Seasonal Heating and Cooling System Maintenance: A Homeowner's HVAC Guide

preseason HVAC maintenance

 

No matter what the weather, you want to be sure that your HVAC system will be ready for that switch from ‘heat to cool’ or ‘cool to heat’. No one likes the uncomfortable consequences of an HVAC situation on coldest or hottest weekend of the year! Seasonal HVAC maintenance may often ward off many of the unexpected problems that can pop up with these indoor comfort systems.

1. Why Pre-Season Maintenance is Important?

HVAC systems operate to meet your desired indoor temperature setting.  Yet, the process of creating and maintaining the temperature on your thermostat or control system is a delicate balancing act between equipment, air flow, and mechanics. Proper HVAC maintenance can help maintain this balance despite the system’s consistent starting and stopping, and on-demand operation. 

Seasonal preventive maintenance on your heating and cooling system may guard against many unexpected failures and could maximize the life cycle of your heating or cooling unit.1 Preseason inspections may uncover leaks, rust, rot, soot, frayed wires and/or corroded electrical contacts on your air conditioner or heat pump that can lead to bigger equipment failures if left untreated.

Proper maintenance may also keep your system running at peak performance levels.  “Effective maintenance can reduce HVAC energy costs by 5 to 40 percent depending on the system or equipment involved.”2

2. When do I Schedule Seasonal Maintenance?

 

Homeowners should consider scheduling seasonal HVAC maintenance prior to peak heating and cooling seasons. Depending on your location, this may mean in the early spring for cooling maintenance and early autumn for heating. Heating and cooling technicians are often in high demand when the heat of summer or cold, bone-chilling weather takes hold. 

Many HVAC dealers offer preseason specials on maintenance or inspection packages during their typical slow times of the year. These deals may save you money on the initial visit and additional required maintenance work.

3. What does HVAC Seasonal Maintenance Include?

 

There is no industry standard for what is included in an HVAC preseason “tune-up,” so specific work may vary greatly from contractor to contractor and location to location. Preseason specials may not include all of the suggested maintenance recommend by your system’s manufacturer(s). As a result, it’s important to understand what maintenance your system will be receiving, and the total cost for the job.

Depending on the agreement, your HVAC technician may perform a complete system check that includes inspection and necessary cleaning of HVAC equipment, parts and components. Be sure you understand what you are getting in your season maintenance package!

Air conditioning system maintenance may include, but is not limited to:

  • Tightening electrical connections
  • Inspecting system controls
  • Cleaning and inspecting coils
  • Lubricating moving parts
  • Replacing parts that are showing wear and tear
  • Cleaning or replacing filters
  • Cleaning and checking blowers and fans
  • Checking refrigerant and pressures
  • Verifying operating temperatures

 

Gas furnace system maintenance may include, but is not limited to:

  • Tightening electrical connections
  • Inspect piping for leaks or cracks
  • Cleaning and checking blowers and fans
  • Inspect and clean gas burners
  • Examine ignition switch
  • Inspect heat exchanger
  • Inspect and clean flue
  • Replacing parts that are showing wear and tear
  • Inspecting system controls

 

4. Do My Ducts Need Inspected?

 

Ducts are an important part of your entire HVAC system and shouldn’t be ignored. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that a typical U.S. home loses 20%-30% of duct system air due to leaks, holes, and poorly connected ducts.3 This misdirected airflow can sacrifice your indoor comfort and may increase your energy usage. Although it may not be included with a seasonal maintenance package, your licensed professional technician can inspect your ductwork.

Filtration technology has made significant advances in residential air filters over the past decade, but dust may still find its way into your home's ducts. If you are concerned about indoor air quality issues, the culprit could be dirty ductwork. After a ductwork inspection, your technician may recommend duct cleaning, sealing or specialized indoor air quality accessories.

1 Maintaining your Air Conditioner. n.d. <http://energy.gov/energysaver/maintaining-your-air-conditioner>.
2 Studies Show: HVAC System Maintenance Saves Energy. September 2011. http://www.buildingefficiencyinitiative.org/articles/studies-show-hvac-system-maintenance-saves-energy. February 2017.
3 Duct Sealing - ENERGY STAR. n.d. https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=home_improvement.hm_improvement_ducts. February 2017.


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