With space heating accounting for around 45 percent of home energy bills, keeping homes warm in the winter months is the single most expensive energy cost for Americans. Proper and timely maintenance ensures that your HVAC system not only keeps you warm in the winter and cool in the summer, but that it does so as efficiently as possible. There are many energy saving tips, but the most effective way to save on power costs, is to maintain your system and keep up on necessary HVAC repairs and replacements.
While nearly all maintenance and repairs to your heating and cooling systems require a trained professional, there is one key task that you must perform monthly to keep the system running at peak efficiency: check and change the filters. A monthly inspection ensures that air flows through your ducts unobstructed, and that your blower and pumps are not overworked. Some filters can be vacuumed, while others are disposable. Any filter that has dust buildup requires attention. Cleaning the return air grates and filter grills is also important for the health and longevity of your system.
Standard Yearly Checks
Calling an expert to check over your system yearly, or at least every other year, is important for energy efficiency as well as system well-being. Routine maintenance can detect leaky ducts, unlubricated fan motors, and the like, saving you up to 25 percent on your monthly utility bills. A HVAC contractor will check over and maintain the following elements of your heating system during this type of service call:
- Heat exchanger
- Circulating fan
It is a good idea to have your air conditioning system checked during this visit as well. With Americans spending over 11 billion dollars per year to cool their homes, routine checkups not only save money, but also reduce overall energy consumption. During the system check, you can expect the HVAC contractor to look over these elements of your system:
- Refrigerant pressure
Indications That Your Furnace Needs Repair
There are several clear indicators that your furnace may need immediate repair or replacement. The first is reduced air flow. You may notice that the output of air coming from the vents is lower than before, or you may simply observe that there are rooms or sections of your home that do not seem to be warming up properly. In either case, an expert will examine the system, keeping an eye out for the following:
- Clogged ducts or filters,
- Leaks within the duct system
- Pilot light issues
- Aging system failure
Another problem requiring professional attention is unusual system noise. You will always hear some motor noise and forced air flowing through ductwork, but any additional noise is cause for concern. Clanking, banging, rattling, groaning, and whining are all abnormal and should be checked out. The belts, ignition components, and other mechanisms should be inspected for wear and tear and any aging or faulty parts should be replaced.
Air Quality or Illness Issues
Those with allergies, asthma, or other chronic respiratory issues know that when indoor air quality deteriorates, so does their health! If you are seeing an increase in your family’s breathing troubles or symptoms, having your HVAC system checked is a key step in improving air quality. Mold, dust, animal dander, and other irritants can be forced into the air you breathe if your system is aging, inefficient, or simply needs a thorough cleaning. A detailed check and tune up will ensure that your system is increasing the comfort of your home, without any unhealthy side effects.
Watch for These Air Conditioner Warning Signs
While some of the problem indicators are shared by both your heating and cooling systems, air conditioners have a few other situations all their own to watch out for. A frozen condenser is a warning sign that must not be ignored. If your system seems to be blowing air, but not cooling your home, always check the condenser, which is the outdoor unit, for signs of ice or frost. If you notice frost on the condenser, or any of the pipes leading into and out of your home, call an expert right away. Air blockages, low refrigerant levels, and other issues must be considered when ice is present.
Every air conditioner has a location where condensation is discharged. Many systems use PVC pipe or a drip pan to discharge or dissipate the excess liquid produced during the cooling process. If puddling, dripping, or condensation is visible at any other point in the system, your lines and unit must be checked for blockages and other serious internal issues. Drip pans should never fill to overflowing, so if yours is holding a substantial amount of water, be sure to have it inspected.
Common Minor Repairs
While HVAC systems are designed to last 15-20 years, there are several components that may need replacing or repair during that time. Fuses are one of the most common small parts to wear out. These important pieces protect your expensive equipment against overheating or other overuse injuries. Air conditioners have contact points that allow electricity to flow through the unit during active cooling. These points may degrade over time and require attention. Capacitors and valves allow power and fuel to flow at proper rates. The system will not cool or heat properly if they have corroded or burned out.
While not technically a piece of either your furnace or air conditioner, the thermostat is a key element in your home’s heating and cooling system. Installing a programmable thermostat can save you up to 10 percent on your monthly utility bills by ensuring that your home remains the most comfortable when you are home to actually enjoy it! If you suspect that your thermostat has gone out, check with your heating and cooling professional about replacing the old model with a programmable unit.
You can count on your home remaining comfortable by scheduling routine system maintenance and cleaning or changing your filters regularly. If you notice anything amiss, be sure to call an expert to perform HVAC repairs. Timely service ensures a functional, healthy system.