We all want the perfect amount of heat during the winter and just the right amount of cool during the summer. And while this is perhaps most obvious during the months of subzero temperatures and scorching heat waves, home heating and air conditioning is usually the last thing on our mind when the weather is nice. But now isn’t just a time to crack the windows in your home and enjoy 70-degree weather. Now is also the best time for an HVAC inspection and maintenance.
If your heat pump or air conditioner malfunctions, you may have to go several days without it while you wait for a repair or – worse – several weeks without cool air if it needs to be replaced. You can prevent this from happening! Best of all, routine HVAC maintenance will also improve your system’s performance, extend its life, and reduce your energy bill. Talk about comfort on multiple levels!
Here are steps that you can take now so you can be comfortable this summer.
HVAC Maintenance Checklist
Homes with an HVAC system either have a heat pump or a conventional air conditioner. While each functions differently in the way they heat and cool your home, they typically benefit from the same, general maintenance. Moreover, both typically consist of two halves: an indoor unit and an accompanying outdoor unit. For your tune-up, we’ll start with your outside unit.
#1. Turn the Power Off
Before you begin working on your HVAC system, you need to turn the power off. Most outside units have a disconnector located only a few feet away. Most disconnectors consist of a handle that is covered by a lid or panel. Pulling on this handle will cut off power to the unit, but not the flow of electricity to the disconnector. In other words, the disconnector will remain “live.” It’s imperative that you cover the disconnector and ensure that none of its other areas are exposed before proceeding. For added safety, you can locate the breaker that controls your HVAC system and switch it off.
Safety should be your highest priority. If you have concerns at any point during this process, contact an HVAC technician to handle your heat pump or A/C maintenance for you.
Maintaining the Outdoor HVAC Unit
#2. Inspect the Unit Panels
Extreme weather is harsh on outside units. As you would expect, outdoor units are enclosed in panels that protect their electrical components from the elements. Check every side of the unit to ensure that panels are intact. If panels are missing or misaligned, possibly due to a storm, you could reattach or realign the panel if it’s a simple fix. However, if electrical components are exposed, you should contact an HVAC technician to fix it for you. If so, avoid starting your system again until the unit is fully enclosed.
#3. Clear Away Debris
Winter may have left dirt and debris in the exterior condenser or compressor of your unit. In this case, you can use a heavy-duty degreaser, a hand vacuum, and good old fashioned effort to clean away leaves and other waste caught in the unit. In most cases, you will also need a screwdriver or wrench to reach the interior.
Take this opportunity to cut back any vegetation within 2 feet around your unit. While shrubs are other plants are not direct obstructions, they can still affect the airflow around your unit.
#4. Repair or Replace Pipe Insulation
Check the conduit pipe that runs between your outside unit and its inside counterpart. When this pipe is properly insulated, it will maximize your energy efficiency and consequently save you money. Otherwise, you could be making your HVAC system work harder to do less and be paying more as a result. If your insulation is thin or disintegrated, you can repair or replace it with a layer of fiberglass, foam rubber, or polyethylene foam.
#5. Clean or Replace Air Filters
Like insulation, a clean air filter provides significant benefits for relatively minor work. Depending on HVAC system, your unit will either have filters that can be cleaned or filters that are disposable and will need to be replaced. Either way, make sure to clean or replace your filters every one to three months, unless instructed otherwise by your manufacturer.
Maintaining the Indoor HVAC Unit
Now is the time to move inside to work on your blower or furnace. Like before, safety is your highest priority. You’ll want to make sure that the power to the unit is cut off before moving forward.
#6. Clean the Evaporator Coil
Locate and open the door to your unit’s evaporator coil, removing any screws or bolts as necessary. With a soft brush, remove any dust that is present and then spray the coil with a commercial coil cleaner. Next, clean out the drain pan with a mixture of soap, hot water, and a little bit of bleach. Then, pour a mixture of half a cup of bleach with a half a cup of water down the drain. When you’re done, replace and seal the door.
#7. Check the Drainage Line
Algae and mold can build up within your drainage line causing it to either flow slowly or stop flowing altogether. In order to address this, locate your drainage hose, which is usually a one-inch PVC pipe, and follow it to the end where it trains. In some cases, the line will drain outside near your other unit; however, most will end at a utility sink or floor drain in your basement. Once you’ve located the end of the drain line, attach a vacuum hose to the opening. Finally, run the vacuum for a few minutes to clear away any potential mold or algae buildup inside.
#8. Change the Air Filters
Just like your outside unit, your blower or furnace requires air filters that need to be replaced on a regular basis. This means that you should follow the same steps as you did before while still paying special attention to the type of filter you use and your manufacturer’s guidelines.
#9. Test the Unit
Finally, it’s time to start up your system to check to see if it cools your home adequately. Does everything run smoothly? Does the temperature in your home reach the degree you want it to? Does the temperature in your home change in a reasonable amount of time?
Remember, if you encountered any kind of damage that gave you a reason for concern, you’ll want to skip this step and contact an HVAC technician instead. Moreover, if you’re not fully satisfied with the quality of air in your home, turn to a professional.
Receive Professional HVAC Maintenance
While these steps will help keep your heat pump or air conditioner in good shape, keep in mind that there are some maintenance items that only a professionally trained HVAC technician can handle. These advanced procedures, together with the items listed above, will ensure that your units are in top form and fully prepare for the summer ahead. Moreover, there may be instances where you lack the tools to do some of the aforementioned steps yourself. In either case, it’s a good idea to call an HVCA professional to make sure your system is blowing cool air – and not just blowing air – when it’s sweltering outside.
At Steve’s Heating & Cooling, our goal is to provide residents of Northern Kentucky and the surrounding tri-state with ideal home comfort. We provide emergency HVAC repair maintenance as well as free estimates for system repairs and replacements. Our certified technicians are available 24/7, 365 days a year and just a phone call or e-mail away! Call us at (859) 795-2172 or e-mail us and rest assured that you’re in good hands.