The start of 2023 is a great time to rethink your heating and AC maintenance plan. Making the effort to follow a schedule can ensure that everything works as well as possible. If you want to avoid unnecessary repairs or costly energy bills, follow these helpful tips for maintaining and operating your heater and air conditioner.
The Ultimate HVAC Maintenance Checklist
Each year, there are a few standard things every savvy homeowner needs to do. To keep your system running as efficiently as possible, make sure you complete everything on this list at least once a year.
Change Your Filters
One of the most important things you can do is simply change your system’s filters. Your filters help to catch dust, grime, and debris before they can flow into the system, but if you leave the same one in place for too long, it gets overloaded and quits working as well. This can let dust enter your unit where it can coat fans, evaporator coils, and other components. To avoid damage and help your machine function as efficiently as possible, you usually need to change your filters every three months. However, some systems might require more frequent changes, so check your user manual to see what the manufacturer recommends.
Clear the Space Around Your Condenser Unit
The condenser unit is the part of your AC system that sits outside the house. It has the important job of releasing excess heat outside. However, if plants grow over it, it can start to operate less efficiently. To keep this from happening, you need to occasionally check on the unit and remove any vines, weeds, or debris that could be blocking it. It’s often a good idea to do this in spring and summer since these are the seasons when plant overgrowth can be a major problem.
Check Your Air Registers
The air registers are the small vents that sit at the end of each piece of ductwork. Once a year, walk around your house and take a close look at these registers. It’s very easy for them to get bumped into a closed position which can keep treated air from flowing into your home. You should also take a close look to see if there is any dust or bits of grime stuck inside your registers. Not only can this buildup block airflow, but it can be a sign that you have a duct leak you need to fix.
Clean Your Drain Pan and Drain Line
Occasionally check the drain pan under your system to see if it is holding any standing water. This happens occasionally, and small drips aren’t a cause for concern. However, the stagnant water can lead to mold growth, so it needs to be cleaned. Use a wet vacuum to remove any water and use a drain pan cleaner to wipe down the pan and remove any mold growth. You can also regularly flush out the drain line attached to the drain pan. This prevents any mold growth that can eventually block the line and cause it to overflow. To clean it, just pour diluted bleach or vinegar down the line every three months.
Examine Your Ductwork for Leaks
Once a year, do a visual inspection of your ductwork. Especially if your ducts are in an attic, it’s possible for pests to chew holes in them. This can cause your air to flow out into unused spaces, wasting your hot or cold air. Even if you don’t see any visible holes, leaks can occur where fittings gradually loosen over time. You can examine the system while it’s running and hold a piece of tissue paper by the fittings. If you see the paper waving around in a breeze, you have a leak that needs to be fixed.
Inspect and Clean Your Coils
In both the indoor and outdoor parts of your unit are sets of coils that help heat transfer throughout the system. When they get too dusty, they can’t do their job efficiently. Therefore, you need to clean your coils once a year. The outdoor unit is fairly quick to clean. You can spray it down with a hose, or if there’s built-up gunk, you can scrub it lightly with a brush and coil cleaner. The evaporator coils inside your home are inside the machine, so they’re not as easy to reach. Some homeowners like to leave these coils for their professional maintenance visits. If you do want to clean them yourself, you need to be comfortable following your unit’s manual closely. Cleaning them is straightforward, but you have to be careful not to disrupt or get water on other components inside the system.
Test Your Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Go around your house and test your detectors once a year. You can do this by holding down the test button on the front of the detector. If it beeps, this indicates the detector has a fresh battery and is functioning properly. This is an especially important part of furnace maintenance because furnaces produce toxic byproducts. If your ventilation system isn’t working correctly, carbon monoxide could be building up near your furnace. However, even if you don’t use this style of heater, it’s still good to regularly check your detectors. They’ll help ensure that your home’s air is as fresh and clean as possible.
Optional Goals to Consider in 2023
In addition to routine maintenance, you might also want to think about adjusting your system to work a little better. If possible, make the time to address each one of these items sometime during 2023.
Update Your Thermostat
If you’re using an older thermostat, it might be time for an upgrade. Modern “smart” thermostats are incredibly easy to install, and they come with many benefits. These thermostats connect to your phone, so you can turn your system on and off from anywhere. They can also be set up to automatically raise and lower the temperature on a schedule. By turning your system off when you’re asleep or away from home, smart thermostats can save you a lot of money.
Properly Insulate Your System
The insulation in your home has a huge impact on your system’s performance. When your home is poorly insulated, your heated or cooled air can leak outside. Furthermore, big leaks can make it hard for your system to properly circulate air around the home. If you want things to run as efficiently as possible, it pays to focus on insulation. Some homeowners might only need to add a few strips of insulation to doors and windows. Others may want to consider adding layers of insulation in their attic or walls. Usually, insulation solutions vary based on the design of your home, so you’ll need to consult with a professional and find the best method for your house.
Consider Whether It’s Time for a New Installation
The average system lasts between 15 to 20 years. If you’re reaching the end of your unit’s lifespan, 2023 is a good time to start saving up for a new system and researching new models. There are a lot of exciting styles to consider. For example, heat pumps are a newer type of heater that works by transferring heat to and from the house. They can be very energy efficient. Another newer design to check out is a zoned system. This type of AC lets you heat and cool different parts of the home to different temperatures. Exploring your options gives you the chance to find a system that’s more affordable and works better for your needs.
How Often Do You Need Professional HVAC Service?
There are a lot of tasks that a savvy homeowner can do to keep their heating and air-conditioning systems functioning properly. However, don’t forget about professional technicians. These trained experts can handle tasks that are a little too complex for the average DIYer. When is it time to call in the professionals? Here are a few reasons you may want to get expert assistance.
Get a Professional Tune-Up Once or Twice a Year
How often do you need this in-depth maintenance visit? At a bare minimum, you need a tune-up at least once a year. Most people find it helpful to schedule their service for spring, so they can make sure their AC unit is functioning optimally before summer starts. If your system is more than five years old, planning a second service visit is a good idea. This helps to catch any potential problems that can occur in older machines. For those who need two tune-ups a year, spring and fall can be good times to schedule them.
Learn How to Identify Common Signs of a Broken HVAC System
In addition to tune-ups, you’ll also need to get professional help if something breaks down. Keep in mind that the signs of a broken system can be very subtle. In some cases, you might not even notice you need a repair at first. However, if the problem goes untreated, it can cause more and more damage to your system. To avoid major, costly repairs, make sure you keep an eye out for these common warning signs:
- A system that runs forever
- A system that turns on and off frequently
- Strange smells such as burning or mustiness
- Odd creaks, clicks, screeches, and other noises
- Hot and cold spots inside your home
- Unexplained, unusually high utility bills
When you need assistance with your HVAC system, turn to Alaskan Air Conditioning and Heating. Our team of highly-trained professionals can help with a variety of maintenance, repairs, and installations. To learn more about our services or schedule your next appointment, give us a call today.