Oh, Fall, we love you. Camping trips, pumpkin-spiced everything, football games, bonfires, changing leaves, and the coming holidays make this a fun and busy time of year. While it’s easy to get caught up in the fall festivities, thinking ahead about how you’ll keep warm as the chill approaches are vital. As the leaves begin to turn and fall, it is important to consider how this season affects your HVAC, and ultimately the climate and comfort in your home. What preparation is needed to ensure that as the temperatures continue to drop, your family will stay cozy throughout the winter? We have gathered some of the best suggestions from our HVAC technicians so that the only thing going out this fall will be the fire at the end of your evening.
HVAC Longevity Affected by Maintenance
Most furnaces, HVACs, and air conditioners are designed to last around 15-20 years. A properly maintained system will run longer, more efficiently, and ensure longevity for your heating and cooling unit. Neglecting maintenance on your HVAC decreases the life of your unit by causing unnecessary wear and tear on the parts and, inevitably, the unit as a whole. As debris (hello beautiful leaves) builds upon parts and around the unit, airflow becomes obstructed, building moisture and eventually causing parts of your unit to rust. Beyond the expenses to fix and repair a damaged unit, these issues could actually end up burning it out for good if not addressed. While you may only think about your heating system going into the colder season, your air conditioning system is just as important to service during its off-season. Here are a few ways to ensure your HVAC lasts and does its work most effectively.
Cool Tips: Air Conditioning Maintenance
Recently, summers in East Tennessee have soared into the 100s for days and even weeks, and our air conditioners are working overtime. Don’t even get us started on the humidity here in the South. This is one of the many reasons we welcome fall with open arms. Heading into a season where the air conditioner is turned off is the best time to tackle a checklist so that when warmer months roll around, your AC system is ready to get back to work!
- Inspect Ductwork: Moisture tends to build up in your ductwork, especially when the heat and humidity have been at high levels. As moisture builds, mold can begin to grow in ductwork, creating a myriad of symptoms and discomfort for the individuals in your home or office. Doing an inspection can prevent the buildup of these problems and keep your family and employees healthy and breathing easy.
- Check Refrigerant Charge: Refrigerant charge is defined as the type and mass of refrigerant gas in your unit. If you have noticed the air coming from your vents is not as cool as it once was, this could be a sign of a leak in your air conditioner, which is when the refrigerant leaks out. Other symptoms of a low refrigerant charge could be ice which has built upon the coils in your system, the presence of an oily residue, or your overall system is running inefficiently.
- Check Pulleys and Belts: Changes in temperature, especially in the extreme heat or cold, can affect the durability of your belts and pulleys in your HVAC unit. Turning on your AC on the first warm day with worn out or cracked belts from over the winter could result in them breaking when you need them the most. Moisture can also cause rusting or dry rot issues that can weaken these vital parts. Replacing them is fairly inexpensive, compared to the damage they could cause your system during a failure.
- Clean and Clear Coils and Drain Lines/Pans: If you’ve been paying attention, moisture is one of the biggest concerns for your HVAC system. AC coils covered in grime and moisture buildup not only lose efficiency over time, but the moisture can cause corrosion of the metal in the coils, leading to major damage and possibly refrigerant leaks. The longer the dirt and grime sit, the more damage it can cause. Water sitting in the drain lines and drip pans is also never a good idea. While it’s still warm, this can become a breeding ground for insects and mold, and could attract vermin. Any of these scenarios could lead to a blockage that could turn into a leak or line break in the Spring when you start the AC system again.
Hot Tips: Heating System Maintenance
Just as our summers have been getting hotter, winters have been steadily dropping colder temps, especially in the mountains. A failure in your heating system could not only become an annoyance but potentially a danger during the colder months. From the outside of your HVAC unit to the interior, the heating system works most efficiently when these steps are taken to ensure top performance:
- Clear Debris Away From Your Unit: Those beautiful fall leaves are lovely to look at until they start to affect your HVAC unit. Allowing leaves, sticks, and mulch to build up around your unit can dirty the components and block the airflow. Be sure if you have an outdoor unit to regularly check the air intake and fans to be sure they are clear. Cut or mow tall grass, bushes, or landscaping, and rake away leaves or debris that could potentially block the airflow components.
- Check your Thermostat: One of the most important electronic parts of your HVAC unit, the thermostat regulates the temperature inside your home and affects both the heating and cooling systems. This is a vital part of your unit, so make it a priority to make sure it’s working properly. Before the season changes, check your system by turning up the thermostat. You should hear the heat system kick on and run strong. If the furnace system kicks off after only a few minutes, this can be a symptom of short-cycling. This is usually caused by the heat exchanger overheating, and a safety component shut it down. Your thermostat could also need to be recalibrated or replaced. If you experience a short-cycle issue, it’s time to call in a professional.
- Check/Change Your Air Filters: Especially if you live in a home with children and pets, dirt and hair can build up quickly in your filtration system. This is the easiest part of routine HVAC maintenance, as the air filter is usually easily accessible. You should check the filter at least once a month and change it at LEAST every three months. This is a case-by-case basis, as those homes or businesses with people suffering from asthma or other respiratory conditions may require more frequent replacement.
- Check Your Furnace: When you turn on your heat for the first time it’s not uncommon to smell a slight burning smell. This is usually from dust accumulating over the heating coils during periods of inactivity. If a bad smell lingers or worsens after a few hours of the system running, however, that may be a sign of a bigger problem. Musty smells could be a sign of mold on the furnace filter or a dirty air filter, while a stronger, burning smell could indicate a foreign object in your ductwork, an overheated furnace motor or blower, or worse, electrical damage. If the smell persists after changing the filter, call an HVAC professional to further inspect and diagnose the problem.
- Call Your HVAC Pro: Even if your system is up and running, every HVAC system requires essential maintenance that only a professional can provide. During a seasonal inspection, a professional will ensure that your unit is clean and functioning properly, as well as answer any maintenance questions you may have.
City Heating and Air Conditioning: Your East Tennessee
For over 50 years, City Heat and Air Conditioning has been the standard of excellence and quality during both hot and cold spells in East Tennessee. We live where we work and understand the needs of our customers as the weather changes from season to season. Our team of expert technicians can handle existing residential/commercial HVAC installation and service, new construction HVAC system design and installation, and geothermal system design, installation, and service. With a free quote and 24-hour emergency services, City Heat and Air Conditioning is the clear choice for your seasonal HVAC inspection. So, before you invite everyone over for the Volunteers’ next away game or make plans for visitors during the holidays, contact us to be sure your HVAC is in tip-top shape!