Heating and cooling equipment needs some occasional maintenance to keep you comfortable all year round. Some maintenance steps you can take yourself and others you should consider hiring a professional for. We’ve put together maintenance suggestions for the entire year. Use them to help you plan and take action. We’ll start with getting ready for summer.
Spring Air Conditioner Maintenance Suggestions
Here in the Carolina’s we have a bit shorter winter than further north. Once we’ve rolled past that short month of February, it is time to start thinking about summer maintenance suggestions.
March and April are the perfect months to think ahead and prepare for the cooling season. The average high temperatures in the Charlotte area are in the 60’s in March and low 70’s in April, so it is warm enough to do some maintenance, but not usually hot enough to really need to your Air Conditioning unit daily. As high temperatures climb closer to 80 degrees in May, our busy season kicks in, so it is always better to get any problems out of the way when you are not waiting in an uncomfortably hot house.
Here are the top five things you can do to make sure your air conditioner is ready to take on the 90+ degree days of summer.
1. Check Your Air Filters
Dirty air filters are big problems your air conditioner. Our suggestion is always to change your air filter regularly, which could vary depending on the type of filter you choose. Dirty air filters can increase the amount of energy it takes to cool your home by 5% to 15%. A very clogged filter will also reduce the cooling capacity of your unit by about 5%. What is even worse is that if you keep running your system with a dirty filter, eventually that dirt will get through the filter screen and end up collecting on your evaporator coils.
Government studies have shown that dirty evaporator coils reduce the energy efficiency of your system even more than a dirty air filter. Combine the two and ice is likely to form on the evaporator coils, causing a system failure. It is a lot less expensive to change your air filter than have your evaporator cleaned.
2. Clean Up Around Your Outdoor AC Unit
We don’t tend to get out and do a lot of yard work in the winter. There are always a few leaves that escape raking in the fall and they seem to always find their way to your outdoor AC unit. Simply clearing away any leaves, grass, weeds or other plants that are too close to your outdoor unit could save you from a headache later in the summer. And while you are doing some spring yard work, you might want to create a mulch or rock area around the outdoor unit to help keep the lawn mower further away. Grass clipping are know to reduce air flow through your system, which is never a good thing.
3. Clean the Outdoor Unit with a Water Hose
Dirt on the outdoor unit can reduce its efficiency. A quick rinse down occasionally will help get off any collected dirt, as well as grass clippings and other plant material which may have found its way into your outdoor unit. Don’t use a power washer because it could damage the coils.
4. Check to Make Sure Your Vents are Open
Since most homes in the Carolinas are built with vents on the ceiling, or at least high up on a wall, it is unlikely any furniture is blocking them. However, if you tend to close vents off because some rooms become too warm when the heat is on it the winter, then you should check to make sure you’ve reopened them to help keep your house cool. Air conditioners are usually more efficient when all the vents in your home are pushing cold air in and sending the hot air up into the return.
5. Consider Having Your Air Conditioning System Professionally Serviced
You wouldn’t drive your car all year without having the oil changed, would you? Air conditioners can work very hard over the summer months, then sit idle all winter. A little maintenance in the spring goes a long way to keeping your system in top performance for the hot summer ahead. A professional technician can check your system for problems that might exist but were not obvious when you stopped running the A/C in the fall.
- Refrigerant leaks or improper levels
- Proper air flow
- Thermostat accuracy
- Dirty electric terminals and loose connections.
- Worn belts and parts in need of lubrication
At Panther Heating and Cooling, we want your air conditioning unit to keep you comfortable all summer long. We offer one-time routine maintenance visits or to help you maintain your heating and cooling systems all year round, sign up for one of our maintenance packages. They’re simple, affordable and will reduce the chances that you’ll have a cooling emergency in the middle of the summer.
Fall Furnace and Heating Maintenance
There isn’t always a chill in the air, but when September arrives, it’s time to think about fall heating maintenance. Your furnace has been sitting in your attic or utility closet doing nothing since April. It needs a little tender loving care to make sure it is ready to keep you warm all winter long. It is time for fall maintenance.
Why Fall Heating Maintenance is Important
Have you ever taken four or five months off from an activity like bicycling or jogging? If you have, you know that it is pretty hard to start back up and have your body work like it did when you were in good form months earlier. When you turn your furnace back on, it doesn’t have a chance to slowly work back into performing. It has to perform at full speed right away. To ease this transition, here are some fall tips to make sure your furnace is ready to go when the first cold nights hit the Charlotte area in October. You can add them to your maintenance checklist.
Winter Furnace Maintenance Suggestions
1. Replace Your Furnace Filters
For most of us, this is something that we should be doing all year anyway. Most air filters work for both your air conditioning unit and your heating system. So check the air returns in your home. If you haven’t changed the filters after a long summer of the air conditioner running constantly, there is going to be a lot of dust trapped. Make sure to check all the returns in your home. Keeping your filter clean can cut energy consumption 5 to 15 percent and usually should be done every month. . If you are not sure what type of filter to use, you can take a look at our guide to replacing filters.
2. Clean around the furnace, ducts and returns. And the Outdoor Heat Pump Unit.
If your HVAC system is in the attic, it doesn’t get clean too often. A quick trip with the vacuum in the area can help make sure there isn’t a lot of dust around to interfere with the way the furnace is working. Dirty equipment fails faster. Clean up any dust on the air return grates that hasn’t made it to the filter yet. This will help with air flow and keep the system running smoothly. And if there is something in the way of your vents, move it so the air can flow freely.
If you have a heat pump, you’ll also want to make sure there isn’t a build up of leaves and yard debris around the outdoor unit. Keeping proper airflow outdoors will help keep your heat pump working well through the winter months.
3. If you have Propane – Time to Get the Tank Filled Up
The majority of furnaces in Charlotte’s urban areas run on natural gas. If that applies to you, you don’t have to worry about this step, because you’ll always have a supply of fuel being piped into your home. But, if you are in a more rural area that doesn’t have natural gas supplied, it makes sense to fill up your propane tank early. When demand is low, you’ll pay less. Plus, you don’t want to be low on fuel if a cold snap swoops in earlier than expected.
4. Check Your Thermostat
For programmable thermostats, you might have two different settings. Most newer programmable thermostats will automatically switch back and forth between heating and cooling. This can be a great benefit during the transition of fall, when night temperatures may make it a little chilly in the morning, but the day still heats up. You’ll want to check your temperature settings if you have it set to auto because there is always a temperature spread built in. If you turned your air conditioning down over the summer, it may have pushed your heating settings down too. Even if your thermostat doesn’t have an auto setting, this is a good time to verify your heating program is still where you want it to be.
5. Consider a Professional Furnace Cleaning and Safety Check
Hiring a professional to provide planned service on your heating system is always a good idea. We are not just telling you that because we do this type of work. See what Fox Business News Says about Fall Heating Maintenance.
Research and our own experience over time have shown that keeping your systems clean can save you as much as 30% on heating and cooling costs. That means the service could pay for itself just in costs savings. In addition, systems that are maintained properly can last up to 40% longer than those that are poorly maintained.
Furnaces burn natural gas (or propane). There is never complete combustion, so there is always some waste left behind. This fine ash can eventually gunk up the burner system in your furnace, reducing efficiency or causing it to stop working. A furnace cleaning restores the burner system. It also allows the technician to inspect the system to make sure there are no other small problems that will eventually cause larger issues.
Carbon monoxide is produced by furnaces when they burn gas to heat your home. When everything is working properly, the waste gasses, including carbon monoxide are swept out of your home and mix safely with the outside air. You are unlikely to notice if something happens which prevents proper exhaust because carbon monoxide is colorless and orderless. Carbon monoxide alarms are a good defense, but so is an annual safety check on your furnace. Carbon monoxide issues are not common, but they can be deadly when they happen.
Hiring a professional will get the interior parts of your furnace looked at, like the heat exchanger and the combustion chamber to make sure there isn’t a need to clean or replace anything. A furnace cleaning and safety check with our 21-point inspection will reduce your chances of an unexpected furnace repair over the winter months. In addition, we check to make sure everything is venting properly and there is no deadly carbon monoxide gas leaking into your home due to a faulty furnace.
Most HVAC companies perform similar fall heating maintenance, so if you are not in Rock Hill or the surrounding areas, check for a reputable local contractor to do this for you.
Call us at 803-327-2700 to schedule an appointment or contact us by email for more information on planned maintenance.