With another Texas summer fast approaching, it's particularly important to make sure your air conditioner or heat pump is ready to work when you need it. You also want to ensure your HVAC equipment will perform at its highest level of efficiency, providing the best level of indoor comfort at the lowest possible cost with the least chance of mid-season malfunctions or breakdowns. Annual HVAC system maintenance is the best way to keep your cooling equipment working at its best, for as long as possible, and for the lowest cost.
What Is Annual HVAC System Maintenance?
Annual HVAC system maintenance consists of a series of inspections, adjustments and preventive measures applied to the air conditioner, furnace, heat pump or other heating and cooling equipment. It allows a trained and qualified HVAC technician the opportunity to visually examine the heating and cooling system to look for potential problems, minor issues that need to be corrected and performance enhancements that can be made to ensure the best possible performance, even when seasonal demands are high.
Maintenance gives a technician the chance to correct small issues before they become significant problems later. In a similar vein, the hands-on inspection also allows a trained professional the opportunity to identify any areas that need larger-scale adjustments, replacements or repair.
A neglected HVAC system will probably continue to work for a few seasons, but over time, performance and efficiency will degrade considerably. If you've installed a high-efficiency system, lack of maintenance will affect performance significantly enough to eliminate any benefits you once received from the higher system efficiency. HVAC equipment that's not regularly maintained will have a greater likelihood of malfunctions or breakdowns that will be costly to repair. In the worst situations, a neglected HVAC system can fail so severely that the only choice is complete replacement. Annual HVAC system maintenance will greatly reduce the chance that you'll be affected by these issues.
When Should Annual HVAC System Maintenance Be Performed?
In general, the best time for annual HVAC system maintenance is a few weeks before heating or cooling season begins. If you've had the cooling system turned off for the winter, schedule maintenance during the period between seasons and before you turn the equipment back on for the year. If you forget to schedule maintenance early on, schedule your appointment as soon as possible. Even mid-season maintenance is better than no maintenance at all.
Benefits of Annual HVAC System Maintenance
When you make sure annual HVAC system maintenance is performed regularly year after year, you'll see significant benefits in system performance, better indoor comfort levels and reductions in monthly heating costs. Benefits of annual maintenance include:
- Improvements in HVAC system efficiency: Maintenance ensures better system performance and reduced energy consumption, which lowers costs while allowing you to keep your indoor spaces at the temperature you prefer.
- Decreased energy bills: Regular maintenance can often trim energy costs by up to 30 percent.
- Extended system life: Maintenance increases the useful life of heating and cooling systems. Your HVAC equipment will last longer before needing to be replaced, which could add years of service to the equipment's functional life span.
- Improved reliability: Well-maintained HVAC equipment works when it's needed, which means less chance of unpleasant surprises when you need heating or cooling. Unexpected breakdowns can be reduced by as much as 75 percent. System downtime can be trimmed by 30 percent or more. Overall repair and maintenance costs can be decreased by up to 20 percent.
- Better safety: HVAC equipment that has received regular maintenance will operate more safely and with less chance of risks from fire, electrical malfunction or related danger.
What to Expect from an Annual HVAC System Maintenance Visit
When an HVAC technician arrives for the maintenance inspection, he or she will be ready to conduct a series of adjustments and minor repairs that will improve system performance. Specific tasks may vary, but annual maintenance for air conditioners typically includes:
- Inspecting the A/C unit for problems, damage or other issues
- Checking refrigerant level and adding more refrigerant if needed
- Checking for a repairing refrigerant leaks
- Lubricating moving parts, such as air-handling fans and motors
- Checking and tightening electrical connections
- Checking and calibrating thermostat
- Checking belts for condition, including tightening loose belts or replacing damaged or missing belts
- Inspecting ductwork system for air leaks, broken seals, loose sections or other problems that could cause air and energy leaks
- Checking drain pans and drainage systems to ensure they're clear and functioning properly
- Applying algaecide or other appropriate treatment to prevent clogging of drainage
- Cleaning and checking condition of condenser and evaporator coils
- Testing and adjusting airflow to ensure proper movement of air through the system
- Testing overall system function and proper performance of controls, safety features and other important components
What You Can Do to Improve Maintenance Effectiveness
Your HVAC technician is well trained and qualified to deal with your HVAC system's maintenance needs. For this reason, you should make sure the tech has ample time to concentrate on the factors that require his professional expertise. By taking care of a few simple maintenance tasks yourself, you can free up more of the technician's time for dealing with complex technical and mechanical issues.
- Change the air filter: Changing the system's air filter is usually a simple task. Box filters typically require little more than removing the old filter and slipping the new one back into the filter slot. Reusable filters may need to be taken out, cleaned and reinstalled according to manufacturer's instructions. Make sure you keep clean air filters in the HVAC system. Dirty air filters are a primary cause of HVAC system malfunctions and damage. For best performance, filters should be checked at least monthly and changed when they get dirty.
- Clean the outdoor unit: Make sure the outdoor unit of the air conditioner or heat pump is free of accumulated material that could interfere with operation. Remove mud, leaves, grass, sticks or animal nests. Clear vents to improve airflow. Clean outdoor cabinet with a soft cloth and mild detergent solution or a commercially available cleaner. Apply a light coat of automobile wax to the cabinet to protect it from the sun.
- Provide adequate clearance: Trim surrounding vegetation such as grass, tree limbs, shrubs or other plants that could block airflow. Ensure at least two feet of clearance around the outdoor unit and at least five feet of open space above it.
- Check indoor vents and registers: Remove any blockages or obstacles that could prevent conditioned air from exiting indoor vents or from being pulled into the return-air system. Make sure vents and registers are not blocked by boxes, furniture, clothing or other items.
Preparing for Annual HVAC System Maintenance
Before the maintenance appointment, take a few steps to prepare for the technician's visit. Preparation will make the job easier for your HVAC professional and will ensure you get the best possible results from the maintenance inspection.
- Gather useful information: Take some time to put together information about the HVAC system, its performance and any problems you've noticed. This can include owner's manuals, records of previous maintenance and notes about your own observations and experiences with the equipment. Find the equipment's brand name and model number. Make sure you know where important controls are, such as power switches, thermostats and circuit breakers.
- Provide a clear work space: Remove any blockages or obstacles that could make your technician's job more difficult or keep him or her from reaching sections of the HVAC system. Ensure there's plenty of space to work and move around freely. Move objects such as boxes, furniture or other materials.
- Confirm the appointment: The day before the maintenance is scheduled, call to confirm the appointment. Your HVAC company may call you to do this, but if not, make the confirmation yourself. Also confirm payment so that you'll know if you have to pay the technician on the spot or if you can pay the company later.
- Ensure easy access to HVAC equipment: Make sure an adult over the age of 18 is available to let the technician into your home and can accompany the technician as needed. Unlock doors or access panels, as appropriate. Control pets or other potential nuisances while the technician is on site.
Ask your HVAC company if it offers service contracts. Service contracts, sometimes called maintenance agreements, provide for regular annual maintenance. When you have a service contract, your HVAC company tracks when maintenance is due and contacts you to set up the appointment when necessary. Service contracts ensure that you won't forget to schedule maintenance. These agreements sometimes come with additional benefits, such as discounts on parts or labor, priority service or guaranteed scheduling.
McWilliams and Son serves HVAC sales, service and maintenance customers in Lufkin, Nacogdoches and the surrounding Texas communities. Contact us today for more information on the benefits of annual HVAC system maintenance or to schedule a maintenance appointment at your convenience.
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