Just like your car, your home comfort system needs routine maintenance to keep it running at its best. Without regular servicing, heating and cooling systems waste energy and are more likely to break down. But with the proper attention, they can keep you comfortable year-round.
Make sure that the air conditioning unit is properly sized for your home. An air conditioner that is slightly undersized should be fine; however serious problems may arise from one that is too large.
Shop for energy efficiency. The Energy Guide label on the air conditioning unit will inform you as to how energy efficient the unit actually is in terms of the cost per kilowatt-hour of electricity.
If you have a fuel fired (gas) furnace it is strongly recommended having a safety inspection on your furnace before every season to detect any possible carbon monoxide leaks. Just like your air conditioner your furnace also needs proper care and maintenance.Heat pumps need a yearly professional tune-up. Gas-fired equipment burns cleaner; it should be serviced every other year.
-A close inspection will uncover leaks, soot, rust, rot, corroded electrical contacts and frayed wires. In furnace (forced-air) systems, the inspection should also cover the burners, gas pressures, etc.
-Next, the system should be run through a full heating cycle to ensure that it has plenty of combustion air and chimney draft.
-Finally, it’s time for the down and dirty task of cleaning the burner and heat exchanger to remove soot and other gunk that can impede smooth operation. A check of the heat pump should include an inspection of the compressor, fan, indoor and outdoor coils and refrigerant lines. Indoor and outdoor coils should be cleaned, and the refrigerant pressure should be checked.
Tuning up the distribution side of a forced-air system starts with the blower. The axle should be lubricated; blades cleaned and lower motor checked to insure the unit isn’t being overloaded. The fan belt should be adjusted so it deflects no more than an inch when pressed. Every accessible joint in the ductwork should be sealed with mastic or UL-approved duct tapes. Any ducts that run outside the heated space should be insulated.
While thermostats rarely fail outright, they can degrade over time as mechanical parts stick or lose their calibration. Older units will send faulty signals if they’ve been knocked out of level or have dirty switches. Modern electronic thermostats, sealed at the factory to keep out dust and grime, rarely need adjusting. However, whether your thermostat is old or young, the hole where the thermostat wire comes through the wall needs to be caulked or a draft could trick it into thinking the room is warmer or colder than it really is.
Get a programmable thermostat to adjust your home’s temperature when you know no one will be home – the price of the thermostat will be paid for by not heating and cooling as much while your house is empty.
A neglected in-duct humidifier can breed mildew and bacteria, not to mention add too much moisture to a house. A common mistake with humidifiers is leaving them on after the heating season ends. Don’t forget to pull the plug, shut the water valve and drain the unit. Mist-type humidifiers also require regular cleaning to remove mineral deposits.
Most houses with forced-air furnaces have a standard furnace filter made from loosely woven spun-glass fibers designed to keep it and its ductwork clean. Unfortunately, they don’t improve indoor air quality. That takes a media filter, which sits in between the main return duct and the blower cabinet. Made of a deeply pleated, paper-like material, media filters are at least seven times better than a standard filter at removing dust and other particles. An upgrade to a pleated media filter will cleanse the air of everything from insecticide dust to flu viruses.
Compressed, media filters are usually no wider than six inches, but the pleated material can cover up to 75 square feet when stretched out. This increased area of filtration accounts for the filter’s long life.
Be sure to change your air filters at least once a month. Cardboard framed filters are less expensive than having the inside coil cleaned and a dirty filter lets more dirt pass through the coil.