This cute family and their dog do regular HVAC maintenance
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Comfort starts with care

The Importance of Performing Regular Maintenance on Your Home’s HVAC

Justin Wolf
/
January 18, 2024

There is an old idiom that many homeowners will be familiar with, and it goes like this: home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling. This is a touching sentiment. When one makes the enormous investment of purchasing a home, they are not just investing in bricks and beams, so to speak, but in the promise of creating cherished memories and possibly passing down their equity to future generations. But the operative feeling is also palpable; the better the place performs, the more favorable your feelings will be. And what you physically feel within your home has a lot to do with your HVAC system.

A home’s HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning) system is one its most important – and expensive – features. Regular upkeep is essential for home performance and ensuring your investment is protected over the long term. Without regular HVAC maintenance, the relatively modest expense of periodic upkeep will be dwarfed by the costs of replacing your entire system, which is clearly an outcome you want to avoid.

This article details the importance of annual HVAC maintenance; addresses the kinds of maintenance tasks homeowners can DIY, within reason, and where hiring a professional is needed; and cites some possible upgrades one can make in their home that can help optimize HVAC system performance.

Why is Annual HVAC Maintenance Needed?

Performing routine maintenance on your home’s HVAC systems is just one of those unavoidable things that comes with owning a house. When a system is well maintained, it will enjoy a longer life and likely preclude the need for costly emergency repairs, which are not covered in most annual (or bi-annual if you prefer) maintenance plans and can run you several thousand dollars. When a system is kept clean, it will perform more efficiently, which can translate to lower energy bills.

To achieve those ends, it is highly recommended that you enter into a regular maintenance plan with the HVAC company of your choosing. Such plans typically include at least one annual service visit and will cost between $100-$200 per year, depending on the size and complexity of the system. They also can relieve homeowners of the stress of having to schedule just one more thing that tends to slip people’s minds. It is also worth double-checking your home’s warranty to see if HVAC maintenance and/or repairs are covered and what conditions apply. (For instance, if only basic repairs are covered in the warranty, you may be required to schedule regular maintenance tune-ups to be covered under the warranty.)

The types of standard maintenance and tune-ups that HVAC professionals will typically perform at scheduled visits include cleaning the condensate pump; replacing the air filter; checking electrical connections, safety and humidity controls, and refrigerant levels; and general maintenance on belts, fins, coils, the blower motor, and other critical components.

Of course, not all home HVAC systems are created equal. They vary in size and type, so the costs associated with regular maintenance and repairs, both large and small, will fluctuate depending on the type of system(s) used to heat and cool your home. Before we get into whether to tackle certain issues on your own (vs. hiring a professional), it behooves you to know what technology you’re working with.

Do you have a standard gas furnace and centralized AC that use the same ductwork to circulate warm and cool air or a similar combination that uses separate conduits (e.g., baseboards and ductwork)? Do you use a heat pump system, and if so, is air being circulated through centralized ductwork or ductless mini splits that are zoned throughout the home? These and related concerns are paramount to understanding what kinds of maintenance tasks can reasonably be taken on by the average homeowner and which will require trained professionals.

DIY or Hire a Professional?

In most instances, hiring a licensed HVAC professional is the smart move, even when the maintenance issue(s) in question is a relatively simple one. But of course, it’s always advisable to maintain good health habits in between annual visits to the doctor, lest more serious issues arise.

For even the most novice of homeowners, there are some basic and straightforward preventive maintenance tasks one can take to ensure that large and costly repairs don’t become an issue. For starters, replace air filters regularly, about every 90 days (more often during periods of heavy usage), and ensure the areas around vents are kept clean. Additionally, if you have an outdoor AC unit, make sure it is clear of debris or anything else that could disrupt airflow.

Other tasks are less maintenance related but more so a revolving checklist of basic chores. Check your thermostat regularly to see if all is working properly. Control passive solar gain in your home by closing window blinds in the warmer months and keeping them open in the cooler months. And ensure that window and door seals are clean and working properly.

Beyond that, all remaining tasks, such as cleaning condenser fan blades, cleaning and repairing ductwork, performing maintenance on evaporator coils, and related items are best left to HVAC professionals.

Other Home Upgrades to Consider

Like all home HVAC systems, optimization and performance rely on more than the system itself being in good working order; it also relies on the efficiency of other components within the home. Always remember, your home is a complex system of interrelated parts, always connected and working in tandem.

An HVAC system in good working order won’t be much good in a poorly insulated home. Otherwise, the system will work too hard to compensate for drafts, poor air quality, and fluctuating humidity levels, which will result in higher energy bills. This can also adversely impact the health of the home’s occupants, including children and pets, not to mention the physical health of the house itself and interior finishes. Basic preventive measures like cleaning and/or replacing window and door seals, installing weatherstripping, and ensuring the tightness of flashing around chimneys and skylights are all good steps to take.

Short of cosmetic home improvements, whatever upgrades may be needed in your home, there’s a good chance that said upgrades will have a positive impact on the performance of your HVAC system, and your wallet as well.

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