If you want your home’s HVAC system to function at optimal efficiency, it needs regular maintenance. In fact, a well-maintained system can reduce your energy costs significantly over time.
The first and easiest task on this list is changing the air filter regularly. This can significantly lower your energy costs and improve your family’s indoor air quality. If you are intending on buying a home warranty make sure the warranty includes HVAC components which will help ease the stress of repairs in the future.
1. Change the Air Filter
A dirty filter blocks airflow and forces the HVAC system to work harder to maintain your home’s temperature. Replacing or cleaning the filter improves indoor air quality, reduces energy consumption and extends the life of your equipment.
Outdoor HVAC units (air conditioners and heat pumps) need plenty of clean, unobstructed airflow to function properly. Regularly removing leaves, branches, debris and other items from the outdoor unit prevents overwork and helps reduce energy consumption.
Renters should also make sure their ductwork is clean and free of blockage, especially before using the heater in winter. Regular maintenance helps reduce repair bills and lowers monthly utility costs.
2. Clean the Vents and Registers
It’s important to keep your home’s air vents and registers clean. Over time, dust can clog them, reducing the flow of cooled air and forcing your system to work harder. Dirty vents also pump dust and other allergens into your house.
Make sure that the vent covers are not blocked by furniture, drapes, or rugs. Regularly vacuum your vents and wipe them down with a damp cloth.
It’s also a good idea to clean the outside unit monthly. Make sure it’s on a level surface and clear of leaves, branches, or other debris.
3. Clean the Outdoor Unit
The outdoor unit of your air conditioning system needs to be free of dirt, debris and leaves for proper operation. You should also clean the fan blades and the fan motor of your outdoor unit.
Before you begin cleaning, make sure that your air conditioner is shut off. Look for a box near the outdoor unit that contains an electrical disconnect switch and flip it to the off position.
Use a garden hose to spray down the condenser coil and remove any debris. You can also clean the fan blades with a garden hose and a brush attachment or a damp microfiber cloth. Dry the blades thoroughly to prevent rust.
4. Clean the Condensate Drain
The drain line, which connects to the condensate pan at the bottom of your air conditioner, channels condensation away from your home. This line can become clogged with dirt, dust and grime.
Regularly cleaning the condensate drain line is important to keep it working properly. A clogged drain line can cause water damage and affect the efficiency of your AC system.
To clean the drain line, use a wet-dry vacuum or pour distilled vinegar through the cleanout cap. Allow the vinegar to sit for a few minutes, then rinse the line with water to remove any remaining vinegar and slime.
5. Clean the Refrigerant Lines
Keeping these lines clear ensures the system is properly lubricated and doesn’t suffer from corrosion. This is especially important during summer, when the unit works harder and more frequently to cool your home.
Make sure the area around your air conditioning unit is free of debris and never store paint, gasoline, rags or any other flammable material near it. This will also keep pests and vermin away from the unit and improve its performance.
Annually, pour a cup of bleach down the drain line to prevent blockages. It’s the cheapest way to keep the drain line clean.
6. Clean the Heat Exchanger
A dirty heat exchanger will restrict air flow, decreasing efficiency. This can cause your system to work harder to cool your home, increasing wear and tear. A dirty exchanger can also cause unpleasant odors to fill the room, such as burning, musty or rotten egg smells.
If you notice any of these signs, it’s time for an HVAC maintenance checkup:
Clean filters and coils promote better indoor air quality. Keeping furniture, plants and debris at least 2 feet away from any HVAC components will also help keep airflow unobstructed. Check for duct leaks, as well. Applying a strip of weather stripping or caulk to any leaking spots can seal up the leaks and save you money.
7. Test the Thermostat
Thermostats are basically switches, and they can be one of the first things that a homeowner checks when their HVAC system won’t turn on. This is because the thermostat is easy to test for power, unlike many other components in a heating and cooling unit.
Enlist a family member, turn off the furnace (or turn on if it’s in cool mode) and locate the thermostat. Unplug it and set a household thermometer near it. If they both display the same temperature, there is no problem with your thermostat or furnace.