Get to Know Your Home

A Guide to Maintaining Your Home for HVAC System Efficiency

When it comes to your home’s Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system, it is essential to take some time to get to know the system and to understand the importance of maintaining it.

Since your HVAC unit is the largest power-consuming item in your home, its functionality, or how well it operates, can have a direct impact on your overall energy consumption, as well as your monthly billing. Neglecting necessary maintenance ensures a steady decline in HVAC performance and a steady increase in energy use — so a little seasonal maintenance and proactivity goes a long way.

There are a few simple steps you can take to maintain your HVAC unit to keep it running when you need it most. And, as an additional benefit, it can reduce unexpected emergency calls and can lengthen the lifespan of your HVAC system, which can last about 12-16 years depending on the unit.

Here are a few tips to add to your home’s maintenance routine:

  • Confirm the type of HVAC system you have in your home. Many houses often have more than one system, which can either be electric, gas, or a combination of both (i.e., electric upstairs and  as downstairs). Knowing which type of system you have will allow you to easily determine the type of maintenance needed, and better prepare you for any arising issues.
  •  Change your air filters regularly. Disposable filters keep your system clean and take out large particles from your indoor air. Aim to change them every three months. If it is allergy season, or you have pets in your home, you may consider replacing your filters more often. Note: Return air filters can be located in the air handler on newer units.
  • Check and verify your thermostat settings. Ensure that the settings are correct for the season and that the fan is kept on auto. If the desired thermostat setting and room temperature don’t match, that’s an indication that there could be a mechanical issue or the unit could be low on Freon.
  • Check for air leaks in your air handler. Find your air handler (typically located in attics, closets, crawl spaces, or basements) and verify that there are no air leaks. Air leaks can lead to problems with loss of heated or cooled air, creating a loss of air pressure in the ducts that supply air to your home. The only place air should be able to leave the supply duct system and the air-handling unit is at the supply registers or air vents.
  • Clear any blockages in the condensate drain line.
    Every central air conditioner has a condensate drain line that runs from the indoor air handler to the outside of the home. Look for a white PVC pipe that’s located near your outdoor condensing unit. Verify that the condensate drain line isn’t clogged up. Also, verify that there is no water in the drain pan underneath your air handler so that it doesn’t overflow and spill its contents inside your unit. A clogged drain line can cause damage to your unit.
  • Clean Your Condensing Unit. Most air conditioners have an outdoor condensing unit/heat pump sitting outside with a fan on top to disperse heat in the summer. The metal fins on the condensing unit frequently get clogged up with dirt, pollen, and grime. Once each season, spray the outside of the unit with a water hose to clean it. Warning: Be careful not to damage the coils while cleaning and do not use a pressure washer because
    it could permanently damage your unit.
  • Clear shrubbery/trim hedging around outside air condenser. Remove the build-up of leaves and overgrown vegetation so they do not interfere with the airflow of your outdoor unit. You can trim any bushes or trees also so your unit has plenty of clearance, about 2 feet, on all sides. Keep a close eye if you have bushes or trees that give off excessive pollen. They are notorious for clogging up condensing units.

These are just some of the DIY (do it yourself) tasks you can do to maintain your HVAC system on your own. However, if you do not feel comfortable maintaining the HVAC unit yourself, we recommend hiring a professional to perform preventative maintenance twice a year. With luck, you will catch any problems before they become a major inconvenience, ultimately saving you energy and money in the long run.