Maintaining your HVAC system – Tips for Optimum Efficiency
As a homeowner in north Texas, you’ll probably be doing some kind of seasonal maintenance on your HVAC systems twice a year – once before winter hits and another around May when the temperatures start to climb.
HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning. There are several parts that make up your HVAC system in your house.
It’s important to keep your HVAC system well maintained. Not only does it help prevent breakdowns, it prolongs the life of your unit as well as saves you money. Much like you get the oil changed in your car on a regular basis, a few simple checks of your heating and air conditioning will help keep your system running more efficiently.
Code 3 offers a regular maintenance plan, coming out just as the temperatures start to warm up – usually around May, and again in late fall / early winter as the heating system starts to kick in.
As a home owner, there are a few things you can check yourself, while others will require a licensed HVAC contractor such as Code 3 to inspect.
A WORD OF WARNING…
We can relate story after story of homeowners who have gone the “DIY YouTube” route and tried to fix their system, only to cause more damage and a significant impact to their wallet. HVAC systems are powered with high voltage, high current electric lines. Fingers tend to conduct electricity very well. We don’t want to add you to our long list of DIY HVAC experts, so please exercise extreme caution and contact us for all but the basics of HVAC maintenance.
We’ll focus on forced air central heating in this article since the majority of homes in Collin County use this method, either with natural gas or electric powered. Some systems are able to use both energy sources.
- Natural gas powered heaters simply burn the gas, which gives off heat. As the cool air from the house is drawn in and through the heater elements, the air is warmed up and pushed through the duct work and into the house. You will want to make sure that this part of the heating system is operating efficiently and without any gas leaks. Also check that the flue (where the burnt gas escapes) goes up into the roof of the house without any breaks or severe bends. This is a job reserved for the professional HVAC companies like Code 3.
- Electrical heat uses a heating coil, much like you would see in a floor standing heater. coils of electrical wire are heated up by electricity and the cool air is drawn across them and out into the house as warm air. These coils need to be clear of dust and should be inspected by a licensed HVAC professional like Code 3 of Allen TX.
- Ducts are run throughout your house from the HVAC unit. They are prone to collecting dust and debris over the years, so they should be cleaned every few years. You’ll need to get a HVAC duct cleaning service to do this for you. Contact Code 3 Air Conditioning and Heat to get some recommendations.
- The blower is used for both heating and cooling, sucking air in through the returns and blowing it across the cooling or heating coils and out through the vents in the individual rooms.
- Air return vents. This is where air is sucked in from the interior of the house. It’s usually a grill located on a vertical wall or perhaps on a ceiling. The fan in the air handler draws in the air through these returns.Make sure you dust these on a regular basis to limit the amount of dust sucked up into the filters.
- Room vents. You will have one of these in each room of your home that is connected with ducts to the air handler in the attic. You will want to make sure these are opened such that air is directed into the center of the room. Also check that they are not obstructed and air does flow through them. If air (either warm or cold) is not flowing through them, then there is likely a bent piece of duct or a hole somewhere in the attic preventing air from flowing freely. On this case, you will want to call Code 3 out to your home to check for restrictions or holes in the duct work.
- Filter. All the air that comes through the air returns goes through a filter, either a 1 inch or 4 inch deep filter. During the summer and winter months, change these out every month (2 to 3 months for a 4″ filter). If you have a washable filter, wash once a month. Many HVAC problems can be solved by cleaning this filter.
- Compressor (the outdoor unit). This unit takes the warm coolant, extracts the heat and compresses the gas back into a cold liquid refrigerant. There is also a fan inside this unit which helps to blow the warm air away from the unit. Make sure the grills on the sides are free from grass, tree pollen and weeds. Clear or trim vegetation 2 feet around the compressor unit. Take a hose pipe, and from the inside of the unit. rinse out any foreign debris. This will help the system to run without any undue stress. The compressor has a lot of moving parts, and is one of the first parts to break due to prolonged use.
- Make sure there are no leaks from the lines that run from the condenser into the house. If you see them “sweating”, while that is not leaking, it is a cause for concern and you should call out the HVAC experts to inspect the unit.
- Coils. Usually located near the air handler / blower motor, this part has cool refrigerant running through the network of thin pipes. When hot air is blown across it, it has the effect of cooling the air and heating the coolant in the coils, which is then sent off to the outside compressor.
- The air-conditioner condensate drain pipe occasionally gets blocked with dust or small bugs. Pour a cup of bleach and water down the pipe every 6 months to help prevent the buildup of mold and algae, which can cause clogs.
- Condensate drip tray. When checking the cooling unit (usually in the attic), look for any condensate in the drip tray under the unit. Water in this tray is a sign that you need to call out an HVAC company.