Here’s one place where you shouldn’t be lazy about home maintenance: your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. HVAC maintenance is similar to the maintenance on your car: if you don’t change your engine oil, replace the filters or replace the belts, your engine will ultimately shut down and not operate. If you spend $40 on an oil change and air filter exchange for your car, it will ultimately save you thousands of dollars in potential car repairs. A few hundred dollars in HVAC maintenance will keep your system humming longer, lengthening the amount of time you will have between HVAC system replacements.
The best place to start with HVAC maintenance is checking the owner’s manual. The manufacturer will outline what basic maintenance procedures will keep your system running well. If you lost the manuals, or never received them from the previous homeowners, just call the manufacturer and they can send or email you new ones.
Calling in an HVAC professional twice a year, once in the spring for your air conditioner and once in the fall for your furnace, will also help ensure that all parts are good to go. The pro will also be able to alert you to changes they see in the system, allowing you to get in front of them before those issues become a very expensive repair.
The U.S. Department of Energy offers the following general guidelines for maintaining your HVAC system:
- Inspect, clean, or change air filters once a month in your central air conditioner, furnace, and/or heat pump. Your contractor can show you how to do this. A dirty filter can increase energy costs and damage your equipment, leading to early failure.
- Check thermostat settings to ensure the system keeps you comfortable when you are home and saves energy while you are away.
Annual Professional Maintenance
- Tighten all electrical connections and measure voltage and current on motors. Faulty electrical connections can cause unsafe operation of your system and reduce the life of major components.
- Lubricate all moving parts. Parts that lack lubrication cause friction in motors and increase the amount of electricity you use.
- Check and inspect the condensate drain in your central air conditioner, furnace and/or heat pump (when in cooling mode). A plugged drain can cause water damage in the house and affect indoor humidity levels.
- Check controls of the systemto ensure proper and safe operation. Check the starting cycle of the equipment to assure the system starts, operates, and shuts off properly.
- Clean evaporator and condenser air conditioning coils. Dirty coils reduce the system’s ability to cool your home and cause the system to run longer, increasing energy costs and reducing the life of the equipment.
- Check your central air conditioner’s refrigerant level and adjust if necessary. Too much or too little refrigerant will make your system less efficient increasing energy costs and reducing the life of the equipment.
- Clean and adjust blower components to provide proper system airflow for greater comfort levels. Airflow problems can reduce your system’s efficiency by up to 15 percent.
- Check all gas (or oil) connections, gas pressure, burner combustion and heat exchanger. Improperly operating gas (or oil) connections are a fire hazard and can contribute to health problems. A dirty burner or cracked heat exchanger causes improper burner operation. Either can cause the equipment to operate less safely and efficiently.