Neglecting your heating and air systems can end up having costly consequences. Just like ignoring your car may require you to purchase a completely new engine, ignoring your HVAC system’s needs can cause units to break down or require total replacement, which often costs $5,000 or more.
To prevent your systems from needing excessive repairs or premature replacement, regular maintenance and checks must be performed. Homeowners who keep up with these tasks will see cheaper power bills. For instance, cleaning a dirty filter can take off 5% to 15% on your electricity consumption. They will also need fewer major repairs and, in many cases, get more service life from their units to the tune of 5 to 10 years or more compared to a neglected unit.
Here are 5 such ways to prevent small HVAC problems from becoming big, expensive ones:
Keep Up with Owner Maintenance
There are many things homeowners can do themselves to help their unit’s performance and prevent latent problems from growing.
- Clear off Leaves — Outdoor AC condenser units tend to get covered up with leaves, dirt or other natural substances. Make sure to sweep off leaves from the top and sides of your unit during fall lawn care. Trim back all plants as well.
- Replace Filters Regularly — Your filters are there as the first line of defense against particulate matter clogging up your system. When the filter gets full, algae, mold, dirt and other substances can get pulled into the fans and coils. These parts can overheat or simply stop working overtime. Replace your filter as recommended on the units themselves (usually around once a year), and you should also replace your home’s main interior register filter every 1-2 months to keep dust and pathogens out of the ducts altogether.
- Keep the Systems Clean — With your systems off, you can sweep, brush or hose off the slab the condenser sits on, and some panels can usually be removed to wipe out.
- Check the Drip Pan — A full drip pan means that your drainage is likely clogged. You can run hot bleach water through the drainage pipes to kill off any mold, algae or other substances that have made the pipes their home.
- Spot Check Often — When you happen to walk by, glance over your furnace and AC unit to ensure that nothing is out of the ordinary. Look for signs of debris or abnormal sounds like rattling and excessive noise. All of these things could be a cue that something is wrong with your machine
Reduce Load on Your Machine
Another method to reduce the daily wear on your systems by around 3% to 8% is to take steps that allow them to run less frequently.
- Avoid Covering or Closing Vents — This fact may not be common knowledge, but closing off vents or even doors to rooms can place added pressure on the AC system. The pressure usually ends up creating small leaks in ducting. Over time, these leaks make the HVAC units have to work harder to compensate for the wasted air. Keep furniture and other objects clear from vents, and leave them slightly open rather than closing them entirely for rooms you enter infrequently.
- Store Objects Away from Units — Both indoor and outdoor HVAC units benefit from having enough space for proper airflow. Avoid storing objects or lawn waste too close to the units to prevent issues like clogging.
- Adjust Your Thermostat or Use a Programmable One — Just like your vehicle’s mileage, the more your system runs, the more wear it will encounter. Give your system a needed break when leaving the house for long periods to reduce energy consumption and wear overall. Raise the temperature setting during the summer and lower it during the winter before you go to work or go to sleep. Homeowners will see a reduction in usage of 2% for every eight hours the system is allowed to rest. You can install a programmable thermostat to take care of this task for you according to a set schedule.
- Other Methods — Simple household projects can be performed to reduce your use of HVAC systems overall. Some examples: Adding weather stripping to old doors and windows eliminates common leak sources. Installing ceiling fans can increase air flow and help reduce your system’s load.
Have a Professional Seasonal Checkup
Every 1-2 years, your units should have a thorough check-over by a licensed HVAC professional. They will be able to prevent issues from occurring and safely perform activities like cleaning off your coils and recharging refrigerant.
Some of these tasks reduce load by around 8%, but many of them are vital to prevent parts from overheating and needing replacement. For instance, a broken compressor can cost around $2,000 to repair once labor is included. A simple $200 inspection that can save you upwards of $2,000 a year is a smart investment for your time, money and peace of mind.
Many homeowners simplify their maintenance schedules by arranging them before the season starts. They will have their AC units inspected before the summer weather hits, and they will have their furnaces inspected before temperatures start dropping. Planning ahead like this avoids trying to set an appointment when technicians are at their busiest.
Make sure to compare rates and reputations from local HVAC contractors to find the highest quality service at the best possible price. Doing so can prolong your system by 3-8 years or more for the most competitive price.
Have Your Ducts Blown Out and Inspected
Once every 18-24 months, you should have your ducting checked. Blowing out your ducts will get rid of all the dust that reduces indoor air quality and puts added strain on your HVAC system. You can also use this chance to have someone inspect the ducts cracks, leaks or improper seals.
Just like HVAC units, ducting can decrease in efficiency over time if neglected. Dust and small holes will reduce air circulation and efficiency by 5% to 10%. For a $200 a month heating bill, homeowners will save $20 a month, paying for the cost of a duct cleaning in a little over a year and saving as much as $720 over three years.
Have a Home Energy Audit
Homes are complicated structures that need many factors in place to remain comfortable for an efficient cost. Over time, problems occur, like insulation settling in the walls, which reduces their effectiveness by 20% to 30%.
You can catch these problems early by performing a home energy audit once every 5 years or so. A technician will come out and inspect your home for best practices, like having even fill insulation in your attic. They can also perform a depressurization test where they suck all of the air out of your home and identify temperature differences to find areas where insulation is lacking or air is leaking.
Keeping up with these projects on a regular basis will improve the lifespan and efficiency of your unit by around 20% on average, increasing the life of a 20 year unit by 4 years or more. Unit lifespans are also extended by preventing problems that could cut their use short, in extreme cases making a 20 year unit only last 12 years.
For homeowners that want to buy a unit less frequently and get more efficiency out of the unit they have, scheduling regular maintenance appointments and taking care of the basic tasks above makes both sense and cents.
Are you in the market for a new heating and air conditioning system? Click here to get free custom quotes from reputable HVAC contractors. You’ll receive upfront pricing without having to invite a contractor to your home or even enter your contact information!