Minor routine HVAC repair and maintenance can spell the difference between thousands of dollars down the road in just about any given large investment. In the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning world, it could mean prolonging the life of your system several years as well as keeping its energy efficient at a high level to lower bills.
Considering that a high efficiency system compared to a moderate efficiency system could cost thousands more, but improper maintenance can make both systems equally efficient, HVAC repair should be a primary concern for any homeowner.
There a number of routine tasks homeowners of any skill can tackle–and should tackle–that require no more than a few minutes per month.
ROUTINE HVAC REPAIR
Filters that block out pollen, dust, and other small particles should be replaced or cleaned regularly on nearly all heating and cooling systems. This is the simplest, quickest, and most cost effective routine HVAC repair.
The basic tasks necessary to replace an air filter are roughly the same across the board, whether you have central air conditioning, window units, or a furnace.
Clogged filters lead to a 5 to 15 percent drop of efficiency, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, which recommends changing or cleaning filters every one to two months during peak use. Reusable filters should be cleaned according to the manufacturer’s guidelines and placed back in the system. Disposable filters should be thrown away. New filters to replace the ones you tossed are available at most hardware stores.
Filter replacement should take no longer than 15 minutes.
First, find the filter. In window air conditioners, it should be behind a panel facing the inside of the home. In central air conditioners, it should be along the return duct. And in central heating, it should be on the front side of the furnace. Although you may have to remove a panel to get to the filter, it will slide out easily.
Keep in mind how the filter slid into the system, then either clean or toss the old one, and slide the new filter in the system.
This HVAC repair is primarily applicable to cooling systems, which feature drains used to remove condensation that builds up over time. The condensation usually isn’t clean: it carries dirt and other particles that clog these drains. Removing the dirt is simple: with the system off, push a wire through the drain to knock it out, being careful to avoid injury.
This HVAC repair is only applicable to natural gas heating systems. The pilot light serves as the ignition to light gas on your furnace. Without it, your natural gas heater will just push air of the same temperature as the outdoor weather. If you feel cool air coming from the vents, the most common issue is a pilot light that’s gone out. Simply find the pilot light on the furnace–you may want to consult your manufacturer’s instruction manual–and relight it using a match or lighter.
You should also keep an eye on its color. A gas furnace should have a blue pilot light. If it’s yellow or orange, your heater may have a mechanical problem necessitating professional maintenance.
Verify that your thermostat is working correctly. A thermostat that leaves your home too cool or too warm can waste energy. Check to make sure your home is at the same temperature set on the thermostat and that timed cooling or heating is working properly. Generally, thermostat repairs require professional maintenance.
PROFESSIONAL HVAC REPAIR
Energy Star recommends homeowners have a contractor perform annual maintenance check-ups.
These check-ups should include:
- Thermostat adjustment
- Test wiring and measure current and voltage
- Lubricate moving parts
- Drain cleaning
- Verify system switches on and off correctly
- Clean evaporator and condenser coils
- Adjust refrigerant
- Adjust blower
- Check gas pressure
- Check combustion
- Check heat exchanger