Have you ever had your HVAC system stop working? Have you had to endure a lapse of heating or cooling during the hottest summer days or the coldest winter nights?
If not, you’re lucky. HVAC breakdowns aren’t just unbearable; they’re downright dangerous. They’re also expensive to repair.
But luck doesn’t last forever. That’s why you need to actively take care of your HVAC system with regular maintenance.
Fortunately for you, we have listed all the necessary steps on this complete HVAC maintenance checklist. Complete these 8 steps regularly to prevent lapse of HVAC function.
5 HVAC Self-Maintenance Steps
Here are five HVAC self-maintenance steps you should be doing regularly.
1. Air Filter Maintenance
Air filter maintenance is the responsibility of the homeowner or tenant. If you’ve never changed your air filter before, then it’s already full to capacity, clogging your HVAC system.
The removable air filter of your HVAC system is like a net for the dust, germs and other foreign contaminants floating around in your indoor air. It fits snugly in the air duct and catches contaminants as the air passes through it. It’s sort of like straining pulp from orange juice.
But the filter can only hold so much. The air in the duct can’t pass through an air filter that’s full to capacity. Thus, the dirty air filter becomes a clog in your HVAC system.
A clog lowers your HVAC’s efficiency and puts extra strain on the system. This extra strain, in turn, lowers the lifespan of your HVAC.
Checking and Changing the Air Filter
If you’ve never changed your air filter, it’s important that you do so right away. Air filters should be changed around every 3-6 months. But the various filters available for purchase each have different usage instructions.
Also, poor indoor air quality and heavy HVAC use can both fill your air filter more quickly than normal. As such, you should always check air filters every 3-4 weeks. If it looks full of dust before 3 months is up, change it early.
It’s also a good idea to take a marker and label the installation date on the new filter when you change it. This way you won’t forget how long it’s been.
2. Return Vent Maintenance
Your return vents can also become a clog in your HVAC system. And, like air filters, they’re easy to maintain, yet often neglected.
These are not the vents that blow air into the rooms when the system is running. Those are supply vents.
Return vents are the vents on your ceiling or high on your walls that suck air from the room and cycle it back to your HVAC unit. You may not have even noticed them before, which probably means they’re clogged with dust by now.
As air passes into the return vent, dust often latches onto it. Over time, it accumulates enough dust to clog the vent.
Cleaning Return Vents
To clean your return vents, simply remove the dust with a broom or vacuum. Then, look up at them every week or two to see if they need cleaning again.
3. Air Leak Maintenance
In a typical home, 25-40% of the energy used by the HVAC system is lost to air leaks. These include air that leaks out through poorly sealed doors and windows. But the HVAC system itself typically loses 20% of the air passing through it to poorly sealed ducts.
These leaks prevent your HVAC from heating and cooling your home efficiently, which means you’ll be running it more often. This raises your energy bill and wears out the system faster.
Locating and sealing air leaks saves you lots of money both short term and long term.
Checking and Sealing Air Leaks
Inspect the house for air leaks during the seasons you most heavily use the HVAC. Listen closely for air whistling through unsealed cracks along the edges of your windows and doors. Also, feel around the edges for warm or cold air coming in from the outside.
You can usually buy DIY seals for your doorways. But windows should be sealed professionally.
Perform the same test with any HVAC ducts that are visible/reachable. Duct leaks will also require professional sealing or air duct replacement.
You can also have a professional inspect for leaks by scheduling a home energy audit. These are usually free through your electric company.
4. Testing System Functions
There’s no way to know how efficient or inefficient your system is unless you perform a system check. This is where you test each feature of your specific HVAC/thermostat one at a time. This helps you see if there are any problems with the system.
Performing a System Check
Start by writing a checklist of all the features of your thermostat. Basically, list each item shown on the thermostat’s display and each button. It should look something like this:
- Temperature gauge
- Programmed temperature
- Fan on/off
- Up button
- Down button
Go through the items on your list one by one and check them off if they work. Check the clock, thermometer, buttons, switches, and all programmable functions. Make sure the heat, AC, and fan are all functioning and turn on and off when they’re supposed to.
Do this once a month during seasons of heaviest HVAC use.
5. Testing Thermostat Settings
Overusing your HVAC means higher energy bills and needless extra wear and tear on the system. Prevent overuse by programming thermostat appropriately for your needs.
Programming the Thermostat
At the start of each hot or cold season, check the programmed settings on your thermostat. These were probably programmed for the previous year’s heating or cooling needs. But your needs may have changed since then
Make sure you aren’t running the system when nobody’s home. While you’re at it, close the vents in any rooms that aren’t in use.
Scheduling Professional HVAC Maintenance
The above maintenance is absolutely necessary. But it isn’t all that’s necessary.
Regular professional maintenance of your HVAC maximizes its efficiency and adds years to its life. To keep your system efficient and functioning, professional maintenance is not an option.
Firstly, always schedule HVAC maintenance when you first move into a house. It’s possible the system was poorly maintained, improperly installed, or the wrong size for the house.
From then on, to prevent breakdowns at the worst possible times, schedule professional HVAC maintenance months before you need it.
6. Scheduling Furnace Maintenance
Get professional furnace maintenance at the end of summer/beginning of fall.
7. Scheduling AC Maintenance
Get professional AC maintenance at the end of winter/beginning of spring.
8. Scheduling Maintenance for Combination Units
For combination heating and cooling units, schedule professional maintenance twice a year. Do it once at the end of winter/beginning of spring, once at the end of summer/beginning of fall.
9. Replacing Your HVAC Unit
Despite all maintenance, your system will wear out over time. And the older your HVAC gets, the less efficient it becomes. Even before the end, there comes a point when you spend more money on HVAC inefficiency than you would to just replace it.
Here’s when to replace your HVAC.
When to Replace Your HVAC
AC units last an average of 10-15 years. Furnaces last around 15-20.
However, keeping up with necessary maintenance will prolong your HVAC’s life. Still, if your HVAC is around this age, have it checked out.
Also, during your scheduled maintenance, your HVAC technician should tell you if the system or its components need replacing.
Follow This HVAC Maintenance Checklist
If you neglect your HVAC, it’s not going to stick around for long. Follow this HVAC maintenance checklist for a comfortable home and lower energy bills.
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