cheap options and can last longer, which allows you to wait 2-3 months in between changing.
- Keep the unit clear from debris. This is especially important if your unit is stored outside. Clear out leaves, foliage, and grass to keep it clear. If your unit is inside, make sure it has plenty of space and isn’t stored in the middle of boxes, bags or piles of basement storage. There should be at least 2 feet around the unit that is free and clear of debris and clutter.
- Inspect the refrigerant lines to ensure there’s no leaking or clogged areas. If you see any problems, it’s best to call a professional. Refrigerant can be a dangerous substance and it best left to those with expertise.
- Keep carbon monoxide detectors in working condition. Replace the batteries as necessary and ensure they are in working order.
- Clean the unit itself, especially if it is stored outside. Hose it down or wipe it off when it begins to accumulate dirt and dust.
When performing any type of maintenance or inspecting your A/C unit, be sure to turn the power off. This protects yourself as well as the equipment itself. Even small changes require adequate safety precautions taken.
Programming Your Thermostat
Setting the thermostat seems like common sense, but the truth is nearly 90 percent of Americans say they’ve rarely (or never) programmed their thermostat. Why? Because they’re not sure how to do it.
It’s not hard to do, and definitely worth taking the time to figure it out. Programming your thermostat can save at least 10 percent or more on your energy bills. If you are away from home during the day, don’t waste your money heating/cooling an empty home.
Scheduling your thermostat effectively allows you to set it and forget it so you can get the most out of your savings without having to lift a finger. Regardless of the brand, make, or model of your thermostat, there are four types of programmable options.
- 7-day. This delivers a different heating/cooling schedule for each day of the week. It’s flexible and best used for individuals or families with constantly changing schedules.
- 5-1-1. The 5-1-1- schedule creates one schedule for weekdays, one for Saturdays and one for Sundays.
- 5-2. This is the same as 5-1-1 programming, except Saturday and Sunday will have the same heating/cooling plan.
- 1-week. Of course, if you’d like you can also set the thermostat to have the exact same heating/cooling plan for the entire week.
Another option is a smart thermostat that tracks the traffic in your home for you and automatically adjusts the thermostat to save you money when activity is low, and keep your guests comfortable when the house is full.
HVAC maintenance is an essential part of home ownership. It is the key to keeping your family warm in the winter and cool in the summer while providing health benefits all year long. If your system hasn’t had its regular maintenance in the last six months, work with our contractors and make sure you’re getting the most out of your HVAC unit.