Tips for HVAC maintenance

Homeowners should perform routine HVAC maintenance for air quality safety reasons. Scheduling HVAC preventive maintenance will keep it working properly and extend the life of your device. Ignoring your system can lead to inefficient performance and system failures. There are several HVAC maintenance tasks that you can perform yourself, but some require an HVAC specialist. In this guide, we outline the do's and don'ts of HVAC maintenance.

DO: Seasonal HVAC preventive maintenance

Schedule preventative maintenance for HVAC at least twice a year with a professional technician. Maintenance should include an inspection of an oven or heat pump, including cleaning and an annual adjustment. Schedule maintenance for your air conditioning in the spring and your oven or heat pump in the late summer or early fall. This way your unit will work optimally and efficiently as soon as you switch it on.

If your HVAC technician detects a serious problem, they can fix it before it leads to other problems, and before it is time to switch from heating to cooling or vice versa. An adjustment typically involves a thorough inspection, including checking the heat exchanger for cracks, checking the cooling, cleaning the condensate tube, cleaning the condenser, lubricating all moving parts, and replacing filters.

DO: Change your filters regularly

Even though your HVAC specialist checks filters twice a year during maintenance and adjustments, that doesn't mean you shouldn't check them. Typically, HVAC systems have a 30-day glass fiber filter or a three-month pleated filter. Because they have such a short life, you should check them regularly. Even if it is ahead of schedule, change them if they are dirty.

Leaving a dirty filter in an HVAC unit makes it work harder. The harder an HVAC unit has to work to circulate air through a house, the more energy it consumes. A dirty filter also loads the system's fan, which can also make it work too hard.

DO: Keep the area organized for healthy systems

Seasonal HVAC maintenance also includes keeping the area around HVAC units clear, both indoors and outdoors. That means no dirt, grime, grass or leaves should accumulate. According to the Department of Energy, you must leave at least two feet of space around outdoor HVAC units to ensure they operate efficiently.

DO: Control your internal temperatures

The Department of Energy states that when homeowners turn their thermostats back 7 to 10 degrees eight hours a day, they can save 10% on annual heating and cooling bills. Furthermore, if you set your thermostat to 68 degrees in the winter when you are awake and lower it while sleeping, it also saves energy costs. Use that same strategy in the summer by setting the thermostats to 78 degrees at home and keeping it warmer when you're gone.

Using programmable or smart thermostats is an easy way to control the heating and cooling of your home. You control this thermostat technology from a smartphone or tablet from anywhere. Some smart thermostats can even learn and adapt your habits, so you don't even have to program energy-saving adjustments.

DO: Perform visual inspections during your HVAC maintenance

Perform a visual inspection of your system at least once a year to ensure that nothing looks wrong. Check that the condensate or evaporator coils are not dirty, that the coils are not frozen and that there is no water leakage. Look for damage to the fins and listen for strange vibrations or sounds when the unit is on. Contact an HVAC professional if you notice anything that needs to be addressed.

DO: Maintain your carbon monoxide detector

When using an oil or natural gas heating system, you also have a carbon monoxide detector. Make sure to test the carbon monoxide detector at least once a month. If the device has replaceable batteries, replace them at least every six months or when you hear a single beep every minute. These detectors are essential for HVAC maintenance, because if it starts beeping four times with a pause, it means your HVAC unit is leaking, and you need to go out into the fresh air and immediately call 9-1-1. It is also essential to remember that the average life of a carbon monoxide detector is between five and seven years. Some monitors let you know they need to be replaced if they beep five times per minute.

DO: Make a seasonal checklist for HVAC maintenance

By creating a seasonal HVAC maintenance checklist, you have all the tasks you can add to your calendar. You want to add professional seasonal maintenance to the calendar, including turning on the water in the fall, replacing the humidifier wick, turning off the water supply to the oven in the spring, and inspecting the air conditioning refrigerant lines before the summer. Additional checklist items include checking the thermostat settings, tightening electrical connections, lubricating all moving parts, inspecting the condensate drain, and checking the system operation.

Make sure your calendar has reminders to schedule this maintenance, replace your air filters monthly (or every three months depending on the type), replace the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, and inspect your system.

DO NOT: Ignore higher energy bills

If your HVAC system does not receive regular maintenance, it may mean it is operating less efficiently. As a result, it consumes more fuel and causes higher energy bills. High energy bills indicate that the system is not functioning properly or that it is time to replace it with a more energy efficient device. Look at the age of your HVAC system to determine if it's time for an upgrade that meets efficiency standards.

DON'T be afraid to hire an HVAC professional

While there are many things you can do to keep your HVAC system operating optimally from season to season, there are limitations. HVAC specialists are trained and must follow building codes to ensure your home is safe. They also manage the installation of all electrical components to ensure efficiency. One sign that you should hire an HVAC professional is, among other things, that your system turns on and off continuously or cycles short. You may also need an HVAC professional if there is a lot of noise when you start up the system.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I schedule professional HVAC maintenance?
Schedule professional HVAC maintenance twice a year. Your air conditioning system should be checked in the spring and your oven or heat pump in the late summer or early fall.

What temperature should I set my thermostat?
The Department of Energy proposes to set the thermostats to 68 degrees in the winter when you are awake and lower to sleep. In the summer months, keep the thermostats at 78 degrees when you are at home and set them to higher temperatures when you are not at home, adjusting them to suit your health needs if necessary.

What does an HVAC adjustment involve?
Seasonal adjustments include a thorough inspection, checking the heat exchanger for cracks, checking the cooling, cleaning the condensate tube, cleaning the condenser, lubricating all moving parts and changing filters.

How long does an HVAC adjustment take?
Depending on the configuration of your HVAC system, schedule adjustments to take about an hour. Add an additional 30 to 45 minutes if coolant is required.