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7 Ways to Maintain Your HVAC System

Apr 17, 2017

Are you paying too much for utility bills because your central air conditioning unit is not functioning in an energy efficient manner?

Do you worry that your indoor air quality is at the root of your allergies and chronic colds?

Is that high-efficiency heat pump just not saving you money?

The salt air in San Diego makes for unique circumstances to maintaining your heating and air conditioning system. HVAC equipment maintenance increases the lifespan of your home heating and cool system. Maintenance pays for itself by conserving energy, saving money, extending the life of your system, and improving your health by reducing dust and allergens.

One of the services that maintains your heating and air conditioning system is actually vital to the health and safety of your family…

Think of air conditioner and furnace maintenance like oil changes that prevent excess auto repair needs. It saves you money in the long run.

1. Change Your Filters

One of the easiest services that will help you to maintain a healthy heating and air conditioning unit is to regularly change the filters. The cleaner the HVAC system, the more efficient the heating and air conditioning will be, respectively.

Not only are there benefits to the HVAC system when you change the filters, but your quality of life will also improve. Cleaner filters mean less dust and allergens being pushed through your home. You will breathe easier and be healthier.

Change filters at least once per year. If you have pets, examine filters more regularly. You may need to change as often as every 30-45 days, if you suffer from allergies or have a lot of pets in the home.

2. Vacuum Key Areas

Similar to changing the filter, keeping the HVAC system clean from dust and debris helps the system work efficiently and prevent problems. Open returns (the vents that cover the openings in your walls and are connected to your return ducts) up and vacuum inside them and around them.

For HVAC condenser units on the outside of the home, open them up and check for rodent droppings. Rodents and reptiles might seek safe haven in the shade behind the fins, cooling off from the hot afternoon sun. These animals might find their way into parts of the system that would lead to malfunction.

Setting bait at the base might help prevent unwanted critters from getting in and damaging the HVAC system.

AND, this is odd, but common…male dogs seem to be drawn to urinating on condensers, causing major breakdowns!

Simple maintenance and cleaning prevents the need for an air conditioning contractor to constantly come out and fix preventable central air conditioning issues.

3. Level Unit Condenser

Unlike units in other parts of the country where winter runoff will be much greater and the heat pump might benefit from a slight slope, San Diego winters are not that extreme. Keeping the condenser level will increase the lifespan of the unit’s compressor.

The condenser unit can fail if it is not set evenly on the ground. Over time, especially in San Diego County, ground settling and the occasional earthquake can lead to foundation issues for the pad the condenser sits on.

A very simple test is to get a level and set it on the condenser. Should you see the unit start to tilt off balance, you may want to either fix the foundation pad it sits on or otherwise balance the unit to allow runoff under it and keep it level.

4. Clean Coil Fins

Open the cage of the outside condenser and clean it twice a year. The salt air will cause corrosion faster in areas like San Diego compared to other parts of the country. By cleaning the salt off, you will prolong the life of your HVAC condenser unit.

While you can use a water hose and shoot away dirt, grime and salt from the inside out, you won’t want to use a pressure washer. The intense pressure could bend the coil fins, reducing the energy efficiency of the condenser releasing heat.

If coil fins do bend, use a butter knife to straighten them out gently.

There are products you can buy to help clean away the grime on the coil fins if they are particularly dirty. Be sure to use them as directed to make sure you are not using them in a way that might harm other components of the system.

5. Clear Condensate Drains

The condensate drain is a fancy term for the tubes that drain the condensation from away from the unit and ideally away from the home.

Pushing a stiff brush or pipe cleaner through the condensate drain will keep moisture moving out and prevent humidity build up. This not only can overload the system, it might discolor the walls or carpet near the unit.

Also, make sure that the condensate drain doesn’t share a drain pipe with your house plumbing where it might collect in a manner that would build up a slimy residue. Smell something funny? This could be part of the issue.

6. Check Thermostat

This may seem like an obvious thing to do, but if your house isn’t warm enough during the El Cajon winter or cool enough during the scorching summer, you should start with your thermostat.

There are a lot of thermostats on the market, and depending on the age of your home, HVAC system or recent home automation integrations, you might have set something amiss. Even a very simple lever thermostat is easy to set incorrectly.

Think about that 4 am dog walk you really didn’t want to do Sunday morning. When you came in after Fido circled the lawn 7 million times, you decided to turn the heat on just a bit earlier than normal. Did you flip the fan on while half asleep trying to get the house the right temperature? That’s an easy fix.

If the thermostat is set properly but the house is only getting temporary heating, call your HVAC or furnace repair service to determine if it needs attention or replacement.

7. Inspect Ductwork Systems

Ductwork is often overlooked in homeowner maintenance routines. The fact is, you may not even realize that your home isn’t heating or cooling properly because the ducts are either failing, dirty or were never even installed correctly from the start.

Checking all connecting joints and grill couplings help make sure the air your HVAC system is circulating is getting to the rooms and not lost in the walls or attic.

Is that dust coming out of the vents? Don’t just change the filters. Clean the whole system and test it for leaky areas.

While many of these things are easy for a homeowner to do in caring for their HVAC system, remember to call your HVAC service repairman to do a full cleaning within the unit every 1-2 years (annual maintenance may be required per your warranty). The better you maintain your system, especially in the harsh salt air in beach communities like Solana Beach or Coronado, the longer it will last. Regular care equals efficiency in keeping you cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Anderson Plumbing, Heating and Air is your premier San Diego heating and air conditioning companies with a proper contractor license and technicians able to service both residential and commercial air conditioning systems.

If you want to replace an old furnace with ductless heating or a central air conditioning and heating unit, Anderson Plumbing utilizes the most energy efficient and up-to-date systems available. Ask our customer service representative or technicians about salt warranty systems perfect for San Diego’s corrosive salt air.

Call Anderson Plumbing, Heating & Air to make your service or installation appointment today!

Annual service for air conditioner & water heater systems is recommended, but these DIY tips will help ensure you don’t need services or new installation sooner.

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