When we think of summer, the first things that come to mind are frozen treats, the beach, and time with the family. But, summer isn’t all perfect. Heat and humidity become major hassles as spring ends and summer descends. Even more, if you live in a warmer climate — you might be dealing with heat and humidity for most of the year.
While most of us love the occasional sauna experience, a properly functioning air conditioner is essential to comfortable and healthy living. In this guide, we’ll cover how to maintain a HVAC system so that your living environment is perfectly cold, safe, and comfortable.
Here’s what we’ll be covering in this air conditioner maintenance guide:
- What is a HVAC System?
- Why Does HVAC Need Maintenance?
- Learning About Your HVAC System
- HVAC Maintenance — What You Can DIY
- HVAC Maintenance — When You Should Call A Professional
- Frequently Asked Questions
What is a HVAC System?
For a homeowner that has only recently moved into a more modern house — you may have heard about HVAC, but aren’t sure what it means. HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Each of these components may be found separately, but more than 60% of U.S. homes have a combined system that offers centralized heating and cooling.
If your home has a combined HVAC system, then the entire system may need to be targeted in order to perform efficient maintenance that keeps your air conditioner durable and functioning.
Why Does a HVAC System Need Maintenance?
Just like with a car and most other machines, a HVAC system requires regular maintenance in order to run smoothly and without hiccups. By taking regular care of your HVAC system, you’ll be doing yourself a favor in the long run. That’s because regular maintenance will extend the life of your AC unit, and can save you the hassle of an unexpected total breakdown.
Further, a poorly maintained HVAC system decreases the efficiency of the system itself. For instance, let’s talk about something as simple as dirt. If there’s a dirt buildup, your HVAC system will end up being clogged. This blockage makes your HVAC system work harder without improving the rate in which the room cools down at all!
Dirt is only one of many things that can be detrimental to your HVAC system — which is exactly why HVAC systems need regular maintenance.
Benefits of Routine HVAC Maintenance
There are other benefits to routine HVAC maintenance than just increased efficiency and preventing damage. Here’s what they are:
Improved safety — One of the major reasons for regular HVAC maintenance is to make sure that equipment is safe to operate. Things like structural integrity, fire hazards, and loose wiring can lead to dangerous situations. Both DIY and professional maintenance can promote a safer environment for you and your family.
Cheaper repair bills — A total breakdown means that you’ll have to purchase a new HVAC system. When compared to maintenance fees, the cost of a new system can be a hundred-fold more expensive. Equipment simply lasts longer when you take good care of them.
Saving on utility bills — As mentioned, HVAC maintenance increases efficiency. Not only will that speed up the rate in which a room becomes cool, but increased efficiency means less energy usage. Saving on utility bills each month will eventually add up to a substantial amount of money.
Learning About Your HVAC System
There’s one step we need to take before we can get into the hands-on part of air conditioner maintenance. We must learn about our HVAC system before forming our maintenance plan to ensure effectiveness and accuracy. By not under or over performing maintenance, we can deter risks without spending unnecessary time, effort, and money.
When learning about your HVAC system, here are specifics to focus on:
- The amount of time the HVAC system has been in use
- How advanced the HVAC system is
- Best practices for maintenance periods
- The average run time of the system per day
The Amount of Time the HVAC System Has Been in Use
The older the HVAC system, the more maintenance that will be required per year. As a general rule of thumb, you should perform DIY maintenance or get your HVAC system checked by a professional at least once a year.
If a HVAC system was installed before you moved in, here’s how you can check the installation date:
First, look for the condenser nameplate — On the condenser box of your unit (which is often found outside your house), the upper-right corner of the box will usually have a nameplate. On the nameplate, you’ll be able to find information like the brand, model, serial and manufacturer date.
Decode the manufacturer date — To translate the manufacturer date to a real time, you’ll need to interpret the serial or model number. This can be easily done by visiting a website like Builder Center or a decoder available online. Call customer support or the manufacturer’s office for assistance if needed.
How Advanced the HVAC System Is
To the average person, it’s hard to gauge how advanced a HVAC system really is. Sure, you can pick up a book and try to learn — but Miller’s Heating & Air is always available to help! With a wide range of knowledge on models and brands across the industry, we’re equipped to help every homeowner.
Best Practices For Maintenance Periods
Besides the age of the model, each HVAC system will require unique intervals between maintenance periods. Your best bet to find these best practices would be through the manuals that were initially provided for your model.
As mentioned, if your air conditioning is combined into one central HVAC system, you’ll want to take note of every manual that makes up your system. The manuals to read through include the ones for your boiler, chiller, air handler, motor, thermostat, and pretty much everything else. Finding these perfect intervals will serve as the framework for the rest of your maintenance plan and as a good starting point.
If you don’t have the manual, you can call the manufacturer’s office for more information or look online for a copy of a specific manual.
The Average Run Time of the System Per Day
The last factor to take into account is how much the HVAC system is running. If the HVAC unit is present at an office building or store, you would expect much more runtime than one found in a typical house.
The longer the runtime per day, the more often you’ll need to clean or get your unit inspected.
HVAC Maintenance — What You Can DIY
Simple DIY maintenance can go a long way when it comes to protecting your system. You can do simple things to be sure your HVAC system is up and running smoothly. Making sure ducts are clean on the exterior, checking for big leaks in the visible ductwork. Changing the air filter and making sure the system is functioning well when in use. Making notes of small issues and things that would improve the performance of the system. All this so when a technician does an inspection all the little things have been taken care of.
HVAC Maintenance — When You Should Call A Professional
Because HVAC systems are machinery with their own complexities — there’s a limit to what you can do yourself. Here are the signs and scenarios in which you should leave it to the professionals.
When You Can’t Pinpoint the Problem
Perhaps, your house is suddenly taking forever to reach a comfortable and cool temperature. Or, maybe, your electricity bills are skyrocketing for no apparent reason. It’s normal to not have all the answers. Sometimes, you’ll be able to find the solution after searching online, but that’s not always a guarantee. That’s where Miller’s Heating & Air can help you! With whatever HVAC problem you’re having, we’re the best professionals based in Portland and Vancouver.
Not only is short-cycling a symptom of a problem, but it can cause problems as well. Without addressing both the root problem and the short-cycling, you’ll find your HVAC system needing replacement much sooner than normal. That’s because short-cycling puts an intense strain on your compressor unit.
Homeowners are unlikely to find a solution for a short-cycling compressor on their own since there are many probable areas that may be at fault. Tinkering with the wrong HVAC component will be a waste of time and may cause further complications.
When you peek inside an air conditioner, there are tens or hundreds of intertwined wires, motors, and tubes. Being such a complex system, an amateur should avoid the temptation to check electrical faults by themselves. In the long run, faulty rewiring can lead to short circuits that can cause substantial damage.
Regular Inspections and Maintenance
There’s a difference between taking care of day-to-day tasks and performing a diagnostic maintenance inspection. Not only do professionals have the expertise and experience to perform an accurate inspection, but they have tools that you most likely don’t have access to. Professionals also won’t overlook things that may eventually lead to substantial damage.
Frequently Asked Questions
When to Replace Rather Than Repair?
As recommended by the Department of Energy, a HVAC system should be replaced between 10 and 15 years of use. At that age, maintenance may not be sufficient as parts deteriorate with use. Replacements may involve a single component or the entire system. Before buying an entirely new HVAC system, make sure to contact a Miller’s Heating & Air for a check-in.
How Long Does HVAC Maintenance Take?
On average, an annual or bi-annual HVAC maintenance session will take 1 to 2 hours to complete. If a HVAC maintenance has not been performed in several years, expect the appointment to be at least 2 hours.
How Can I Reduce Energy Bills?
One of the most practical ways to reduce unexpectedly high energy bills (that have no other explanation) would be to get your HVAC system tested. When a HVAC system is regularly maintained, less energy is required to keep the unit properly functioning.
How Often Do Air Filters Need to Be Switched Out?
The longer that an air filter is in place, the more dirt and debris that will build up. As a general rule of thumb, you will want to replace pleated air filters and furnace filters every 3 months. For thicker filters (MERV 8 and up), they can be replaced less often, but at least once every 6 months.
Have Fun and Stay Cool
Summers are prime time for lots of fun and excitement. The last thing you should have to worry about is returning home to a sweltering room that has no air conditioning. We encourage you to get your HVAC system regularly maintained so that you can save yourself time, money, and excessive sweating! Have fun, stay cool, and please reach out to Miller’s Heating & Air if you need to talk to a licensed HVAC technician today.