air conditioning and heating tricounty aire

12 Things You Can Do to Prolong the Life of Your Heating & Air Conditioning System.

Your heating and air conditioning system affects your health, comfort, budget and lifestyle. Do you take care of it? Proper maintenance of your system can give you extra years of service, cut down on expensive repairs and ensure peak efficiency while lowering your utility bills.

  1. Check your filter monthly. Standard one-inch fiberglass filters must be changed or cleaned at least twice per year. A clogged filter taxes the whole system, does not allow the system to run as efficiently and can cause the fan motor to burn up.  All resulting in higher maintenance costs and utility bills. One-inch fiberglass filters cost about $8, but are only 5% efficient. Pleated 1” filters will last twice as long as fiberglass and they are 30% efficient and are roughly $19. A one-inch electronic filter is 60% efficient, and typically runs around $300. The filter pads, which run about $65 should be changed twice a year by the homeowner or professional. For people with allergies, there are other filtration systems available. A professional can help you determine the best choice for your home.

  1. Check your breakers. If your system just won’t come on, the first thing to check is your breaker. If it is tripped, it could be from temporary overload or a sign that the compressor is STRESSED OUT.

  1. Check your Thermostat. Ideal settings for peak efficiency are 78 degrees in the summer and 65 degrees in the winter. Using these temperature settings will allow you to efficiently cool or heat your home without running your system hard for long periods of time. This will save you money on your utility bills and prolong the life of your system. Also, blowing on the mercury bulb inside the thermostat from time-to-time to gently dust it, will improve its temperature sensitivity and create readings that are more accurate.

  1. Educate everyone on proper settings. Many of the problems we come across in the summer relate to the thermostat being set at too low a temperature.  This is the most common and most costly mistake homeowners make with their A/C system.  A setting that is too low causes the condensing coil to freeze (literally ice over).  When this happens, the first symptom you’ll notice is that the unit will not come on.  At that point it is likely that the fan motor has burned out from working overtime; this can be a very costly repair.  Another possible outcome is that when it thaws, the abundance of water causes a condensation leak, often resulting in water damage within the home.

  1. Clear debris around outdoor unit. Leaves, dog hair, ground cover and other matter tend to gather around a condensing unit, which can prevent it from operating efficiently. Removing the debris from around the condensing unit improves the airflow through the condenser coil thus improving the efficiency of the machine and saving you money on your electric bills.

  1. Hose off the condenser coil. Once debris is raked away, you may use your hose on high power to clean off any dust that has settled in the small fins of the coil. Again, a clean condenser is a happy, efficient condenser. A clean condenser coil allows air to flow through its coils without restriction, as the unit was designed.

  1. Have fuses checked. If you suspect the fuses to your condensing unit are bad, you can remove them and have a hardware store check them. Anytime your unit suddenly stops running, make sure to check your fuses first. This can save you a lot of time, frustration, and money.

  2. Be Patient! The output temperature from your air conditioning system is 20 degrees below the return air temperature. If your home is 95 degrees when you walk through the door, the cool air initially blowing out will only be 75 degrees.  As the house cools degree by degree, the air blowing out will feel cooler and cooler.  This is why once the home is the desired temperature and the A/C cycles on again it stays on a much shorter period of time before it cycles off. Often people think that by setting the thermostat lower the system will blow colder air and cool the house faster. Actually, this can cause damage to the system by potentially freezing the indoor coil and causing damage to the compressor outside.

  1. Visually inspect your ducts. If you suspect a room isn’t getting enough airflow, you can inspect the ducts for tears or breaks. Ducts can often be repaired with duct tape and re-secured. Broken ducts might need to be replaced. A tear of a few inches can simply be repaired by a homeowner. Should you find ducts that are crushed, broken apart, or if you are concerned about asbestos ducting, a professional can evaluate the damage and better advise you on whether you should replace or repair your ducting.

  1. Keep the furnace closet clear. The furnace closet is not for storage!  When your unit was installed, it was permitted with certain required areas around it to prevent fire.  Leave all that space open. This is strictly a safety issue due to the fire hazard.

  1. Vacuum your furnace closet.  Periodically vacuuming the furnace closet thoroughly reduces dust accumulation, which reduces the chance of fire. If too much lint builds up in and around your furnace, it can catch fire.

  1. Do you suffer from allergies? The EPA has identified indoor air quality as one of the four most urgent environmental risks to public health.  In fact, EPA studies of human exposure to air pollutants indicate that indoor air levels of many pollutants may be 2-5 times, and occasionally, more than 100 times higher than outdoor levels.  Believe it or not, it was actually better for our health when houses were built with the old aluminum frame windows. Because of air leakage, this let air in and out and allowed your home to breathe. There was less chance of toxic build-up from carpet, household cleaners, pet dander, etc. Now that homes are being built with windows that are double-paned and very air tight, they actually do less “breathing”. Pre-fabricated homes are even worse since they are built almost air-tight.  Don’t worry; there are three things that can be done to increase your indoor air quality. 1) Keep your unit’s cooling coil clean (located by the furnace.) This must be done by a professional. 2) Invest in a high efficiency filter such as an electronic air filter or a media filter, which reduce airborne pollutants such as pollen, dander and dust throughout the home. 3) Install an ultraviolet light in your duct and drain pan.  Ultra Violet lights kill airborne microbes and prevent mold from accumulating in the drain pan.  Independent studies have linked indoor mold to prolonged family illnesses. Eliminating drain pan mold will also increase the drainage and airflow of your unit which will cause it to work more efficiently.

These 12 Things can be done by the homeowner, but a professional with the experience, tools and training can best advise you as to your individual and personal needs.