A Homeowner’s Guide to HVAC Maintenance

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Homeowner's Guide

Your HVAC system works hard to keep you and your family cool during the hottest days of summer and warm during the coldest days of winter. It’s a complex system with lots of parts that need to be kept in working order for it to perform optimally. Here are some tips to making sure that your HVAC system, whether it’s the AC, the heating or even the ventilation, works the way it should:

Overall

Even filters have been improved over the years, so if you’re still using your usual filter, consider replacing it with a newer, pleated filter. These filters come with an electrostatic charge that allows them to capture absolutely minuscule particles. Make sure that you replace the filter every three months or so and more often if there’s a smoker in the house, if you have pets or if someone in the house has allergies. Discover more details here

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Make sure to keep outdoor condensers and other units free of debris. This means removing any trash that’s gotten inside them and maintaining at least two feet of clearance outside. If you’re mowing the grass around the unit, make sure that grass clippings don’t get inside it and clog it.

Don’t close more than one-fifth of your house’s registers. Closing the registers isn’t the same as zoning your HVAC system. Zoning is entirely different. Closing too many registers doesn’t save you money but strains the system.

Make sure that the concrete slab the condenser sits on is level. A condenser or heat pump that’s sitting on a slab that’s not level has to work harder, which costs you money and shortens the unit’s life.

Buy and learn to use a programmable thermostat. These devices, which can be programmed remotely, can save you a lot of money.

Know when a component of your HVAC system has come to the end of its life and needs replacing. Having an air conditioner or furnace repaired continuously soon becomes a waste of time and money. Thank the part for its service, and get a new one.

Air Conditioning

The most complicated part of the HVAC system is the air conditioning. An air conditioner removes heat from the air, blows the cooled air into the room, and expels hot air and condensation. A central AC even needs the home furnace to do this, so you shouldn’t neglect your furnace during the summer months. 

Before anything is done, turn the power to the air conditioning off at the source. This may mean going to the circuit box and turning it off there.

Make sure that the refrigerant line’s insulation is sound. Do this once a month, and if the insulation is damaged or missing, replace it.

Turn off the water supply to the humidifier in the furnace while the air conditioner is working. Turn it back on when it’s time for the heating season after replacing the wick filter and setting the relative humidity to between 35 and 40 percent.

Clean your condenser by taking off the grate over the fan, then vacuuming up any trash that’s inside. Then, use your garden hose, and clean the fins. Don’t use a pressure washer, which can damage them and clean them from the inside out. If the fins are bent, straighten them gently with a fin tool.

Make sure that the condensate drains are free of algae or mold. All this takes is a cup of bleach in a gallon of water poured down the drain once a year.

Clean the evaporator coils. They’re behind a door above the blower motor. Open the door and dust the coils off with a soft-bristled paintbrush then spray them with a special coil cleaner. The excess cleaner is going to drip into the pan, so clean the pan with hot, soapy water, and make sure the drain is unclogged.

If you have a window unit, you can take off the front plate and use the brush attachment to vacuum the coils simply. You can also straighten the fins, clean the drain pan and the drain pipes, and check the filter and replace it if necessary. You can also take the unit out of the window and hose down the coils very carefully.

Heating

Inspect the unit visually to make sure that all the venting and tubes are securely connected. If you have a gas furnace and smell something like rotten eggs, it means you have a leak. Call a professional.

Then, check the drainage tube. To make sure it’s clear, remove it from the manifold and blow compressed air through it. A rinse of white vinegar also keeps the drainage tube clear.

Next, inspect the thermostat wires to make sure they’re secure. 

Use a soft brush to clean the inside of the furnace. When the dust and debris have been loosened, vacuum them up with a hand vacuum.

Clean the flame sensor, for if it’s dirty, it can shut down your heating system. Unscrew it, then clean it with an emery cloth-like sandpaper, except it has fabric backing. When the flame sensor is cleaned, replace it.

Ventilation

Too many homeowners don’t pay enough attention to their ventilation, but ventilation is important to helping the other parts of the HVAC system work well. Good ventilation takes out pollutants and excess moisture from inside the house and controls humidity levels. High humidity and pollutants can make your heating and AC work harder than they should. 

You might want to install a whole-house fan, which takes a load off of your AC. A whole house fan pushes hot air outside and brings cooler air inside.

Open the windows in the early morning and evening, and shut them when it starts to get hot.

Adding exhaust vans to the kitchen and bathroom controls the humidity and takes stress off the heating and cooling systems.

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