Each spring, we meticulously clean our homes to remove the clutter and dust that accumulate throughout the year. But many of us neglect one of the most vital parts of our homes—the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system.
It’s important to regularly inspect your HVAC equipment to ensure everything is functioning as it should be. You also should perform certain maintenance tasks each spring—or hire a professional to do them for you. Inspecting and cleaning certain components are crucial parts of recommended HVAC maintenance. Our retail partner Trane recommends performing maintenance for cooling systems each year before the cooling season begins. (Systems that both heat and cool, however, require maintenance in both spring and fall, according to Trane.)
Even if you tackle most maintenance tasks yourself, you still should have your HVAC system inspected and serviced annually by a professional. Spring is the best time to do this for cooling systems, as our HVAC technicians tend to be busier once summer hits.
Aside from that, there are two main advantages to cleaning and tuning up your home cooling system each spring:
- It helps prevent emergency “no air conditioning” calls during the peak cooling season. As an article for Angie’s List advises, “be proactive to avoid being that person with skyrocketing blood pressure, frantic for a technician who can fix your A/C on a roasting weekend.”
- It keeps your system running as efficiently as possible, saving you money during the peak cooling season and extending the life of your system. This point is particularly important when you consider that heating and cooling costs typically account for more than half (54 percent) of your utility bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Savers guide.
Ready to get your HVAC system squeaky-clean and ensure it’s running smoothly for the spring and summer cooling season? Follow these tips.
At Sunfire, our HVAC technicians are happy to help with even the most basic HVAC maintenance tasks, but you can handle many of these chores yourself:
- Inspect your HVAC equipment for any signs of damage or wear. Your heating system worked hard to keep your home warm all winter, so make sure you catch any problems that may have developed as a result, and address them before they become worse. If you have a heat pump (the HVAC unit outside your home that looks like a giant air conditioner), be sure to check it for damage caused by the winter elements. You might be surprised by what a fallen icicle can do to a heat pump.
- Clean the area around your heat pump. Heat pumps need a free flow of air around them to operate efficiently, so follow the 2-foot rule: Keep the area within a 2-foot radius of your unit clear of any debris, such as leaves, branches, or grass clippings, that can impede airflow. Also watch for weeds and other plants that can grow around your heat pump.
- Change or clean your air filter. According to Energy Star, “a dirty filter can increase energy costs and damage your equipment, leading to early failure.” Energy Star recommends changing the air filter in your central air conditioner, furnace, and/or heat pump once a month. Follow the instructions in your appliance’s owner’s manual.
- Check and adjust the thermostat. If you have a heat pump, the changing of the season typically signifies a switch from “heat mode” to “cool mode.” It’s also a good time to make sure your thermostat is functioning properly.
- Dust supply and return vents. Not only are dusty vents unsightly, but they can hinder airflow. Also, move furniture and clear any clutter that may be blocking vents.
- Dust ceiling fans and change direction. Use a cloth—or a handheld duster—to gently wipe the dust off each fan blade. Then, check which direction your fan blades spin and adjust, if necessary. In the warmer months, fan blades should spin counter-clockwise so that that cool air is pushed downward.
Tasks Best Left to the Pros
Many recommended annual HVAC maintenance tasks require the deft hands and expertise of a professional. Our highly trained and certified HVAC technicians will do things like inspect and clean your unit’s blower assembly, which are a bit more challenging for the average homeowner.
Our HVAC technicians also perform these Energy Star-recommended tasks, and more, during a spring inspection and tune-up:
- Checking all system controls – To ensure the safe and efficient operation of your HVAC system, our technicians check that your system starts, operates, and shuts off properly.
- Tightening electrical connections and measuring voltage and current on motors – “Faulty electrical connections can cause unsafe operation of your system and reduce the life of major components,” according to Energy Star.
- Lubricating moving parts – Unlubricated parts can cause friction, which increases the amount of energy your system uses to function.
- Inspecting and cleaning the condensate drain – A plugged condensate drain in your central air conditioner, heat pump, or furnace can cause water damage and cause the humidity level in your home to rise.
- Inspecting ductwork for any signs of damage or air leaks. Gaps, tears, or holes in ductwork allow air to escape, which causes your HVAC system to work harder than necessary to keep your home cool.
Our technicians also will perform the following cooling system-specific maintenance tasks recommended by Energy Star:
- Inspecting and cleaning evaporator and condenser A/C coils – “Dirty coils reduce the system’s ability to cool your home and cause the system to run longer, increasing energy costs and reducing the life of the equipment,” according to Energy Star.
- Checking refrigerant levels and adjusting as needed – Both too much and too little refrigerant causes your air conditioning system to run less efficiently.
Tips to Maximize HVAC Efficiency
Even when they’re running smoothly, most HVAC systems use more energy—and cost more money to operate—than any other system in your home. Fortunately, taking some steps to improve the energy efficiency of both your HVAC equipment and the rest of your home can potentially save you a significant amount money.
For instance, “by combining proper equipment maintenance and upgrades with recommended insulation, air sealing, and thermostat settings, you can cut your energy use for heating and cooling—and reduce environmental emissions—from 20 to 50 percent,” the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) advises. In 2016, the average annual energy expenditure per household in the United States was $830 for space heating and cooling, according to the DOE, so, depending on factors including the size of your home, your appliances, and your energy usage, you’re looking at potentially saving $166 to $415 per year—or more if your annual energy costs are above the national average.
Here are some additional steps you can take to boost the efficiency of your home’s HVAC system:
- Use the right air filter. You don’t want a cheap, flimsy filter that doesn’t filter much at all, but those super-efficient air filters—which have higher MERV ratings—aren’t necessarily the best option for your system either. In some systems, high-efficiency filters “can cause too much drag in air flow for the standard residential HVAC system to effectively handle, especially if it is an older system,” according to an Angie’s List article. Check your HVAC system’s manual for instructions, or ask our technicians which air filter is best for your system.
- Turn up your thermostat. The goal is to save your HVAC system some work by using your A/C as little as possible to keep your home comfortable. “Turning your thermostat even one or two degrees higher in the summer or a few degrees lower in the winter can save wear and tear on your system and make a big difference in energy usage,” advises another article for Angie’s List.
- Use ceiling fans to keep cool. Turn on ceiling fans when you’re in a room to help make it feel cooler without having to turn down the air conditioning. The DOE says using a ceiling fan allows you to raise your thermostat by up to 4 degrees without a reduction in your comfort.
- Consider upgrading HVAC equipment. Replacing outdated equipment (i.e., more than 10 years old) with newer, more efficient models can significantly reduce your overall energy consumption. Look for appliances with the Energy Star label. “Depending on where you live, replacing your old heating and cooling equipment with Energy Star qualified equipment can cut your annual energy bill by more than $115,” according to Energy Star.
Whether your HVAC system needs an upgrade or you want to schedule spring cleaning and maintenance, Sunfire Energy Solutions is here to help. Call us at 304-267-3029 or fill out our online request form.
Sunfire Energy Solutions is a one-stop shop for HVAC products and installation, hearth appliances, grills, outdoor furniture, and hot tubs. We serve customers in Martinsburg, Shepherdstown, Charles Town, Ranson, Hedgesville, and Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, as well as the surrounding region, including parts of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Learn more at www.sunfireenergysolutions.com.