According to the most recent estimate by the US Department of Energy, heating and air conditioning account for up to 56% of the energy used by the average home. There are a number of steps that homeowners can take to ensure that they’re getting the most out of their HVAC systems beginning with the selection of the machine.
Making the right choice
When shopping for a heater or air conditioner, it is important to account for the climate in which you live. The intensity of the heat in the summer, the average humidity levels, and the depth of the coldest winter temperatures will all impact your HVAC system. Doing some research or asking a professional before you make your choice can ensure that you get the best possible performance out of your system all year round.
Performing minor maintenance
Performing routine maintenance on your Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning system can improve performance, reduce waste, and prevent expensive break-downs. Check your filters once a month, clean them if necessary, and replace them every three to six months to keep everything running smoothly and prevent early breakdowns. It is also wise to clean the condenser coils periodically, which you can do with a garden hose. Be sure to spray at an angle, rather than directly into the unit. This will clean the coils, but won’t allow too much water to work its way down into the condenser.
Placement of the unit can also impact its performance. Make sure that it is cleared of obstructions, as tree branches and other debris can get sucked in and damage the equipment. It is also important to ensure that the unit is level, since an uneven HVAC unit won’t work properly. Another important maintenance step is cleaning the air ducts out every two years. Depending on the system of ducts you have and the general layout of your home, this may be something you can do yourself, or may require an HVAC specialist.
Bringing in a professional
Hiring a professional to check out and tune up your HVAC system once a year is as important to performance and efficiency as taking your car to the mechanic. A contractor will check to be sure that all connections are tight and well-sealed; they will lubricate all moving parts to prevent friction and breakdown, check the refrigerant level and gas pressure, and adjust any blower components as necessary.
While there are many things that homeowners can do themselves to maintain their systems, these highly trained professionals will perform several other maintenance tasks, ranging from very simple to quite complex. They’ll check and clean the condensate drain and ensure that the unit is responding to signals from the controls to shut off or turn on. They’ll make sure that fans are running in the right direction, which is a surprisingly common issue. They’ll also verify that the belts aren’t crooked or loose, which will both reduce the efficiency of the machine, and cause the belts and moveable parts to wear out faster than necessary.
Sealing the house
The thermal envelope is one of the most important things to consider when looking for ways to improve HVAC performance. If the doors and windows of your home are allowing large amounts of air to pass in and out, or if there are gaps in the weather stripping or insulation, you will continue wasting money and resources whenever your heater or air conditioner is running. By improving weather stripping and insulation, upgrading doors and windows, and ensuring that they are all properly installed, you can run your HVAC system knowing that you aren’t spending extra money to heat or cool the whole neighborhood.
Frank Newhouse is a freelance writer with years of experience as a property manager. He is constantly looking for ways to reduce waste, and enjoys writing as a way to share that knowledge. He currently writes for Air Conditioning Florida, which helps connect people in the Orlando area with the air conditioning services they need to improve performance.
Getting the Most out of your HVAC System