Preventative maintenance: How to keep your HVAC system in great shape
Your house is a very personal place for you and your family, but it’s also a financial investment. And with any financial investment, you have to keep an eye on things to make sure you’re getting the sort of return you seek.
There are lots of important components in your house – including the roof, foundation, and plumbing. But none of these require as much ongoing care and maintenance as your home’s HVAC system. Done well, the proper preventative maintenance strategy can save you money and leave you feeling more comfortable year-round.
3 Preventative Maintenance Tips
Most homeowners are reactive. They notice something wrong and they call a technician or contractor out to fix the problem. And though there are times when you have no option but to react, there are other situations in which a precautionary approach is superior.
Preventative maintenance is, as the name suggests, a method by which you invest in maintenance before an issue occurs in the hopes of cost-effectively avoiding major problems. When it comes to HVAC, preventative maintenance also lessens the risk of getting stuck without cold air in the middle of the summer (or heat during the dead of winter).
Here are a few tips to help you adopt a more responsible approach:
Swap Out Filters
“The most common reason a heating and air conditioning system breaks down is because of a dirty filter,” Angie’s List explains. “As dirt accumulates, air can’t pass, or worse, the system overheats. The motor then has to work harder. In a best-case scenario, your unit will need to be repaired. In the worst case, if your unit is older, not replacing filters could put it over the edge and require you to buy a new one.”
Regular replacement of air filters not only extends the life of your HVAC system, but it also keeps energy costs down, improves air quality inside the home, and offers peace of mind.
Every professional in the industry uses different rules of thumb regarding when/how often to replace air filters. But generally speaking, an average suburban home without pets should have the air filter replaced every three or four months. For homes with pets, replacing a normal filter every 60 days is encouraged.
Monitor Energy Bills
“All homeowners should monitor and track how much they pay each month to cool their home,” Around the Clock Heating and Air Conditioning advises. “Obviously some fluctuation in your energy cooling costs is to be expected as you adjust your usage to the temperature outside, but if you notice a definitive spike in your A/C costs without an increase in usage, this sudden drop in efficiency may indicate a need for professional A/C repair services.”
Comparing your bill to that of your neighbor or friend down the street is no good. Every home is different. Factors like age of the home, quality of insulation, lot orientation, square footage, number of windows, type of HVAC system, ceiling heights, etc. can all influence what you pay. It’s imperative that you track your own energy bills from month to month and year to year. Only then you can identify trends and notice when something is out of whack.
If you notice that your energy bills are spiking without any clear rhyme or reason, have your preferred HVAC technician to take a look. Catching a simple problem early on could prevent a much costlier issue at a later date.
Keep Systems Free of Debris
AC units are built to withstand a beating. But even though they’re made to endure the outside elements, this doesn’t mean you should just let them do their thing. For best results, inspect your unit every couple of weeks and remove any sticks, leaves, rocks, or other yard debris that are in direct contact with your unit. Any standing vegetation – such as grass, shrubs, or weeds – should not be permitted to grow within 18 to 24 inches of the unit.
Protect Your Investment
Your home’s HVAC system is complex and expensive. The last thing you want to do is allow preventable issues to prematurely wear down your system and leave you with expensive repair bills. Take the time to invest in preventative maintenance and you’ll almost certainly increase the longevity of your system!