Warmer weather is finally within reach, and many people are trying to shape up for summer clothes. From counting calories to extra workouts, individuals across the country are dedicating time and resources to getting ready for the heat.
What many people don’t realize, though, is that their heating, ventilation and air conditioning - HVAC - units may also need some work to get in shape for summer. Having a licensed contractor conduct a springtime inspection can ensure that your system is running properly to help you beat the heat when going to the beach isn’t an option.
Outdoor units are particularly prone to damage after harsh winters when extreme cold for prolonged amounts of time can damage both the inside and the outside of your HVAC system.
While it’s a good idea to have your unit checked annually, there are a few simple things you can do to prepare your HVAC unit.
Inspect the System
On the outside your house, you should look for any misaligned, cracked, or missing panels on the unit. These panels cover the electrical connections to ensure safety and proper operation. If you note any damage, be sure to tell the licensed contractor who comes to do your HVAC inspection.
Inside, it’s important to take care of your house’s ventilation system, or ductwork, as it is vital for the proper operation of both the heating and air conditioning systems. While most of the system is behind your walls, you can check exposed ducts in attics or basements. Look for rust, any holes in the unit and inspect the cracks and connectors to make sure everything is patched and sealed.
Change Your Filters
Your heating and ventilation units have most likely been on overdrive the past few months to keep your house warm. With excess usage comes excess dust, particles, and debris that can quickly make your filters dirty. A dirty filter makes your machine work harder, wasting energy and raising your bills.
During high-use periods, filters should be cleaned or replaced monthly - at the minimum. To make sure your filters will work properly, check to make sure that the airflow directions on the system and filter are pointing in the same direction.
Clean the Crucial Components of the Unit
The compressor is the most important part of your HVAC unit, as it is the component responsible for circulating the refrigerant.
The compressor is housed in the outdoor unit, where a fan pushes out the heat that has been removed by compacting the fluid’s molecules into a higher-temperature gas. Since the unit is outdoors, it’s important to remove debris from plants and leaves that can get trapped in the fan blades or negatively affect the compressor or condenser coils.
When you lay your mulch this spring, keep in mind that most systems are designed to have an open space under the unit that allows for air circulation. Good air flow is crucial for your air conditioner to work properly.
Inside your house, it’s important to clean the supply and return air grills and vents. They need to be open and free from blockage. It’s also a good idea to vacuum around the vent openings to pick up any loose debris or particles that can keep your unit from properly functioning. Remove any plastic material that may have been used to cover air conditioner vents during the winter.
Run Your Unit
After you’ve checked the system and changed your filters, pick a hot day and briefly run your air conditioning unit. Check for cold air coming out of your indoor vents in the first few minutes, and every few hours. If the air isn’t cool or isn’t coming out of the registers at all, turn the unit off. The same goes for any leaks you may see or any out-of-the-ordinary sounds coming from your machine. Check the vents while the unit is running, as well. Any odd smells could mean an animal may have gotten inside the ducts during the winter.
Keeping a damaged unit running can cause greater damage. Make sure to note what you saw and heard so you can discuss these issues with the licensed HVAC contractor who comes for your unit’s inspection.
Schedule Your Inspection and Tune-Up
Find a local, licensed contractor to address and of all of your concerns and perform routine maintenance. While this can sometimes vary, maintenance checks can include:
- Checking electrical settings, safety boxes and operating pressure
- Calibrating and leveling the thermostat
- Cleaning and lubricating moving parts
- Inspecting the condenser coil, safety devices, disconnect box, service valves, wiring and connections
- Ensuring there are no leaks or areas that can cause energy loss
- Looking for cracked or fallen belts and making sure they have the right tension
- Testing and refilling the refrigerant