The old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” might have been written expressly for your heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system.
The Value of HVAC Maintenance
An HVAC system is an important part of any home, even if it isn’t as decorative as a sofa or as noticeable as a refrigerator. In its character, however, it is more reminiscent of your car: it needs regular maintenance to run smoothly.
By doing preventive maintenance, you won’t have the expense of major repairs or parts replacement. In addition, a well-maintained HVAC system provides good air quality in your home, rather than serving as a breeding ground for mold and bacteria.
If you maintain your HVAC system well, it should last for 10 years or so. An HVAC system that is running well translates to less money spent on electricity, heating and cooling costs. Dirty or unmaintained units use 20 percent more energy to run than well-maintained systems.
If you keep your system in good repair, doing regular maintenance in spring and fall, it is also less likely to fail during the peak months of winter or summer when you need it most.
HVAC Maintenance Tasks
To ensure that your HVAC system runs as well as possible, create a checklist of tasks that should be accomplished periodically:
Monthly or seasonally:
- Check refrigerant lines.
- In summer, turn off the water to your furnace humidifier.
- In the fall, replace the humidifier filter and turn the water back on.
- Replace the battery in your carbon monoxide detector.
- Check your air-conditioning outdoor unit to make sure it is on level ground.
- Ensure that your a/c and heating units are free of leaves, grass and pollen.
- Use a water/bleach mixture to clear the a/c condensate drain.
Troubleshooting HVAC Problems
Before you call a repairman to fix your HVAC system, why not see if you can identify the problem yourself. It may require such an easy remedy that you’ll be cursing yourself for spending money on repairs unnecessarily. Run through this checklist of items and you may be able to save yourself some money, either by fixing it or by identifying the problem so the repairman’s time isn’t spent doing so.
Check the thermostat.
- Is a battery light indicator flashing? Simply replace your AA batteries and you’re off to the races.
- Is the temperature setting turned up high or low enough?
- Is it set at the correct setting? If you want heat and the switch is set to cool, you won’t get the desired result.
Check the power.
- Your system may have been turned off without you realizing it. Check the outdoor and indoor components to ensure that they are receiving power.
Check fuses or circuit breakers.
- If the power is on but your unit isn’t receiving any, check to see if the fuse or circuit that controls your system hasn’t blown or tripped.
Poor Indoor Air Quality and your HVAC:
- Check your filter. If your air filter hasn’t been changed for a while, it isn’t properly filtering particles from your indoor air. This compromises the air quality and allows more dust and allergens to collect. Replace your air filter quarterly.
No Air Flow
- Check your filter. A dirty filter may be blocking air from getting through. Replace your air filter quarterly.
- Check your coil. A dirty coil may cause the system to freeze. Look for signs of below the unit and a cold exterior to the indoor coil enclosure. Turn your thermostat off for a few hours and see if the system thaws.
The HVAC System Won’t Shut Off
- Check your thermostat. If the thermostat isn’t signaling to your equipment that it should shut down, the system will continue running. Reset your thermostat to see if it solves the problem. If not, you will need a contractor to replace the thermostat.
- Installation issues? If the contractor didn’t perform a manual J load calculation when installing the system, it’s possible that it is too small for your home. If any of the components are too small, the system will continue running in a constant effort to bring your home to the right temperature.
Hot Air from the A/C or Cold Air from the Furnace
- If your unit isn’t treating the air, it could indicate a problem with the coils, the refrigerant or the burner. These ARE NOT do-it-yourself problems. Use the thermostat to turn off the system and call a contractor.
Many parts are under warranty, so before you replace them, check to see if you’ll be required to pay or not. If you treat your HVAC system well, it should reward you with longevity.