The Changing Seasons Signify It’s Time for Routine HVAC System MaintenancePublished on: March 30, 2015
Getting your HVAC system ready for the hot months ahead is a collaborative process between you and an experienced contractor. A clean and adjusted system runs more energy efficiently and durably. Considering how long and hot summers are in the southeastern U.S., it makes sense to prepare it ahead of time with proper HVAC system maintenance.
Start With the Air Filter
The air filter traps the dust in the air before it enters your cooling system. Over time, the particles can clog the air filter, reducing the amount of air blowing through the filter. As the airflow slows, cooling efficiency drops because less air through the ductwork increases the amount of time it takes the A/C to cool your home, driving up energy consumption.
As dust collects inside the air handler, it insulates the blower motor and collects on the evaporator coil. An overly warm blower motor won’t last as long, and a dirty evaporator coil leads to multiple problems with your system, like a frozen evaporator coil or a damaged compressor.
The refrigerant in the evaporator coil reaches extremely cold temperatures. When it can’t pick up enough heat, it stays colder than the manufacturer intended. The cold refrigerant makes the compressor struggle, which may cause it to burn out. A less severe consequence of a dusty evaporator coil is frost forming on the coil that may cause water damage to the areas around the air handler when it melts. These problems are largely avoidable by routinely changing the air filter when it’s dirty.
Clean the Outdoor Condenser
Central air conditioners and heat pumps use the outdoor condenser to dissipate heat in the summer through a condensing coil inside the condenser. The coil may or may not be covered with thin metal fins that hasten the heat loss process. If the coil and its fins are covered with dust or grass clippings, the cooling process slows. You can clean them with a gentle spray with the hose. Dried vegetation on the coil can be cleaned with soapy water and a soft brush.
If you see vegetation blocking the condenser, remove it. The condenser needs an ample amount of airflow to operate efficiently. Don’t place anything near the condenser or on top of it to maintain optimal airflow through it.
Schedule Professional Maintenance
As much as cooling systems run in this region, HVAC system maintenance performed by a professional each year will help it run more efficiently. Skipping a professional tune-up compromises the performance of your system throughout the long cooling season.
During HVAC system maintenance, an experienced professional will:
- Clean and adjust all the mechanical and electrical components.
- Measure the refrigerant level and adjust if necessary. An HVAC system without the exact amount of refrigerant will drive up energy consumption. A system that has too little refrigerant often results in a frozen coil, presenting all the hazards of water damage and a burned-out compressor.
- Remove any dirt from the drain pan and verify that the drainpipe is clear.
- Clean the evaporator coil and condensing coil, if necessary.
- Check the amount of airflow through the system. If there are signs of a ductwork leak, the technician will check the condition of the ductwork. Duct leaks can lower the amount of air coming into the system from the return ducts. Leaks in the supply ducts will increase energy costs because the cooled air goes to places where you don’t need it. HVAC professionals use mastic and metal tape to seal loose ducts.
- Calibrate the thermostat. The thermostat tells your system when to turn on and off. If it’s not doing so accurately, your comfort could suffer or your cooling bills could be higher than necessary. An HVAC system tune-up is a good time to discuss installing a programmable thermostat to control the system, particularly if you’re away during the day. The thermostat can be set to cool your home shortly before you plan to arrive home. A programmable thermostat saves a good deal of energy and reduces the wear on your system.