Maintaining Your HVAC System This Fall
With fall approaching after a humid South Carolina summer, your HVAC system is sure to be tired and require some maintenance. The HVAC system has been working hard to keep you cool and comfortable through those sticky summer nights, but it never gets a break! That’s why it is so important to give your HVAC the proper care and maintenance it needs to keep working hard for you.
Going into the cold months without cleaning a HVAC system can cause high utility bills and costly repairs later on. Whether it’s from blockages from debris or improper cleaning habits, your HVAC system needs to be maintained for longevity of use and to save you the headache of expensive bills and repairs. So, let’s take a look at what you can do to properly maintain your HVAC system this fall.
Visually Inspect the HVAC System
To start, you should take a moment to look at your HVAC system. Asses the surroundings. Look at what kind of condition your system is in. Is it old? Was it only installed a few years ago? Consider these factors when deciding how you are going to go about your fall HVAC system maintenance. Cleaning a HVAC system can only do so much. If you are unsure, you may want to get the whole thing replaced.
Clean Your Vents and Replace Filters On Your HVAC System
You must remember that your HVAC system works all year round. During the summer, it works to keep you cool with air conditioning. The HVAC system can collect dust and debris inside which can cause blockages. When a blockage occurs, the system must work harder to circulate air which can turn into a higher utility bill for you.
The filters inside your HVAC system gather dust which can also cause blockages. A good rule of thumb is to replace your filters every three months. If you have bad allergies, you may want to replace them monthly for your own sake. Dust can cause allergies to become worse as the HVAC will circulate the dust into the air since the filter isn’t clean. Gross, right? Cleaning a HVAC system and replacing your filters is a lot cheaper than the repairs that can result from not doing this properly.
Try to always keep extra filters on hand so when you remember you need to change them, you have one ready to go. The filter is out of sight out of mind, so it can be hard to remember this very simple act that can save you a lot of money and headaches in the long run. You don’t want the dust and debris it’s collecting circulating into your home, anyway.
Clean the Condenser Unit
The part of your HVAC system that is outside the home is called the condenser unit. Make sure to pay attention to this part of the system before fall and winter take over. Natural debris such as leaves, pinecones and acorns can fall and collect in and around your condenser, causing blockages and potentially expensive damage.
Natural debris can be a fire hazard inside your condenser. It can also create a warm and cozy environment for unwanted visitors like squirrels and raccoons in the winter. Be sure to maintain proper upkeep because cleaning a HVAC system around this time of year is incredibly important to prepare you for the coming months. Clearing out the debris will keep critters from crawling into your system and causing damage.
If you have trees, bushes or shrubs surrounding the area where your condenser is, you should trim them to make sure there’s no risk of debris getting inside and causing a fire hazard. Cleaning around the area is just as important as cleaning a HVAC system.
Maintaining the conditions and preventing debris from getting into your HVAC system will keep your energy bills manageable and keep you from dealing with costly repairs.
Get a Programmable Thermostat
One thing you can do to save yourself as well as the HVAC system some time and energy is to get a programmable thermostat. These typically come standard in modern homes now, so you may already have one. Instead of manually changing it yourself, you can utilize the programmable features of the thermostat to manage the temperature for various times of day.
For example, you won’t need to keep your house as warm when you are gone for the day and no one is around. You can program the thermostat to lower the temperature so your HVAC system isn’t working as hard for no reason. It is also a good idea to lower the temperature when you are sleeping. Who doesn’t like sleeping with a ton of blankets when it’s a bit chilly, anyway?
Clean the Condensation Drain Line
During the summer, your HVAC system is busy cooling your home with air conditioning. This creates a lot of moisture, which is where the condensation drain line comes in. The function of the condensation drain line is to, well, drain the moisture and condensation that accumulates during the air conditioning process out of the system.
Having a clear and clean condensation drain line is essential for optimum function of the HVAC system. It will also prevent drip pan overflow and avoid water damage.
The humidity from summer can cause your HVAC system to become a breeding ground for mold and mildew which can be distributed into the air and cause health problems while also ruining your appliance. It is important to regularly clean a HVAC system and prevent any blockages from occurring.
To clean your condensation drain line:
- Use a wet vacuum to suck out any blockages and wet debris that is stuck in your drain line
- Create a cleaning mixture which could be:
- Hot water and distilled vinegar
- Hot water and dish soap
- Hot water and peroxide
- Pour the cleaning mixture in from the top
- Spray through the condensation drain line with a hose to flush out mold, debris and grime
Not only should you do this before fall starts, you should probably do it a few times throughout the summer to make it easier on yourself. Cleaning a HVAC system regularly will prevent permanent damage. Cleaning the condensation drain line can also alleviate any smells that could be resulting from mold and mildew growing in your HVAC system.
Insulate/Seal off Leaks in your House
Not directly maintenance to your HVAC system, but insulating your house and sealing off any potential leak areas will save you a lot of time and hassle later. It is very important to insulate your attic. Since you aren’t going up there all the time, it can be easy for leaks to happy and you are unware of them. The insulation will keep the warm air in, and not let it out. This will ensure that your HVAC system isn’t working too hard.
Insulating the attic is one of the most essential things you can do to be kind to your HVAC system. Make sure this is done before fall to avoid any risk of leakage.
Here are some other tips for preparing for the fall HVAC season from our blog:
- Seal off windows
- Reverse fan direction
- Seal duct work off
- Replace old windows
- Cover floors with rugs
Hire a Professional
When it comes to cleaning a HVAC system for fall maintenance, there’s only so much you can do on your own. Having a professional come out and check on your system can ensure you catch problems before they arise. It is a good rule of thumb to have a professional come out to perform a routine maintenance check at every change of season to keep you from having costly repairs later. While your HVAC system might seem like it’s working properly to the untrained eye, a professional will be able to catch issues that you might miss.
Here are some things you should ask the professional technician to do when they come out for an inspection:
- Clear the drain lines in the condenser and other parts of the unit
- Check for any standing water
- Clean coils and motors for debris and dust
- Check all of your belts, pulleys and other inner parts of the HVAC system
- Do an overall inspection of the system including indoor and outdoor components
Feel free to contact us at Southern Seasons to perform this routine maintenance check for you, or any other repairs you need.
Replacing the HVAC System
If you continue to have issues or are unsure of your HVAC system’s ability to get you through the winter, you may want to replace the whole thing. We know this is a very expensive decisions to make, so it should only be looked at when all other options have been exhausted.
When the HVAC system is starting to get very old, replacing it may be the most cost-effective option. If you try to ride it out and it keeps having issues, you’re going to rack up a very large bill in repairs. Not to mention you could be without heat during the winter for a long period of time if something essential breaks.
Replacing you HVAC system can not only prevent future issues, it can increase your energy efficiency and lower your utility bills. The U.S. Department of Energy states that replacing your HVAC system with a brand-new model can reduce your utility bill by 20-40 percent.
Do I Need to Perform HVAC Maintenance for Fall?
All of this maintenance is tedious, time consuming and sometimes expensive. Everyone is busy, and it might seem like you can get away with not taking any precautionary measures with your HVAC system. To put it simply, yes you do need to perform routine maintenance on your HVAC system to get ready for fall and winter.
The bottom line is that if you do not take care of or clean a HVAC system, you run the risk of hurting the system and causing permanent damage from something as simple as neglecting to change your air filter. What could have been a $20 fix could end up being a repair that costs hundreds of dollars.
These are the things you can do yourself:
- Clean the outside of your HVAC system
- Remove natural debris such as branches, leaves, grass twigs and brush around outside units
- Cover the outdoor unit with a tarp or other covering. You can purchase specific covers for this or get creative. Do this only after you have had your fall inspection done by a professional
- Keep extra filters on hand to change them every three months, or one month if you struggle with allergies
To sum it up, routine maintenance is essential when you own an HVAC system. Make sure to clean a HVAC system with each changing season to avoid unnecessary repairs. Keep extra filters on and make sure to change them to keep your system from overworking itself. There are many steps you can take at home to avoid costly repairs and expensive energy bills.
Keep everything clean and free of debris. Trim down trees and shrubs that are near your outdoor unit to avoid any unnecessary blockage and potential critters making your HVAC system home for the winter. Seal off all air leaks and make sure your attic is insulated to keep that warm air inside on those blustery fall nights.
Here at Southern Seasons, we want to make sure you are getting the most out of your HVAC system. Feel free to contact us to perform a routine maintenance check or to answer your questions about replacing your HVAC system. We provide heating and air conditioning services, so we can assist you all year round. Contact us today!