Ah, summer. It has finally arrived. It’s the perfect time of year for cookouts, swimming pools, camping––it’s the ideal time to enjoy the outdoors with family and friends. And when it’s time to come back indoors, there’s nothing better than that cool blast you feel from your home’s air conditioning unit.
Your heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system is essential to keeping your home comfortable during summer months, and if it breaks down, it’s also the most expensive equipment to repair or replace. Luckily, there are simple steps you can take to lengthen the life of your HVAC system.
Change or clean filters.
Dirty filters block airflow, which can greatly decrease the efficiency of your system. The Department of Energy recommends changing or cleaning filters every month or two during the cooling season. If your unit is in constant use or is subjected to dusty conditions or pet hair, consider checking filters more frequently.
Periodically clean the HVAC unit.
Outdoor condenser coils can become clogged with pollen, dirt and small debris. Use a hose to spray the HVAC unit once each season to ensure maximum airflow. (Warning: Do not use a pressure washer as it can cause damage to the equipment.)
Clear space around the HVAC unit.
Dryer vents, falling leaves and grass left behind from the lawnmower can create buildup. Remove any debris around the HVAC unit. If you have foliage near the unit, trim it back at least 2 feet around the condenser to increase airflow.
If you want to evaluate the efficiency of your HVAC system, try this quick test. The outdoor temperature should be above 80 degrees, and you should set your thermostat well below the room temperature to ensure the system runs long enough for the test.
1. Using a digital probe thermometer, measure the temperature of the air being pulled into your HVAC filter.
2. Measure the temperature of the air blowing out of your A/C vent.
3. Subtract the A/C vent temperature from the HVAC filter temperature. You should see a difference of about 17 to 20 degrees. If the difference is less than 17 degrees, you may need a licensed technician to check the coolant. If the difference is greater than 20 degrees, your ductwork may need to be inspected for airflow restrictions.
You should also have your HVAC system periodically inspected by a licensed professional. The frequency of inspections depends on the age of your unit, but the Department of Energy recommends scheduling tune-ups during the spring and fall, when contractors aren’t quite as busy.
When HVAC equipment fails, especially in the dog days of summer, it’s not only inconvenient and uncomfortable, but it can also be expensive to repair.
Remember, your HVAC system runs best when it’s regularly cleaned and serviced. With a little maintenance along the way, you can add years to your system’s lifespan.