Like an automobile, your HVAC system requires regular maintenance. An AC tune-up done twice annually (once in the fall and once in the spring) can avoid many problems and lower your energy bills. Below are 8 maintenance tips to help you understand where to focus your efforts to improve HVAC efficiency, performance, and longevity:
- Clean/Change Air Filters
Inspect your air conditioner, heat pump, and furnace filters once a month. If the filter is reusable, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning it. Otherwise, replace the filter if it’s dirty or clogged. The more occupants and pets in your home, the more often filters will need to be cleaned and replaced (generally between 60 and 90 days).
- Keep the Vents Clean
If dust and dirt collect around vents, airflow can be obstructed. Use a vacuum to clear away the openings to vents. Check them if you notice weak airflow, in which case clear any dirt or call a service technician to inspect your HVAC system. Likewise, clear leaves, branches, shrubs, and debris from the outdoor unit.
- Be Attentive
In addition to weak airflow, look for puddles near an indoor unit, inconsistent heating or cooling (one room may be much hotter or colder than others), and anything else unusual. Noise such as rattling, buzzing, grinding, or thumping can indicate a major problem that must be addressed by an experienced technician.
- Clean the Evaporator and Condenser Coils
Over time, evaporator and condenser coils can get dirty and collect dust, which can act as an insulator and cause the coils to heat up. Dirty coils decrease system performance and efficiency. If your HVAC system’s condenser coil is dirty, there can be a 30% increase in energy consumption, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
- Inspect Ductwork
Ductwork may only need to be inspected once every several years. However, it’s important to have a technician check for blockages caused by debris, dander, dust, and even unwanted guests such as rodents and insects. Leaks can cause air to escape from the system. A technician can inspect your ductwork for these issues and even test your indoor air quality to find evidence of a problem.
- Straighten the Condenser Fins
The condenser fins help disperse heat to help your air conditioner cool your home. If they’re bent, your cooling system won’t be as efficient. This can be corrected by straightening the fins with a fin comb. While you can find one at a hardware store, you must be careful not to cause additional damage. A trained technician can safely do this during an AC tune-up.
- Make Sure Your Home Is Insulated and Sealed
Check your insulation and add insulating materials, if necessary, that have an R-value suited for your location. Your walls, attic, basement, and crawlspace should be adequately insulated. Also, check door and window seals, including weather strips on garage doors, and add or replace them as necessary to prevent or mitigate air leakage.
- Set Up a Maintenance Schedule
If your HVAC service provider offers a routine maintenance plan, sign up to receive regular service by experienced technicians. Ceiling fans, smart thermostats, and shading for east- and west-facing windows can help reduce the demand on your AC, but make sure to get preventative maintenance in the spring and fall to check your air conditioner’s performance and components, as well as its electrical connections.