Supporting Your Sanctuary: Five Steps to a Well-Maintained HVAC
Our HVAC or heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units work endlessly to keep our homes livable. During the winter, they keep us warm; in the summer, we stay cool thanks to their efforts. However, if we don’t stay on top of their maintenance, they can overwork and end up needing costly repairs. Here are some DIY tips for taking care of your system.
Clean Your System
The best time to clean your unit is when the weather is mild, so your household won’t mind turning the system off for a day. Overall, these tasks will take about half a day to complete and should cost between $50 and $100 for the right tools, such as a screwdriver, coil cleaner, garden hose, fin tool, and foil tape. To start, get out your HVAC manual, or look it up online, to safely shut the machine down. Once it’s off, clean up the outer area, remove the grill, and vacuum the inside. Also, pay close attention to mopping up any moisture buildup, and while you're in there, clear out the drain line as well as check your filter. After you finish, shut down your machine for a complete 24-hour period. Regular cleaning will keep your unit functioning well and make sure it continues looking after you and your family.
Check for Debris
A thorough cleaning needs to happen at least once a year, but smaller, focused sessions should occur more frequently. In fact, try to do monthly checks to make sure debris and dust have not built up around or inside your HVAC. Remove the larger pieces, especially ones that have entered your outside unit, and keep things dusted. If the buildup is too great, you may benefit from a professional cleaning to avoid damaging your system. However, if you take care to check it on a regular basis, you likely won’t get to that point.
Change Your Filter
Depending on how often you use your HVAC and the level of contaminants present in the atmosphere, such as smoke or pet fur, you will need to change your filter every one to three months. When you do so, be sure to check the MERV rating, as the higher the rating, the better the filter. That being said, should you go too high, your machine might not be able to push air through, so double check what your unit can handle. Once you find the right one, buy several at a time so you always have a backup on hand to swap out.
Give It a Break
Our HVAC units work hard all year round, but they do their heaviest lifting in winter and summer. To take the burden off, there are ways to ensure our houses stay warm in colder months, and remain cool in hotter months — without the use of electricity. There is some crossover between seasons, such as drawing blinds, investing in curtains to keep the temperature inside/outside, and closing doors and vents to rooms that are not in use. You can swap your sheets to a breathable fabric in summer and a denser, warmer flannel in winter. Cold drinks keep us cool during heat waves, whereas hot beverages do the reverse in winter.
Clear Your Fans and Vents
Because you shouldn’t run your system fan constantly, you will want to supplement it with smaller versions in individual rooms. Of course, each one should get a thorough cleaning, including your large unit attached to the HVAC. Further, your vents will need some TLC, too, as without proper attention, they can build up dust, debris, and even mold. However, all it takes is dusting the covers themselves and then vacuuming out the inside of the ducts. A deeper cleaning will require a professional, but small steps are good to do between contractors.
It may seem like a lot of work, but if you space out these processes, it becomes easy. Know how to care for your system, including the surrounding areas, and when filters need to be replaced. By being proactive, you can extend the life and health of your machine.
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