A How-to Guide to HVAC Maintenance

Your HVAC system is often the most expensive device you have in your home.

Unfortunately, it’s also the most costly to run—and the most costly to fix when something goes wrong. Repair costs can run you between $150 and $450 on average, which is why it pays (literally) to ensure that your system is clean and maintained.

Don’t risk an expensive malfunction by waiting for professional HVAC maintenance. There’s a lot you can do yourself, so grab this HVAC guide and get started.

HVAC Maintenance Basics

Before we dive in, it’s important to keep in mind that the age and condition of your system will affect how frequently it needs to be maintained. If you have an older model, you might want to opt for more frequent maintenance checks than you would do for a newer one.

In general, it’s a good idea to maintain your system twice a year—once before you start using your air conditioner in the spring, and once before you start using your heater in the fall. In between those checks, you should also be replacing your air filter every 30 to 90 days to help lower your home’s energy consumption by 15%.

Finally, in addition to the checklists below, you should also consider the specific brands of the system and equipment in your home, as your manufacturer may outline additional maintenance tasks in the system’s literature. Pull out your manual to double-check it before you get started.

Spring/Summer HVAC Maintenance

In the warm seasons, your maintenance checklist is designed to help prevent some of the common HVAC problems that crop up during the summer. It’s a good idea to do this maintenance in early spring as the weather starts to warm, but you can also do it into the summer if you must.

Adjust Your Thermostat

During the summer, we usually see changes in our household routines: kids may be home from school, or you may be traveling on vacation. To make sure your system is as efficient as possible, make sure to adjust your thermostat’s settings accordingly. Set your thermostat to be cooler in the middle of the day, and don’t forget to raise the temperature when you’re away on vacation!

Check Your Airflow

To keep your system running smoothly, you’ll want to keep the air flowing without obstruction. Start by changing your air filter, and consider upgrading to a higher-quality option as needed.

Inspect your vents and registers to be sure they’re unblocked, and look for any buildup of dust or mold that could prevent air from flowing. Make sure your fans or blowers are moving correctly as well.

Do a Routine Cleaning

Keeping your HVAC clean is about more than appearance. It’s also a good way to prevent some of the most costly repair issues. Here are the steps you can take to keep it clean and clear:

  • Clear your drain lines to ensure proper drainage
  • Remove standing water from your drain pans
  • Check for and clean any leaks
  • Gently brush debris off of your external unit, and remove any branches or leaves
  • Prune any shrubs that have grown too close to your unit

These simple steps can help keep your system running all summer long, keeping you and your family nice and cool.

Fall/Winter HVAC Maintenance

When the weather starts to cool, your HVAC maintenance goal is to prepare your system for the icy weather ahead. Though it’s best to take these preventative measures early in the season before you begin putting your heating system to use, you can also do them at the start of winter if you fall behind.

Adjust Your Thermostat

Just as before, it’s time to check the settings of your thermostat. With the kids back to school, you might not need to keep the air as comfortable in the middle of the day, so be sure to adjust your settings. Don’t forget to also check the batteries in your system once more.

Check Your Airflow

Inspect your air filter once again to see if it should be replaced. As before, make sure your fans and blowers are moving without problems, and ensure that air is flowing through the vents and registers throughout your home.

Inspect Your Furnace

Turn on the water to the furnace humidifier if you haven’t already, and replace the humidifier filter. Check your system’s heating elements for any signs of damage or wear, and clear away any debris.

Because you’ll be using your heating system more regularly, now is a good time to replace the battery in your carbon monoxide detector as well.

Do a Routine Cleaning

Once more, you’ll want to do a routine cleaning that includes all of the items in the spring HVAC maintenance section above. However, with the heavy spring and summer rains out of the way, fall is a good time to double-check that the ground beneath your external AC unit is still level as well.

In-Depth HVAC Maintenance

While it’s critical to follow the maintenance best practices we’ve outlined above, that doesn’t mean you should fall behind on more in-depth maintenance. At least once a year, you should have an expert HVAC technician take care of the more technical checks that need to be done, as well as complex cleaning that could be difficult to do yourself. Here are a few things an expert can do to keep your system running:

  • Replace any worn belts, pulleys, or other HVAC parts
  • Check that the refrigerant levels are high enough to keep your system from running hot or cold
  • Lubricate any moving parts
  • Reprogram or double-check that your thermostat’s reading matches the actual temperature
  • Check wiring and electrical components
  • Check the gas pressure
  • Clean inside of the outdoor unit of your AC system
  • Inspect the ductwork and cabinet for liquid or air leaks

Of course, if you have experience with HVAC maintenance and repair, many of these items are easy to do yourself. Make sure you have the proper tools for the job, including safety equipment like glasses.

It’s Never Too Late to Get Started

You may have fallen behind on maintenance, but it’s never too late to bring your unit up to speed. Add these items to your annual maintenance checklist to keep your unit running longer, lower your utility bills, and pay for less maintenance in the long run. Check out our site for the tools and tips you need, and get started on your checklist!

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