What HVAC maintenance should I do myself?

To keep your system running smoothly -- and efficiently -- try to keep up with these basic maintenance tasks.
To keep your system running smoothly — and efficiently — try to keep up with these basic maintenance tasks.
  • Inspect, clean, or change air filters once a month in your central air conditioner, furnace, and/or heat pump. Your contractor can show you how to do this. A dirty filter can increase energy costs and damage your equipment, leading to early failure.

  • You should also check your units to determine whether plants or leaves are in the unit. Ants have been known to invade units with colonies and their dirt can affect air-conditioning performance.

  • Keep bushes, fences and other obstructions at least three feet away from the air conditioning compressors. "Never have any obstruction such as a tree, deck, or overgrown bush above an air conditioning compressor ," says Jim Radcliffe, co-founder of Medallion Inspections in Atlanta. "The hot air that was inside of thehouse is ejected out the top of the compressor unit, and if it hits a deck or other obstruction, it rolls over and flows back through the compressor again to help 'cool' the house. The causes the compressor to operate longer." Manufacturers and installers say it's ok to keep obstructions at least 48 inches above the compressors, but good practice says never have anything overhead. Trimming the bushes and keeping trees and obstructions away costs virtually nothing, but can save operating costs and extend the life of your compressor.

  • Before calling a technician, check disconnect switches (indoor and outdoor if you have a split system). Make sure that circuit breakers are ON or fuses haven?t blown.

  • Check for sufficient airflow. Make sure air filters are clean and that supply-air and return-air grilles are open and unobstructed.

  • Check the settings on your thermostat. If you want cooling, make sure the temperature control selector is set below room temperature and the SYSTEM switch is on the COOL or AUTO position. If you want heat, make sure the temperature control selector is set above room temperature and the SYSTEM switch is at HEAT or AUTO. The FAN switch should be set at ON for continuous blower operation or AUTO if you want the blower to function only while the unit is operating.

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