Ask any HVAC professional the best way to improve heating and cooling efficiencies, and you’ll probably get the same answer time and time again. Seasonal preventative maintenance is key to ensuring your HVAC system runs both efficiently and effectively. Tasks as basic as changing filters can greatly impact overall HVAC operations.
While some preventative maintenance tasks are simple to remember, others are often forgotten. Likewise, simple tasks often can be completed by the property owner or maintenance personnel, but others should only be conducted by a licensed HVAC professional.
Want to ensure you don’t miss any preventative maintenance steps this fall? Check out our checklist of autumn maintenance tasks to keep your HVAC systems operating at peak performance all winter long.
1. Change filters
One of the simplest yet most important preventive maintenance tasks is replacing air filters regularly. When filters are dirty, the furnace will operate less efficiently, resulting in higher energy costs, as well as unnecessary strain on the HVAC system. At minimum, change the filter twice a year when converting from heating to cooling and again when converting back. Ideally, filters can be changed quarterly, or in some environments, as often as monthly for best results.
2. Clean compressors
While most fall HVAC maintenance involves preparing the furnace for operation, it’s also important to remember steps to improve the air conditioner’s annual decommission. After turning off the power to the unit, be sure to remove debris from around the compressor and clean components with a brush or a vacuum.
3. Cover A/C units
Protect decommissioned air conditioning units from harsh winter weather by covering the equipment using a cover found at your local hardware or home improvement store. Alternatively, a piece of plywood can be set atop AC units, provided it’s large enough to cover entire unit and provide an overhang. The board can be secured by placing a brick or stone on top.
4. Trim landscaping and clear debris
The end of summer is a great time to trim long grasses or foliage that might have grown around HVAC equipment since spring maintenance was performed. Likewise, dust and debris that may have accumulated on outdoor units should be cleared and cleaned during seasonal maintenance. As autumn progresses, it’s important to routinely clear fallen leaves from around HVAC units.
5. Inspect and clean ductwork, vents and chimneys
A clean HVAC system is an efficient HVAC system. When performing seasonal preventive maintenance, don’t forget to inspect ducts, vents, chimneys and flus for dust and debris, and cleaning as needed. Not only will this boost energy efficiencies, but it will also increase fire safety. After all, the leading cause of the 52,000 heating-related residential fires that occur each year is a failure to clean equipment, particularly chimneys, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
6. Listen for signs of disrepair or malfunction
When you deploy your furnace for the season, be sure to listen carefully when you turn it on. Unexpected sounds could be a sign that something is wrong with your heating system. Strange noises could indicate blockages or loose parts. If you can’t identify the source of the sound, consult an HVAC professional.
7. Inspect electrical connections
The wear and tear of equipment is inevitable, but some damage is more dangerous than others. When conducting seasonal preventative maintenance, be sure to inspect all HVAC electrical connections. When the unit vibrates, connections can loosen over time. Protect HVAC assets, properties and tenants by having electrical connections inspected, cleaned and tightened before they cause greater damage.
8. Check for leaks
Does your HVAC system include a boiler? This equipment can experience leaks caused by corrosion, damaged seals, pressure issues or just age. Look for any water leaking around boilers and contact an HVAC professional if any leaks are identified. While you’re checking for leaks, go ahead and check properties for costly air leaks. After all, you can’t efficiently heat a building if the warm air just escapes out into the cold winter weather. Look for cracks or gaps around faucets, fixtures, windows, doors, vents, attack hatches, weather stripping, baseboards, fans and even entry points for cable and phone lines. Gaps can then be repaired with caulk or weather stripping.
9. Test airflow
Blocked airflow can reduce HVAC efficiency by as much as 15 percent, so testing it during seasonal maintenance is a vital task. Blower components can be cleaned and adjusted so they promote optimal airflow and avoid unnecessary energy drains. If you’re unsure, contact an HVAC professional to conduct an airflow test and diagnose issues within ducts and other equipment.
10. Reprogram and test thermostats
For best efficiencies, thermostats should be programmed at slightly higher temperatures in the summer and lower levels in the winter. For example, a thermostat might be programmed to heat a building to 68 degrees in the winter, while also set to cool the property to 75 degrees in the summer. It’s also important to remember to test and replace thermostat batteries and make sure it is properly controlling the furnace. For enhanced efficiency, swap out traditional thermostats with energy-efficient programmable thermostat models that can reduce heating costs by as much as 10 percent.