Research shows that a neglected HVAC unit works, on average, 20 percent harder to deliver the same heating and cooling performance as a healthy, maintained system. The less wear and tear there is on the system, the simpler maintenance will be during the months it isn’t used as much. The better your system is running, the less energy it is spending. This means less mechanical stress, more money in your pocket and, ultimately, a smaller carbon footprint.
Fortunately, most issues with our HVAC systems are easy to spot when we’re paying attention. There are a few issues you can troubleshoot and repair yourself, before you call in the professionals, saving even more money.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do to ensure the efficiency of your HVAC is to maintain your filters. This includes cleaning or replacing them on a regular basis. Clogged or dirty filters obstruct airflow and cause your system to work harder than it should costing you more on your energy bill and leading to premature system burnout. When normal airflow is restricted, you also run the risk of air that would normally travel through the filter passing directly into the coil unfiltered, affecting its efficiency as well.
Depending on the specific type your system uses, filters should be replaced every month or two. The more you use your AC, and the more pets you have in your home, the more frequently you should install new filters.
Your AC has evaporator and condenser coils which work in conjunction with your thermostat to deliver cool air to your home. It’s normal for these coils to collect dirt over time, and clean filters prevent dirt from building up too quickly on your evaporator coil. However, eventually enough debris will collect to reduce airflow and create an insulation around the coil itself. This insulation hinders its ability to absorb heat from your home. You can put this off for as long as possible by checking your coils and cleaning them regularly.
Outside, condenser coils can also get dirty, especially if the surrounding areas are exceptionally dusty or rich in plant life. Your condenser coil is easy to spot and check for dirt buildup, and easy to clean. Removing surrounding dirt, debris, and making sure all foliage is cut back at least two feet from your unit will help ensure adequate airflow to your condenser.
When it comes to refrigerant, any repairs or actual handling of the chemicals should be left to the professionals, as they can be harmful if not handled properly. You can, however, troubleshoot and diagnose issues with refrigerant before calling someone out to your home. If you have a leak, it’ll be pretty easy to detect because frost will accumulate on various parts of the system.
Additionally, if your unit is making hissing sounds, your level is probably low and the sound you’re hearing is the coolant escaping. When a leak is big enough, you’ll hear it, and can usually listen at various points along the refrigerant line to determine where it is.
Understanding HVAC-related maintenance is a great skill for anyone. Equally important is knowing when to let a professional deal with things, to ensure your safety and the efficiency of your system.