A lot of people completely overlook the importance of making sure their HVAC system is properly maintained. While you’re able to do a lot of it yourself, it’s still a good idea to get a professional inspection too for several reasons.
What that means is that once a year you should contact HVAC companies, ask them for quotes and have them service your system. They’ll be able to find out about potential problems before they arise.
If you want to save money on the inspection, we urge you to press the link in the previous section in order to get quotes from competing companies for it. That will save you the hassle of having to contact companies independently as we’ll match you with the most relevant contractors in your area.
This article is divided into different sections so that you might be able to do a rough inspection yourself, however getting the help of a pro is always recommended to ensure that the job is done well. This article is also a combination of some of the different questions that we have been receiving over time related to making the HVAC operate more efficiently.
What is HVAC Maintenance?
The same way that you can use your car and that it goes in for regular checkup, so will your HVAC. Basically you could get your heating and cooling unit installed and simply use it until it defaults and then have it repaired. That is definitely not advised. We promise – it will get expensive to do it like that. Instead, simply make sure that the system is used correctly and that the needed parts are replaced and repaired in a timely manner.
That way, you’ll keep your system living longer and you’ll be spending less money overall on repairs too. The following sections will take you through all the different things you need to know.
Benefits of HVAC Maintenance
There are different benefits to properly maintaining your HVAC unit that don’t just include making your system last longer.
Reduce Your Energy Bill
Getting a yearly inspection could lower your energy bill by up to 15%. Since heating and cooling can contribute up to 48% of your overall energy bill, there’s good reason to keep the unit properly maintained. Making sure your unit is well-functioning will pay for itself in savings.
Decrease the Amount of Needed Repairs
The unit will also require less repairs as a consequence and you won’t need to shell out to pay for the cost of installation of a new unit.
Due maintenance will limit the need for repairs. While you may not wish to pay for maintenance, you can definitely expect that repairs will end up being more expensive. Costly repairs will be a thing of the past.
Avoid Problems that Increase in Size
Small problems will grow larger and more expensive to repair. As with other types of systems, if you keep not treating the problems, they’ll eventually become so big that you might need to replace the unit earlier than you’d wish. If you can add an additional 50% to your units life span, don’t you think it’s worth it?
Your Family is Safer
Some furnaces are powered by either oil and gas and with undetected leaks, that can potentially let dangerous carbon monoxide into the home, which can cause illness and other side effects. If you have such a unit, it’s important to get it inspected simply to make sure it doesn’t leak such gas into the house.
How Long Do HVAC Systems Last?
We’re asked very often how long homeowners can expect their HVAC systems to last, but to properly answer that, there are several different things that you need to know, hence why the answer is not so simple.
To answer the question, it often requires that a pro inspects the unit to give a better answer to the question. Its current state and how it operates helps determine how long it will last too. There are some general things that you can be aware of, though.
Factor That Determine the Life of the HVAC Unit
Besides just proper maintenance, other factors will affect the lifespan.
- The quality of the system and the different components used in the installation – while HVAC systems are built to last, they can still be purchased in varying qualities and the better the system you originally had installed, the longer it lasts.
- Getting the right amount of maintenance – improper or insufficient maintenance will lead to premature deterioration of the system – something you will want to avoid. Follow our guide to get it done right and in a timely manner.
- How well the system was installed – a properly installed system, where the right procedures have been used will undoubtedly also last longer than one that wasn’t installed properly. We have covered some of the common installation mistakes below, too.
- Having the right size HVAC unit
- Lack of or improper maintenance of the unit
- Being near the coast – the corrosion happening due to the high salt content in the air near the coast can lower the lifespan of your unit too.
Ductless Mini Split
If you make sure to take good care of it, a ductless mini split should last more than 20 years. Their most important maintenance includes keeping outdoor coils clean and changing the indoor filters when it’s time.
Your normal heat pump will last an average of 15 years, while it’s not unheard of that some of them give up after 10 years. Your location and the specific type of the heat pump are factors influencing their lifespan. Plant growth should be stopped around the outdoor unit, fins should be cleaned on the condenser unit, and make sure that no ice builds up on the outdoor coil, which can prevent it from working as intended.
The general expectancy is that they will last 15-20 years. Coastal areas where the air is full of salt, 7 to 13 years is more likely to be the case. There are things you can do in order to lessen the damage of salt and make the unit last longer too.
Leaks and significant corrosion in the condenser or compressor is when a replacement will become inevitable.
With an expected life of somewhere between 20 and 35 years, boilers last longer than other options. The heat exchanger will often start leaking eventually and that is what calls for a replacement. Get quotes for boiler installation right here.
If you don’t maintain a furnace properly, it could last as little as 10 years. With good maintenance it should be lasting more than 20 years and they’re even known to last more than 30 years too. Oil furnaces will last shorter than other options.
Protecting Your HVAC Unit Against Salt and Its Damaging Effects
Even if you’re one of the people that find yourself absolutely having to live near the beach, you will quickly find out that it also means there will be more home maintenance that you will simply have to live with. A rusting HVAC unit is another challenge you will be dealing with, because of the devastating effects of salt.
Read our extensive post on removing rust.
But what’s actually the best solution to consider before it even starts rusting?
You can use a thing such as Rust Grip which is a coat that encapsulates the unit to seal and protect it from the high moisture and salt air.
The constant contact with the moisture and air otherwise does serious damage to your home. The good news is that you will be able to add up to an additional 7 years to your unit by using this coating and the work can be done in as little as a day by a pro.
It is especially effective when you have a relatively new unit.
If you don’t get this protection added, you will soon be experiencing the corrosion of your aluminum condenser coils.
How Often Should You Service Your AC?
Some people only choose to get an inspection if they experience problems, but that’s not the ideal way of maintaining the unit. Inspection and servicing of your unit should happen once a year to give the best results. That is how you will make it last the longest and have it run as efficiently as possible.
If that isn’t done, dust and dirt will accumulate and affect its efficiency by clogging up the air filters and condensing coils.
The maintenance won’t be expensive being done like this and given that your unit is running most of the time, the improved efficiency could pay for the maintenance.
HVAC Maintenance Tips
HVAC maintenance should include a bunch of things that we have listed below. These tips are a mixture of maintenance tips as well as tips that will simply help the unit last longer.
- Make sure that you have a high quality filter installed and replaced according to the specifications of the manufacturer.
While you can get air filters in different qualities, with a quality one, you won’t have to replace it as often as you will with a lower quality one. You can get ones with electrostatic charges which are especially effective at rinsing even very small particles and provide your family with great protection.
- Replacing the filter is an important step in maintaining your HVAC unit’s life and making it run as efficiently as possible.
You will generally need to change the air filter monthly, although you should see what hte manufacturer’s recommendations are, and it’s always a good idea to check it every month.
- Keep obstructions and plants away from the unit.
The unit needs at least two feet of clearance around it to help ensure it can do what it’s supposed to and to ensure that the outdoor parts aren’t obstructed. This means removing or trimming shrubs and trees that could be limiting airflow.
- No leaves, twigs and other things should be in the way and should be removed
Twigs, leaves and pollen may fall onto your unit. When they do, it’s important to get them removed. Especially in the seasons when they tend to fall, you should be checking for it weekly. It also means that when you are mowing the lawn, you should make sure that the clippings don’t end up on the unit and that if they accidentally do, make sure to have them removed as soon as possible.
- Refrigerant lines should be inspected monthly as well as their insulation
If there’s insulation missing, it should be replaced to ensure heat loss in minimized when air is transported into the house.
- The unit should be level
All the different parts of the HVAC unit should be placed on level ground, and once a year you should make sure that the ground on which it is placed is still level and stable. The reason why it can become a problem is that it can start pulling on the parts that aren’t supposed to be pulled such as coolant tubes and electrical lines. If you start seeing that happening, or if you start seeing that it leaks water, there’s a problem that needs to be addressed.
- Avoid clogs building up in the drain.
The drain where condensation from the unit goes could get clogged up over time. Mix bleach and water and pour it down the condensate drain to keep this from happening. It should be done once a year. It will also work against mold and algae.
Do you see water puddles around the condensation drain tube? You might be dealing with a clog. Besides being inconvenient, there are also a lot of bacteria that will have the freedom to spread in such scenario.
- In the season when there is no need for the humidifier, turn off its water supply.
When the humidifier won’t be used, there’s no need for the water to be connected.
- Reconnect the water supply when it’s time
When you expect the weather to start turning colder again, it’s time to reconnect the water supply. You will also want to replace the humidifier wick filter and set the humidity at the desired level.
- Avoid closing too many registers in your home.
If you close too many registers in your home, the HVAC will need to work harder in order to keep the space cool and make it run less efficiently. Therefore, avoid closing more than one in five of the registers.
- Make sure to clean the coils
This includes both the coils of the condenser and of the evaporator. Otherwise, the accumulation of dirt makes it harder for the air to flow. It also insulates the coils, and while you want ducts to be insulated, you don’t want the coils to be. When they’re insulated they won’t be nearly as effective at absorbing heat. Outdoor elements can make the coils dirty faster, requiring more frequent cleaning.
- Make sure that coil fins are straight and fix them if they aren’t.
The fins on your HVAC unit are traditionally made from aluminum which is a relatively fragile type of metal that can bend. When that happens, it will limit the airflow and they will need to be straightened by a pro if they’ve been bent.
- Vacuum the fins
The process of vacuuming the fins involves being very careful with a soft-bristle vacuum. You might need to remove the metal box around the unit, which there should be instructions for in the manual. Remember that the fins can bend easily, so you’ll want to be careful.
- Installing a programmable thermostat
While not being a maintenance tip as such, doing so will help give your unit a much deserved break at times. Your heating bill will also thank you if you get it installed so that you don’t necessarily heat or cool your home when you’re not planning on being in it anyway, which includes the day, assuming you’re going off to work, or you could also change the settings at night so that it doesn’t use too much electricity there.
We encourage you to also read our guide on saving electricity.
- Consider adding an in-line duct booster
Rather than changing the temperature on the thermostat, when certain rooms simply do not feel like they’re getting the same amount of heating and cooling as other places, you may wish to consider an in-line duct booster that will help move the air inside the ducts.
Some alternatives that do the same thing are vent and register booster fans. The different options can either start working automatically or not, say with a switch or remote.
- Get it professionally inspected if it has been a long time.
In times with extreme temperatures, you especially don’t want it to fail. Getting the help of HVAC contractors to get it properly inspected can save you from a lot of trouble when you need the cooling or heating the most.
- Let your windows do a bigger amount of the work in insulating.
You just had new windows installed, now use those shades to help insulate your home. The same way you use insulation in the walls of your home, you can also use the blinds and windows to keep excess heat out during the summer. When it’s hot outside, strategically use the blinds to keep out the sunshine. Windows that are facing the sun should be kept covered and you’ll be saving money that you can then use for something else instead.
- Check all the different insulation
Insulation around the different lines will help improve efficiency. If they’re transporting either warm or cool air into the house, they should be insulated so that the air gets to the desired location with as little energy loss as possible.
How Often Should You Change Your Air Filter in Your Home and What Factors Affect it?
Looking for dark spots and clogs is an indication that the air filter needs replacements. There are certain things that may mean you’ll need to change the filter more often, which includes pets.
The Type of the Filter
The type of filter you use will affect how often replacement is needed.
The more pets you have, the more often the filter should be changed. If you have either a dog or a cat, expect to need to change it every 2 months. Pets generate dust and dirt that needs to be filtered. To keep the indoor air quality good, the filter must be keeping up.
Allergies and Several Pets
Do you or someone in the house have allergies? Or are there more than one pet in the home? You may wish to change the filter every 20-45 days instead to ensure the air quality is the best and that your HVAC unit is not working unnecessarily hard to keep up.
The More People Living There, The More Often it Needs Changing
The more people that live in the home, the more often it needs to be changed too. Since different factors gets it dirty and unable to do its intended duty, adding more people means changing the filter more often.
Pollution in Your Area
Certain exterior climate conditions will have a direct impact on the need to change the air filter. If pollution is a concern where you live, a lot of the exterior air will also be dragged inside at which point it needs to be filtered and pollution could help clog up the filter faster.
Being close to a big road is also something that will affect the air quality.
Moisture Levels Where You Live and Extreme Weather Conditions
High moisture levels where you level will cause your HVAC unit to have to run the whole time to keep the moisture levels at a comfortable level. Extreme heat or cold are also things that will force your unit to operate at near-full capacity for most of the time.
On the other hand, when you live in an area that has temperate climate where the outdoor temperatures aren’t too far away from the indoor ones, you might be able to use the filter for longer.
The general recommendation is that you change the air filter every 90 days if you live in a place with moderate water, no pets and no other conditions that require more frequent changing.
How Much Does HVAC Maintenance Cost?
Thinking about maintaining the HVAC may not be the thing that gets you the most excited, whether you’re a business manager or a homeowner. It often ends up being one of the things that simply does not get done, meaning you’ll find yourself having to replace the unit prematurely.
That’s why you may be curious to find out how much it will cost you to have your HVAC unit maintained.
“Out of sight and out of mind” should not be the mentality you have when it comes to the maintenance of your unit. The problem is that there are different factors that will make it hard to easily answer the question without going ahead and getting quotes from contractors.
The average cost to have a HVAC unit maintained will vary by state, as do the license requirements. The question is also whether you’ll need commercial HVAC companies or just residential ones. The commercial unit will undoubtedly be more complex than the residential one.
The amount of scheduled visits will directly impact the maintenance cost, so the older the unit, the more you’ll be spending on maintaining it too – especially with commercial ones. The conditions under which it operates also affects the cost.