Maximize the Performance of Your HVAC System With Spring Maintenance
It may not always seem like it on any given day in April, but spring is in the air. And with it comes thoughts of bright and cheery days. Just think, you’ll no longer need to be confined within the four walls of your home.
For many of us, spring is also the time to open doors and windows and go without using our HVAC systems. That is, weather permitting.
However, it doesn’t mean you should completely overlook your HVAC system. In fact, it’s most likely the best time to pay attention to it, so it’s ready to go when you need it the most.
Regular HVAC preventative maintenance is the best way to prolong peak performance when you need it the most. Yet, unfortunately, many homeowners will focus on cleaning gutters or raking the lawn rather than thinking about their HVAC system.
Remember, winter weather can wreak havoc on your HVAC system. As a prime example, debris can leave outdoor and indoor units in need of cleaning and maintenance. Thankfully, using this spring HVAC maintenance checklist below, you can prepare for the cooling season and improve the energy efficiency of your residential A/C unit.
Give your A/C some breathing room
Your A/C unit is on the exterior of your home, in case you’re new to this. But simply because it’s located outside doesn’t mean that you can afford to let it be exposed to the harsh elements we encounter here in Pittsburgh.
Truth is, most people don’t bother with their lawn care during the winter, allowing leaves and branches and other yard waste to accumulate around the outside unit until the better weather arrives.
Keeping the area clear will help ensure a properly functioning system.After clearing away the larger debris, vacuuming the fins of your A/C unit works well to remove the smaller particles. Doing so makes sure your system is able to take in all the air it needs in order to regulate your home’s temperature properly.
Also, once your plants begin to grow, make sure to check them every so often for overgrowth. Your A/C unit needs about two feet of clear space on each side in order to run as efficiently as possible. Also, be careful when planting around your unit – think about how large your plants will grow. A clear and clean unit is essential for maintaining high-efficiency levels and the utmost reliability.
Give the A/C a trial run.
Here’s the easiest tip you’ll ever receive — turn on your air conditioner.
If you’ve not been using your A/C unit at all during the winter, giving it a trial run is a good idea. After cleaning it, give it 30 minutes to an hour to run and examine how it’s functioning both inside and outside the house. Does anything look or sound amiss?
Just like trial runs with any piece of equipment, it gives you the opportunity to notice anything abnormal about your unit before it becomes a more significant issue.
Replace your filters
Regularly replacing your HVAC filters has many benefits, but it’s especially important during your spring maintenance. After a long winter, it’s a safe bet your HVAC filter has become dirty and clogged.
The air filter is the first line of defense for filtering air that circulates in the home. It works hard to catch all the dust, dirt, allergens, pet dander, hair, and other particles and pollutants and keep them from circulating throughout your home. Keep in mind it’s not uncommon for sore throats, dry nasal passages, fatigue, and cold-like symptoms to arise when your filter can no longer trap allergens such as dust, dander or pollen.
That’s why we’re recommending that you use the change of seasons as an opportunity to change out the air filter. While it is one of the most manageable maintenance tasks, it’s also one of the most important.
Moreover, make it a habit of inspecting the air filter each month and wait no longer than three months to replace it.
Air filters are also key to maintaining healthy indoor air quality. If the filter is clogged or dirty, the air is dirty. Additionally, it’s harder for your air conditioner to do its job, resulting in poor airflow, more wear and tear, and higher energy costs.
Plus, having a clean air filter can reduce energy usage by as much as 15 percent, according to the Alliance to Save Energy.
Hint: Our HVAC maintenance advice is to go beyond replacing the filter. Consider upgrading it as well. Homeowners can improve air quality and system performance with a new, high-efficiency pleated filter. A step up from the standard filter, these have an electrostatic charge to attract particles of dust and bacteria and trap them inside the filter.
Check the drainage hole
Most A/C units have a “drainage hole” at the base of the external cabinet. Normally, it’s just under the evaporator fins. The drainage hole must be clear for the unit to function correctly, so it’s important to use a paper clip or a thin wire to poke through the hole and make sure it’s breathable, so to speak.
Clean your air ducts & check for leaks
Air ducts help target conditioned air into your living spaces, but the ducts’ shape can cause a buildup of dust and grime, not a pretty sight to see. Even if your HVAC system is in good working order, dirty or clogged ducts can prevent conditioned air from reaching your living space. To help maintain a healthy HVAC system and create a cozy indoor environment, go through each room and clean out any filth or grim in your ducts. A vacuum cleaner with an extender rod can be used to suck up any visible filth or dust that may have built up.
If you can reach into your ducts, you can use an old rag with warm, soapy water to wipe away any residue on the vents. For an even deeper spring cleaning, remove the covers from the wall or ceiling using a screwdriver. The, use a broom to brush away any extra dust from inside the ducts.
In the interest of more comfortable breathing and better indoor air quality, we recommend scheduling a professional duct cleaning at least every three to five years. During such a professional tune-up, an HVAC technician can inform you of the state of your air ducts. Also, you can speak with the professional about testing your ducts for cleanliness and air-tightness.
If you’re experiencing problems such as a musty smell, uneven temperature or a buildup of humidity in your home, the problem here could also be in your ductwork. Routine maintenance requires an inspection of your ductwork to check for air leaks. If leaks are present, the conditioned air will escape before it has the chance to enter the living space.
Did you know that according to the Department of Energy, typical air ducts lose 25 to 40 percent of heating or cooling energy put out by your HVAC system? One of the biggest causes of the energy loss: leaks and cracks in the ductwork.
Should you encounter leaks in your ductwork, it’s best to contact your HVAC service technician at J&A South Park to remedy the problem.
The ductwork may also be home to other issues, such as mold growth. Breathing in mold spores can cause an array of health problems, especially for individuals with preexisting conditions. If you find mold, you can remove small amounts on your own, or call a professional for bigger mold problems.
Hint: You should also take the time to make sure that none of the air ducts are blocked by furniture, window treatments or anything else prohibiting the discharge of air.
Check the thermostat
One of the more important components of your home’s HVAC system is the thermostat. When working properly, it sends a signal to the heating and cooling units to turn on when the temperature falls too low and when the set temperature has been reached.
When it’s not working as it should, you might find that your heater or A/C is frequently turning off and on or the room is colder or hotter than the set temperature.
How about a thermostat upgrade?
Most likely, your thermostat has been set to “HEAT” for several months. When spring comes, you want to be sure to switch over to the cooling operation.
Here’s a question for you: What type of thermostat do you currently have?
You might want to consider a programmable thermostat upgrade if you don’t currently have this convenient, cost-effective piece of equipment in your home. A programmable thermostat is an energy-saving tool that sets the HVAC unit to the ideal temperature throughout the day and keeps it there.
It does so by easily controlling the temperature of your living space whether it’s day or night, whether you’re headed to work or headed to bed. These “smart” thermostats offer energy savings by learning your unique schedule, self-correcting and providing energy tips and reports. Moreover, with many units, you can control the temperature from a smartphone or computer.
Not every home has one, but if you do, it’s best to let your dehumidifier dry completely at least once a year and spring is the best time. To do this, take off its exterior and allow the unit to become completely dry. One this is done, vacuum all surfaces. This should also extend the lifespan of the unit.
Good time to upgrade?
If your current HVAC system is nearing the end of its life or if the efficiency is in question, spring is probably the best time to think about investing in a much better and more energy-efficient system. Scrambling around during the last minutes of spring will do you little good as most HVAC contractors will be very busy catering to increased demands during the upcoming summer months.
Schedule a preventative maintenance session
Aside from being one of the most significant investments in your home, the HVAC system helps ensure your in-home comfort, so you really need to keep it in great working condition. Changing the air filters, checking the ductwork and cleaning your outdoor unit are all great maintenance tips you can perform yourself, but to really ensure your HVAC system is ready for the spring and summer months, it’s always important to have your system checked out by a professional who can take a more in-depth look at your system.
Scheduling a preventative maintenance session with an HVAC professional is the best way to prevent any sort of summertime issues. Or, put simply, having your HVAC system professionally maintained is, by far, the absolute best way to save money and avoid breakdowns.
A trained HVAC technician can identify the first signs of potential issues and treat your unit before they ever become noticeable. During this inspection, he or she will inspect your unit and make all necessary repairs, replace worn out parts and lubricate mechanisms, among other tasks.