offrs reviews HVAC maintenance: getting control over your comfort!
When you think about your AC/heating repair and maintenance, do you default to the image of a repair tech standing in your living room? But there's a lot that you can take on yourself and ways to keep everything in optimal working order between check-ups. Let's explore...
HVAC – What You Need to Know
As a homeowner, you don't want your budget to drive whether or not your family is warm in the winter or cool in the summer. Beautiful as your home may be, it can quickly turn into a sarcophagus or swamp if you let your HVAC go astray. That’s why a basic understanding of your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, is so important. Sure, there are specialists that can swoop in and fix sudden issues, but why wait for that moment when a few, easy maintenance tips can keep your system fit and in shape. Like most things in life and home, it's not long bouts of inefficiency followed by a rapid panic to get back to the norm, rather a slow and steady, consistent performance that provides optimal comfort over time. So before your HVAC experiences a straight-up problem, here are a few simple tips to keep your HVAC system in steady, working order.
Follow a Regular Maintenance Schedule
As mentioned, it's about smaller check-ups rather than sudden repairs. That said, it will be good to have a professional inspect and maintain your HVAC system in the spring and fall every year. They'll do tasks you're likely not comfortable taking on yourself - no matter how handy you are. These include:
- Checking the calibration on your thermostat.
- Tightening any loose electrical connections.
- Lubricating all moving parts.
- Checking the system controls to make sure they’re working properly.
- Checking and refilling Freon levels.
- Cleaning and adjusting the blower.
- Even providing helpful seasonal tips based on your region.
- And so on...
There are, however, regular maintenance tasks you can take on in between professional visits (things that may prevent major problems and bills when they do)...
- Replace your air filter with a good quality filter at least every 90 days.
- Make sure that there are no weeds, shrubs or trees obstructing the outside unit.
- Clean the condensate drain line once a year. If it becomes clogged, your system may freeze.
If you maintain your HVAC system well, it will operate at peak efficiency, which will keep you comfortable, help you avoid surprise shutdowns and keep your utility bills as low as possible. Spotting major problems is fairly easy... if your heating or cooling stops working, there’s a problem. But what about catching it before it becomes a serious problem? Let's explore some of the telltale signs...
- You find yourself slowly bumping the temperature up or down just to keep it consistent with your comfort level from before (keep in mind, if the number of people in your home fluctuates, so too can your system's settings requirements).
- Similarly, your system is running unseasonably longer and harder in order to keep your home at the same comfort level as yesterday.
- You're getting odd odors coming out of the vents.
- Some rooms are warmer than others where everything seemed equalized before.
- Your neighbor's bills are vastly different than yours despite relatively similar household setups.
Problems that can occur with air conditioning units:
So what can you do about it? Well, there's a slew of possibilities (too many to detail here). But there are some great tutorials online at YouTube which will walk you through how to tackle specific maintenance tasks. To find the right how-to's, let's briefly review some common issues and their possible culprits...
- Your air conditioner is running, but it’s not keeping your home cool. Check to determine if the AC is actually blowing warm air. If there's cold air coming from the vents, then evaluate whether the force of the air is lower than normal. These symptoms could point to a problem with the refrigerant, compressor or ducts.
- Your AC doesn’t turn on when you adjust the thermostat or the system cycles on and off very quickly. There could be a problem with the thermostat.
- You hear some sort of loud noise coming from the unit. You'll likely want to turn the unit off. If there is a loose belt, for example, it could damage some expensive components.
- You notice a bad smell while the unit is running. There could be a mold problem. If you've been away for a while with the AC left on cold and now it's both warm and smells of mold, it's possible that the filter literally froze, clogged the airflow and overwhelmed the system, resulting in the ice melting and water molding on the filter (another reason you want to swap filters regularly and keep the temperature even in the household).
Problems that can occur with heating units:
- You notice water puddles around your furnace. This could be a clogged condensate line (fixing it is probably beyond your skill set at this point).
- You smell gas. If this happens, shut down the furnace immediately, then find the gas valve and turn it off. You'll likely need to get a professional involved to make certain that it's not a hazard.
- Other signs of trouble are similar to your AC unit... if your furnace is blowing cold air or the force of the air is low, if it doesn’t respond when you adjust the thermostat, if it cycles too often, or if you hear any type of loud noise coming from the unit.
Is It Time to Replace Your HVAC System?
Talk to a trusted professional for advice to be certain. The average cost to replace an air conditioning unit can range from $4,000 to $5,500. The average cost for a furnace replacement is between $3,000 and $4,500. Many factors come into play with the cost, including where you live, the size and condition of your home, how many are in the household and whether any of the existing components can be reused. Your best strategy is to do preventative maintenance wherever and whenever possible. This will keep your HVAC in optimum, efficient working order. Then, reach out occasionally to a reliable HVAC professional for system checks, tweaks heavy repairs and advice on the health of your overall system.
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