Essential Central Air Maintenance for the New Year

Is your home HVAC system ready for the next decade? Unless you've been doing your central air maintenance, it probably won't be. Taking care of your air conditioner and furnace isn't very exciting. However, regular checkups of a major appliance like an HVAC system is worth it. Basic central air maintenance means you’ll catch small problems before they become big disasters.

Because big disasters are expensive. Nothing can clean out your vacation fund like having to replace a dead HVAC system. So, here are a few central air maintenance essentials to perform at least twice a year. And if you can't do these, find a local technician who can. Paying a good HVAC guy to check out your system once or twice a year is a cheap way to keep it healthy.

So, let's get into what you should be doing (or make sure is done) in terms of central air maintenance.

Clean Out or Change the Air Filter

Checking and changing or cleaning your air filter is the easiest thing you can do on this list. Arguably, it's also the most important central air maintenance you can do at all. So, check your air filter monthly, and clean or replace it if it's dirty and clogged.

Over-achievers can go a little farther. Clean out the spot where the filter goes, and examine the area around your HVAC outdoor system for additional debris. A shop vac or hose is a good tool to keep those areas free from dust, dirt, or weeds that can get tangled into your system. Which is bad. You don't want debris getting tangled in the filter or the coils.

Check Out the Central Air Ducts in Your Home

Examine the air ducts for damage, leaks, or debris. Vacuum around the air ducts and as far down as your vacuum can go in order to minimize the dust and other particles running through your system.

Check Electrical Connections in HVAC Units

Wires can wear out and fray over time, and connections can break or become loose over time. If you aren’t experienced with resolving electrical problems, this is one area where you’ll want to review the connections visually and then contact professional help for any repairs. However, a cursory visual inspection can be worth a lot. Anyone can spot worn or fraying wires. If you do, get them fixed.

Consider the Season

Your central air maintenance needs will change depending on the season. For instance, during the summer you’ll need to watch out for weeds around the HVAC unit. During the fall, you’ll need to clear away leaves. In winter, you’ll want to watch out for ice that could be forming in thick layers on your unit. For an air conditioner condenser, we recommend investing in an inexpensive condenser cover. They're cheap, but they work.

Technical Central Air Maintenance

HVAC units have many parts and connections that can wear out over time. It’s way better to catch these problems before they strike you unaware. Nobody wants to be stuck waiting for repairs while sweating or shivering.

We always recommend having a professional perform these central air maintenance tasks. Not only are they knowledgeable and experienced, but your warranty likely forbids an amateur from working on the system. However, it is always useful for you to know how to talk with your tech, and make sure they're doing the job right. If your service company isn't doing the job, it's time to find one that will.

Belts & Pulleys

Belts and pulleys should jump right out at you, but hopefully not literally. A good technician will inspect any of these your system might have. If they're wearing or frayed, they'll change them out. We definitely don't recommend you try this yourself. Leave it to the pros.

Drain Lines

Clean drain lines and pans are essential for efficient, long term operation. Over time, a condensate drain can become clogged. This can restrict the flow of water, and cause a drain pan to back-up. This is a problem. An overflowing drain pan can cause water damage, breed bacteria, intensify mold growth, and increase interior humidity. None of those are typically good things.

Should you find a clogged condensate drain, get it fixed ASAP.

Fan & Blower

Review the state of the fan and blower motor to ensure they are running without excessive dust and without any noticeable issues. A professional should be able to lubricate the motors and bearings as well as the ignition and burner assemblies in the HVAC unit. The blower may also need to be lined up for smoother operation.

Refrigerant Lines

Finally, the A/C refrigerant lines, typically two copper lines that run to the A/C condenser, need to be inspected. This may be a more appropriate task for the spring depending on where you live, as you want to make sure the lines feel cold while the A/C runs. That will indicate if you have enough refrigerant in the lines.

If your refrigerant levels are low, then you could burn out your HVAC unit, especially during the peak of summer when it’s running continuously. It is always a good idea to get your technician to check the refrigerant levels before intense summer heat arrives.

Perform Visual HVAC Inspections

While a regular homeowner may not be able to fix a complicated HVAC problem, that doesn't mean do nothing. Even a novice can spot or hear a problem in an HVAC system. Look for bends or cracks in the coils, keep an eye out for water leaks, or ice build up.

Of course, the most important part of your inspection may be listening to the HVAC system for rattles or other sounds that may indicate a problem. A phone call and a quick checkup by an HVAC specialist may be what spells the difference between a routine repair and costly long term damage to your HVAC unit.

Consider When It’s Time to Upgrade Your HVAC System

Does your air conditioner or furnace break down every year no matter what you do? If regular central air maintenance just isn't doing the job, it may be time to consider a new system. No one wants to spend their hard earned money on a new install. But, there comes a point at which it stops making sense to invest money into repairs when you could basically buy a brand new central air system for only a little bit more.

Just make sure you keep up the central air maintenance on that new system!

Questions or Comments?

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