Your HVAC system works tirelessly to keep your home comfortable; for many of us, it does its job nearly year-round. Unfortunately, that stresses the components and can lead to equipment failure. You may see the signs of an overburdened HVAC system if you notice your equipment isn’t heating or cooling properly, is making strange noises as it operates, or if your energy bills are unusually high.
This guide will explain the importance of HVAC preventative maintenance — the affordable and relatively easy ways to ensure your system continues functioning and delivering the conditioned air you need in your home.
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- There are a number of reasons to preform preventative maintenance for your HVAC system including air quality and energy efficiency improvement.
- The best times to do preventative maintenance is during the Spring and Fall to prepare for the hot or cold seasons to follow.
- There are a number of things homeowners can do as preventative maintenance but we suggest bringing in a professional when your system needs a serious tune up.
Why HVAC Preventative Maintenance Matters
Preventative maintenance for your HVAC system can serve many purposes and help prevent problems that could crop up with your system. It can deliver cleaner air in your home, decreased utility bills thanks to belts and other moving parts working more efficiently, quieter operation, a lower chance of losing heat or air conditioning, and an overall lower chance of your system meeting its demise before its expected lifespan is up.
Carrying out HVAC preventative maintenance also means fewer outages, and most homeowners who pay for ongoing preventative maintenance avoid much more costly repairs if bigger problems occur.
Air Quality Improvement
All the air that gets conditioned for your home travels through your HVAC ductwork and the air filters installed inside. Over time and without intervention, debris will collect in those areas and clog the air filters, eventually leaving you with recirculating contaminants. These include pollen, pet dander, and dust.
When you perform preventative maintenance on your system, your air filters will be swapped out, and your ductwork will be inspected and cleaned for debris buildup. This service will improve the air quality in your home, reducing the risk of a slew of health conditions, including headaches, fatigue, itchy eyes, runny nose, and even respiratory diseases and cancer.
Your heating and air conditioning system has many moving parts, such as blower motors, condenser fan motors, compressor motors, and belts. These parts will degrade if they are left without frequent lubrication and maintenance. Friction increases and puts added strain on these components, eventually leading to decreased energy efficiency and higher electric bills.
During routine maintenance, your HVAC technician will lubricate and replace any moving parts that are damaged or at risk of becoming damaged. This makes your system run more smoothly and reduces the risk of your system breaking down, leaving you without heat or cool air.
Extend Your Unit’s Lifespan
Leaving your HVAC system to its own devices will gradually increase the strain of keeping up with demand. As mentioned above, moving parts will experience more friction and work harder to keep your living space comfortable. That added strain will wear on your equipment and gradually decrease its lifespan.
Some HVAC equipment manufacturers recommend or even mandate routine maintenance to keep extended warranty coverage active. Paying for a routine maintenance plan may seem expensive, but in the long run, it’s more affordable than replacing your system because of a lack of maintenance.
You may not be too keen on paying for maintenance on your system when it seems nothing is wrong, but it’s usually cheaper and more convenient to pay for preventive work than waiting until there’s an issue.
First, you won’t be happy if your heat or cooling goes out, especially if losing heat puts you and your family at risk during a frigid winter. Also, paying for emergency repairs if you experience a problem is naturally more expensive because you’re paying more for immediacy and potentially for damaged components rather than regular maintenance.
Fall Heating Maintenance
One of the most important times to carry out routine maintenance on your system is in the fall, before the temperature drops into the dangerously cold territory. In early fall, your heating equipment will have been sitting unused for months, and a quick tune-up will ensure it’s ready to provide heat through the winter months. This will also help avoid potentially dangerous outages.
Below is a quick list of things you can do to get your system prepped and ready to provide heat through the winter:
- Change your thermostats to HEAT rather than COOL.
- Clean and cover up your outdoor condenser if you have central air conditioning.
- Clean soot and debris off your indoor furnace.
- Inspect your air ducts for leaks or damage, if possible.
- Swap out your air filters. This could also be done during routine maintenance)
- Contact a professional HVAC technician for routine maintenance, including duct cleaning, lubricating moving parts, and minor repairs if necessary.
Spring Air Conditioning Maintenance
Another crucial time for HVAC maintenance is spring. You can shut down your heating system and prep the air conditioner units for proper operation through the summer. Some basic DIY maintenance and a professional tune-up will leave your system running efficiently through the summer months and keep your heating equipment in good condition until the following winter.
Below is a list of things you should do in the spring to prepare your HVAC system for cooling:
- Change your thermostats from HEAT to COOL.
- Check any accessible ductwork for visible damage.
- Check your refrigerant levels, if possible — we strongly recommend leaving refilling your refrigerant lines to a professional
- Cut back any weeds or shrubs within two feet of your outdoor unit.
- Inspect your refrigerant lines for visible damage or kinks.
- Swap out your air filters — this will cut down on airflow restriction but will also help eliminate pollen recirculating in your home
- Uncover your outdoor condenser.
- Have an HVAC tech perform professional preventative maintenance to keep your central AC system in peak condition.
Read our detailed guide to AC repair costs to find out more about what kind of expenses could be required if you don’t maintain your system well as you renter the hot months.
DIY Vs. Professional HVAC Maintenance
Many homeowners, especially those with a DIY background, will look to do some of their routine maintenance themselves. This is a good idea to ensure the simple maintenance tasks are covered, but you also need a professional to tune up your system.
DIY Preventative Maintenance
Regular DIY maintenance on your system is a great way to prevent minor issues, such as an abnormal strain on your blower motor due to obstructions in your filtration system, from occurring. You can plan on doing the following tasks on your own in the spring and fall:
- Clean the exterior of your condenser and indoor unit.
- Do a quick visual inspection of components to identify obvious damage.
- Make sure the area around your equipment is clear and clean.
- Replace air filters.
- Set your thermostat properly.
However, this isn’t enough to ensure your system functions properly, and anything beyond these items should be left to a professional. An HVAC tech will have the tools and knowledge to carry out additional maintenance without doing further damage to your system.
When To Hire a Professional
For all other maintenance, we strongly recommend hiring a professional HVAC tech. Paying the relatively small fee to have a professional carry out these tune-up items is strongly recommended and well worth the money. The items below are things that should be done about twice a year and require an expert to make sure they’re done properly:
- Adjusting controls on your boiler to increase efficiency and reduce wasted fuel
- Adjusting the flame height on your furnace
- Calibrating your thermostat
- Checking the limit switch for proper functionality and replacing or repairing it if needed
- Checking the motors in your system for proper functionality and repairing them if needed
- Checking valves and thermocouples for proper functionality
- Cleaning the air regulator
- Cleaning the condenser coils, drain pans, heat exchanger, flue, and other components
- Cleaning the drain lines on your system
- Cleaning the ductwork if necessary
- Fixing refrigerant line leaks and providing a refrigerant charge if necessary
- Inspecting belts for wear and damage and replacing them if necessary
- Lubricating moving parts
- Reinsulating your HVAC ducts as needed
- Testing your ductwork for air leaks that may not be visible during your own inspection
- Tightening electrical connections and inspecting wires for wear
Additionally, you should make a special call to your HVAC professional if you notice any of the issues below. These can be signs of more severe damage that warrants a special inspection of the heating and cooling unit and repairs, if necessary:
- Any of your equipment is leaking water.
- You notice uneven heating or cooling in your home.
- Your AC is blowing warm or room-temperature air.
- Your energy bills are higher than usual.
- Your HVAC system continues to trip your breaker.
- Your system is constantly running and continues to blow air into your home.
- Your system is making any unusual noise, like squealing, squeaking, or clunking.
- Your thermostat doesn’t seem to be working properly,
Again, an annual tune-up can help avoid most of these issues and provide peace of mind, so it’s always worth the money to prevent minor issues rather than wait for them to become major problems. The average cost for an HVAC tune-up is around $200, but you could pay anywhere from $75 up to $350, depending on where you live and how large your system is.
Final Thoughts on HVAC Preventative Maintenance
Preventative HVAC maintenance is a crucial part of keeping your heating and cooling systems working properly, minimizing your energy bills, avoiding outages, and extending the lifespan of your system. You can do some things yourself to help ensure your system continues to work properly, but ultimately, you should pay for a professional tune-up two times a year — once in the fall and once in the spring.
Preventative maintenance costs an average of $200, which pales compared to the cost of HVAC service calls you’ll eventually make if you run your system constantly without maintenance. If you experience any equipment issues, we recommend contacting a professional immediately, as problems tend to get worse if left unaddressed.
FAQs About HVAC Maintenance
How much does it cost to hire an HVAC professional?
If you’re hiring an HVAC contractor for routine maintenance, you can expect to pay an average of around $200. Your price could fall anywhere between $75 and $350 depending on your location and system.
HVAC repairs tend to be more expensive, averaging around $800 and falling anywhere between $400 and $1,750. More extensive issues or total replacement can be even more costly.
Is HVAC preventative maintenance worth it?
Preventative HVAC maintenance is worth it. It not only ensures that your system continues to keep your living space comfortable and safe, but it also improves indoor air quality, helps avoid outages and breakdowns, reduces the frequency of necessary HVAC repairs, and extends the life of your system. The average $200 you’ll spend on preventative maintenance is well worth the investment.
How often should my HVAC be serviced?
We recommend a tune-up twice per year, including once in the fall and once in the spring. This will help ensure your system is primed and ready to go leading into the summer and winter months when demand is highest.
How often should my HVAC be cleaned?
Your HVAC system should be cleaned two times per year, usually in the spring and fall leading into the high-demand seasons. Proper cleaning of your equipment can reduce the risk of equipment breakdown and outages, as well as keep your air clean and safe to breathe. Cleaning is usually completed as part of your routine maintenance package.