Maintaining your home’s HVAC “Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning” system is vital to maintain its maximum performance, energy efficiency and to reduce the potential of costly repairs. Most industry experts agree that your HVAC system should be serviced in both the spring, before summer temperatures sizzle and the fall, before old man winter tips the thermometer in the other direction.

While there are maintenance procedures you can do yourself, most require an experienced, knowledgeable and licensed HVAC service technician or contractor. The post below will explain the common maintenance procedures performed by your HVAC contractor during a routine service call as well as a steps you can take throughout the year to maintain your system’s performance.

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Contractor Maintenance

Only a licensed HVAC contractor should perform the HVAC maintenance procedures listed below.
  • Lubricate all Moving Parts: Without the regular lubrication, the moving parts within your HVAC system will experience increased friction, which leads to decreased performance and efficiency. In addition, the parts can succumb to premature failure, which leads to costly HVAC repairs.
  • Check Refrigerant Levels: Improper refrigerant levels can reduce system efficiency and/or damage internal parts such as the compressor.
  • Inspect Electrical Connections: Verify that all electrical connections are tight and in good working order.
  • Inspect Condensation Lines:  A blocked or restricted condensation line can cause your system to overflow and/or leak water. If this happens, you are at risk of higher humidity levels, mold and/or mildew growth and the potential of water damage in your home.
  • Clean the Coils: Coil cleaning, both inside and out, is an important step in air conditioning maintenance. Similar to a dirty filter, a dirty coil will reduce the system airflow, drive up energy costs and put more strain on the system.
  • Inspect and Calibrate Thermostat: A faulty thermostat can give false temperature readings leading to reduced system efficiency and higher energy costs.
  • Tighten Fuel Line Connections: Leaking fuel lines present both a safety hazard and reduced system efficiency through increased fuel costs.
  • Clean Burners: When soot and other debris accumulate on the burner, it can cause pilot light malfunctions and reduced system efficiency.
  • Inspect Heat Exchangers: A cracked heat exchanger can prevent the system from reaching maximum heating capacities.
  • Inspect Furnace Exhaust Outlets: An obstructed, restricted or compromised exhaust outlet presents a major safety concern as the dangerous build up of carbon monoxide and other harmful gasses can occur.

Homeowner HVAC Maintenance

Homeowner maintenance is an important aspect of HVAC performance. Listed below are procedures you can do yourself throughout the year to help maintain peak performance and energy efficiency.

Change the HVAC Filters

Changing the filters regularly is one of the most important steps to maintaining your HVAC system and can be handled by most homeowners easily. Dust, dirt and other debris will gradually reduce the filter’s airflow until it eventually becomes so clogged it is detrimental to the system. When this happens, you HVAC system and related equipment must work harder to circulate the conditioned air. The additional strain leads to premature equipment failure and costly repairs. In addition, the system will also use more energy, which will increase your monthly utility bill.

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Clean Returns and Registers on your HVAC Unit

Dirty returns and registers can introduce dust, dirt and other debris into your HVAC system. As a result, your filter and/or coil can become contaminated and experience reduced airflow. Periodically clean all air returns and registers to reduce the amount of dust build up from entering your HVAC system.

Never place objects like furniture or boxes in front of your HVAC air return as it will block the system’s airflow.

Maintain Exterior HVAC Components

HVAC systems that utilize an outside component such as a condensing—compressor—unit should be inspected periodically to ensure that the unit is not obstructed. Prevent grass, weeds and other foliage from blocking the airflow to the unit. Restricted airflow causes additional strain on the system, which can lead to reduced energy efficiency and costly repairs due to excessive wear and tear. In addition, dirt, sand and leaves can build up around the exterior condensing coil and reduce airflow. You can address this problem by gently rinsing the exterior condensing coil with a garden hose.

Maintain a Tight Envelope

Your home’s envelope—its ability to maintain conditioned air—is a vital component to HVAC efficiency. Many utility companies offer free or reduced home energy audits that gauge your home’s energy efficiency. The audits are a useful service that can identify areas of your home that fall short. These could include inadequate insulation, leaking windows and doors or cracks and crevices in exterior walls that allow conditioned air to escape.

A neglected HVAC system or a home with a loose exterior envelope will reduce HVAC efficiency, increase wear and tear on the system and drive up your energy costs.