In case you’re new to this, HVAC is short for heating, ventilation and air conditioning. When people use terms like HVAC or even just A/C, they’re usually referring to the most common systems in America designed to manage indoor air quality and temperature: combination units that provide cooling in hotter months and heating in colder seasons.
However, an HVAC unit comprises many associated parts and can vary somewhat in terms of design and function. Finding the right system for your home can be challenging and involve many options, so it’s worth asking for a little professional help, but do some research to inform yourself first.
Whether or not you’re shopping for a new HVAC system, you’ll want to be ready when the hottest months of the year arrive. When your HVAC system starts working overtime on those hot summer nights, especially after working even harder through the day, you’ll want to make sure you’ve taken care of any maintenance issues well before this hottest of seasons arrives.
If you’re thinking about essential HVAC maintenance to ensure cold air blows when you need it, you’re reading the right article. Check out our top tips below!
Don’t overdo it (and investigate alternatives to constant A/C)
Sometimes, when an HVAC system is malfunctioning, mere overuse is the culprit. If you’re cranking that air conditioning nonstop, you’re asking for a breakdown. You’re also inviting an unwelcome electric bill.
Instead of keeping your system running all the time, get some quality window coverings, like blinds, drapes or shades, and keep them closed when the sun is beating down. Ceiling fans, oscillating fans and box fans can keep the air moving and make your space more tolerable. Meanwhile, look into an efficient new HVAC system with a programmable thermostat. We’ll touch more on that later.
Change your HVAC filters
One of the most overlooked yet simple fixes for widespread air conditioning issues involves changing the HVAC filter. You should replace (or clean, depending on the type of filter) your HVAC system filter at least quarterly. Do this more often if you’re heavily reliant on your system or if your household includes pets or people with severe allergies.
It’s a great idea to go ahead and change your filter as a first step toward making sure your HVAC system is ready for summer. Filters pick up dirt, dust and grime. It’s their job. Left too long, however, they can become clogged and restrict airflow, resulting in performance issues for the unit.
Double-check HVAC vents and airflow
Speaking of airflow, it only makes sense that a system designed to heat and cool the air in your home requires unrestricted airflow to accomplish its job effectively. Unfortunately, you can inadvertently make your system work harder by blocking vents.
For better system efficiency and in-home comfort, make sure your inside vents, registers and return air grilles and louvers are wide open and free from obstructions like furniture, curtains, pet hair or anything else that reduces airflow. Meanwhile, make sure your outdoor compressor is free from debris and obstructions that could impede airflow and negatively impact HVAC performance. The compressor should have at least a couple feet of clear space around it. If it doesn’t, trim back the bushes or shrubs in the way.
Check on the wiring, condenser unit and fan
After you’ve replaced the filter and made sure nothing is obstructing normal airflow, the next parts to inspect include the wiring, condenser unit and condenser fan.
After shutting down power to the unit and turning it off, inspect the wires inside the access panel. Any wires that look burned or blackened will need to be replaced. Since the condenser unit is outside and exposed to the elements, it can be damaged by buildup of leaves and twigs and other debris that falls through the metal grates over the fan. If you notice any obstructions, clear them out immediately before reassembling the unit, turning the power back on and testing it. If it’s not running properly, the fan may need to be replaced.
Take a look at the thermostat
If your home’s indoor temperature seems to be inaccurate or inadequate, you might need a new thermostat, and this may be a good time to upgrade. A programmable thermostat makes it a lot easier to adjust your thermostat settings for summer and plan for when you’d like your system to cool, while saving money by optimizing efficiency.
Newer models are Wi-Fi enabled and come with apps that allow you to control and manage your system from your smartphone or mobile device. Time everything right, and you’ll save money on cooling when you’re not at home and return to a perfectly cooled home when it matters most.
Schedule an HVAC inspection
Following the steps we just outlined on your own can really make a difference in the long-term health of your HVAC system, but if you want even more reliable assurance that your system will hold up year-to-year and especially when extreme heat hits, your best bet is to schedule an annual HVAC inspection with a professional.
A leakage test can determine weak points in your system. An HVAC pro can give you various options for fixing them. Multi-point inspections like these can target and eliminate issues before they become full-blown problems. You may want to time this annual visit during one of the months leading up to summer so you can get a handle on any issues before temperatures rise.
If you’re reaching the end of your HVAC system’s life cycle and feel like it might be about time for an upgrade, you may be relieved to learn that despite the expense of a new unit, you’ll likely end up saving yourself considerable money over time.
New systems are significantly more efficient than older models, so they require less energy (and less money) to operate. Those savings can really add up over time. You’ll also enjoy being spared the worry and headache of repeatedly repairing an aging system, as you luxuriate in the reliability and efficiency of a new HVAC unit.
There’s plenty more to learn about the air in your home and what you can do to improve it, including why dehumidifiers are important. If you’d like to know more about how to keep your HVAC unit running strong, check out your summer HVAC maintenance checklist, or read about several ways to take care of your air conditioner. If you’re wondering how long your air conditioner should last or how to make your home’s heating and cooling systems more energy efficient, we’ve got even more answers for you.
The information in this article is intended to provide guidance on the proper maintenance and care of systems and appliances in the home. Not all of the topics mentioned are covered by our home warranty or maintenance plans. Please review your home warranty contract carefully to understand your coverage.