Have you scheduled your annual HVAC system maintenance yet? You might shrug off this task, but it’s more important than you think. Spring is right around the corner and the summer heat will be here before you know it.
Why Is Maintenance So Important?
The purpose of preventative maintenance is to keep your HVAC system up and running while operating at top efficiency. You rarely see your HVAC system face to face, so it’s easy to forget about it and neglect it. Imagine doing the same with your car. If you never have the oil changed or refuse to take your car in for any kind of tune-up until the check-engine light comes on, you can usually expect big expensive repair bills.
Your HVAC system is the same way. No matter how expensive the system is or what the manufacturer promises, a complicated piece of mechanical equipment is subject to breakdowns and needs a little TLC every so often. Routine maintenance not only reduces mechanical breakdowns but extends the life expectancy and helps to maintain a high level of efficiency.
Benefits of Annual HVAC System Maintenance
The two most common questions we are asked about maintenance… What can you expect from your newly tuned-up HVAC system? Is the cost of maintenance really worth it? Homeowners should be aware that some benefits of routine maintenance are noticed immediately while others prevent future problems from happening. Some of the most prominent benefits include the following:
Lower energy bills: You might assume that since the equipment is heating or cooling your home without any apparent problem that everything is fine. However, have you taken a look at your energy bills lately? A neglected system slowly loses its ability to keep your home comfortable at the same level of efficiency it once did. Just as a car tune-up delivers better gas mileage, your HVAC system consumes less fuel after receiving professional maintenance saving you money every month on your energy bill.
Fewer repairs: Do you hear a strange sound or notice an odd odor coming from your furnace? Calling for a tune-up right away could help catch problems before they become disastrous. For example, a fraying belt could result in strange operating noises. If a technician replaces it in time, you can avoid the expensive repair that results from a snapped belt whipping around inside. By preventing future repairs, annual maintenance pays for itself
Lowered chance of a catastrophic breakdown: Everyone wants an incident-free cooling and heating season. After all, it’s incredibly inconvenient and uncomfortable when equipment breaks down on a sweltering summer afternoon or frigid winter night, right when you need your HVAC system most. The odds of this happening when you schedule inspections every year are greatly diminished.
Longer equipment life: Air conditioners, furnaces and other HVAC equipment function best when they’re regularly serviced and cleaned. One malfunctioning part can cause a domino effect that causes the entire system to break down. Regular maintenance prevents this from happening and adds years to your equipment’s lifespan.
Safer equipment operation: A failing HVAC system does more than cost a lot of money to repair; it also can endanger your family. For instance, if the furnace develops a crack in the heat exchanger, carbon monoxide gas can escape and poison the air you breathe. Also, electric HVAC systems can develop a short circuit, which is a serious fire hazard if ignored. While catastrophic failures like these are rare, they are still possible. Clearly, your family’s safety is yet another reason to schedule annual HVAC system maintenance.
Maintenance Tasks You Can Do Yourself
If you are a confidant DIYer there are a few maintenance tasks you can do on your own between the annual spring and fall tune-ups. The following DIY tasks help keep your equipment running smoothly until the next professional visit:
- Change the HVAC air filter every month.
- Remove debris from around the outdoor unit.
- Hose down the outdoor unit when dirt begins to accumulate on it.
- Trim back foliage to at least 18 inches from the outdoor unit.
- Keep supply and return registers unblocked by drapes, rugs or furniture.
Maintenance You Should Leave to the Pros
I’ve been asked many times over; Can’t I just complete a tune-up on my own? Fact is, a thorough tune-up requires skills, tools and knowledge that only experienced HVAC technicians can deliver. Here’s what to expect when you call in the pros to perform annual HVAC system maintenance:
- Testing your thermostat: The tech should check that your thermostat is calibrated correctly to ensure comfort in every season. If you don’t have a programmable thermostat installed, the technician may recommend one and install it for you on the spot.
- Tighten electrical connections: Loose connections are dangerous and can cause improper operation that shortens the equipment’s lifespan. The technician should measure voltage and current on all motors and electrical connections.
- Lubricate all moving parts: A lack of lubrication causes high amounts of friction in the system. This can lead to overheating and break downs. Adding lubrication helps parts move smoothly against one another, thus decreasing electricity use and lowering your energy bills.
- Condensate drain inspection: Cooling equipment and condensing furnaces produce condensate when they operate. Under normal conditions, the condensate collects in a pan and drains away to the outside of your home. However, over time sludge and/or algae can form in the drain pipe causing a blockage. When the drain line becomes clogged during the peak season we commonly see drain pans overflowing causing water damage to the equipment and even your home. During your routine maintenance the technician should inspect and clear the drain/pan and add anti-algae tabs for added protection. This is one of the simplest yet most important part of any annual maintenance.
- System control check: The start cycle, operation, and shut-off sequence should always occur in a particular fashion. The technician should check the controls to ensure everything is operation correctly, safely, and properly.
- Blower cleaning and adjustment: Issues with the blower can severely decrease equipment efficiency up to 15%. Making needed adjustments ensures proper airflow allowing continued home comfort.
- Evaporator and condenser coil cleaning: Dirty and soiled coils will slowly decrease the efficiency levels and make the equipment run longer and work harder. Cleaning the coils with a coil cleaner is a highly important part of maintaining the A/C’s capacity; prolonging the equipment’s life span and further reducing your monthly energy costs.
- Check of refrigerant levels: A system that is not properly charged can lead to a multitude of problems. Rather your system is undercharged due to a leak or over charged at installation, you could be paying much more than necessary to cool your home. The technician should check the refrigerant levels and adjust them accordingly. If the system is severely undercharged the technician should also recommend a leak search and repair.
- Inspection of gas pressure, line connections, burner combustion and heat exchanger: Poor gas connections, incorrect gas pressure, a dirty burner, or a cracked heat exchanger can result in a fire hazard causing unsafe and inefficient operations. The technician should inspection, clean, and/or tighten all components to improve operations and lower your heating costs. If they find a cracked heat exchanger, chances are you’ll need to replace the furnace itself or at the very least have the heat exchanger replaced. Running any furnace with a cracked heat exchanger will put everyone in your home at risk, furthermore any technician that finds a cracked heat exchanger should red-tag the furnace preventing it from running.
One of the first steps (and most important) to ensuring proper inspections and maintenance is finding the right contractor. R. A. Styron offers a 20-point inspection twice a year with one of our seasoned technicians. Our technicians are trained to leave our customers with a piece of mind that their system is completely clean and running efficiently. While routine maintenance assuredly cuts down on breakdowns, they can still happen; that is why we offer added discounts specially for our maintenance contract members along with preferred service. Call or email today to schedule your spring maintenance and ask about our easy monthly payment options.