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Tips for First-Time Homeowners: Heating and Air Conditioning

Congratulations! If you’re reading this, it means you have purchased or are close to purchasing your first home — a significant milestone worth being proud of. But with that new purchase also comes a whole new list of home improvement and renovation items to consider. One of the most integral parts of your home is its heating and air conditioning system. Your home’s central air system works hard to keep temperatures inside comfortable year-round. That’s why it is important to keep it working properly, service the system, and replace it entirely when it is time to do so.

Modernize has compiled this list of heating and air conditioning tips for first-time homeowners. Here’s what you need to know.

Table of Contents

Heating and Air Conditioning: Glossary

Air conditioning units and their parts can sound complicated — there are a lot of acronyms and technical terms homeowners can feel expected to know. But it does not have to be difficult.

hvac unit

Modernize has compiled a basic glossary of terms to keep things easy and accessible.

  • HVAC. HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. An HVAC system can be any combination of a heating unit and a cooling unit, all of which are described in the sections below.
  • Thermostat. The mechanism that controls an HVAC system by switching it on, off, or regulating the airflow to maintain a desired temperature.
  • Central Air Conditioners. Most common in warmer climate regions, central air conditioning units distribute cool air throughout your home using a circuit or series of connected ducts, refrigerant, and a motorized fan. 
  • Air Return. The starting point of your ventilation. It sucks the air along with pollutants and contaminants from the environment through filters to be cooled or heated. 
  • Furnace. A forced air unit that uses gas combustion or electric resistance heat strips, a furnace produces and distributes heat throughout a home. 
  • Heat Pump. A variation of a central air conditioner that transfers heat outside during warmer months to cool the home and extracts heat from outside air or ground during cooler months. Heat pumps are considered among the most energy-efficient systems.
  • Ducts. Ducts help distribute heated and cooled airflow to maintain acceptable indoor quality of air. 
  • Compressor. Part of the outside AC unit that helps turn warm refrigerant gas into a liquid. The heat is removed within the compressor from the gas through pressure. 
  • SEER Rating. A unit’s Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) Rating will tell you how much energy it will use to operate over a year. In turn, it can tell you how expensive it may be to heat or cool your home.

5 Heating and Air Conditioning System Tips

It is important to take great care of your home’s HVAC system. Regularly maintaining your heating and air conditioning system will keep your home comfortable year-round. Additionally, it will help you keep your home more energy-efficient and keep utility bills at a minimum. Here are our top 5 heating and cooling tips for first-time homeowners.

1. Have your heating and cooling unit inspected

Maintenance is a key factor in fostering the efficiency and longevity of an HVAC unit. It can also help you save money along the way.

An inspector should be able to evaluate if a system is running properly and flag any potential issues. On your own, you should make it a habit to clear leaves, twigs and other small debris that can clog the unit outside.

Modernize can help you find trusted heating and cooling contractors to help inspect and service your unit or discuss a potential replacement.

2. Familiarize yourself with common types of HVAC units

There are several types of heating and cooling systems that all function a little differently depending on factors including a home’s needs, environment, age and region.

It is important to understand what kind of unit your home has and how old it is.

A trusted contractor will be able to help assess, identify and explain the basics to you, along with any potential shortcomings or upgrades that may be necessary. If a unit is older, it is worth looking at its efficiency (SEER) level to see if upgrades can potentially offset the cost of a new unit through energy-saving.

This is also a good opportunity to familiarize yourself with your thermostat and know how to optimize any programmable features it has that can help your household’s efficiency.

3. Know heating and air conditioning replacement costs

If you are considering a new unit altogether, the price will vary depending on the size of your home, your region and individualized needs.

hvac replacement

The average HVAC replacement cost ranges from $3,250 to $12,586, including installation and labor. There can be additional costs if you need to replace existing ductwork, which varies in price depending on the size of your home.

Remember: an HVAC system is not just the sum of its components. It requires proper installation and maintenance to ensure it runs efficiently. Modernize recommends consulting with a heating and cooling professional about your options.

4. Monitor your energy bills

It is wise to establish a baseline energy and utility cost for your home. Form a general idea of how much it costs monthly to heat and cool your home, on average. That way, you can easily spot a spike in expenses and start to troubleshoot.

Cleaning your air vents, making sure they are not blocked by furniture or rugs, and regularly replacing filters regularly can help save you money and keep you from needing to call a contractor to diagnose issues or provide deep cleaning.

5. Know your warranty 

When it comes to an existing unit or a new one, it is critical to understand the HVAC unit’s warranty options.

When buying a home, Modernize recommends discussing warranty coverage already in place during the home inspection period. There is always a chance that a home’s previous owners did something to void the existing warranty. It is important to know where things stand ahead of time and how to avoid voiding a warranty yourself. If you are replacing a unit altogether, you can discuss your options and coverage with a contractor.

Final Thoughts

With these heating and cooling tips at your fingertips, plus additional heating and air conditioning resources, Modernize is ready to help you every step of the way from HVAC education to upgrades and everything in between. Take advantage of our network of HVAC  contractors to form a trusted connection with a professional in your local area.

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