Would you run a marathon wearing an old pair of shoes? Or would you drive cross country without an oil change? For most people, these ideas are inconceivable. Yet they often go through summer or winter without servicing their HVAC systems.
Just like your car, your HVAC system needs occasional attention to make sure everything is running in top shape. Here are a few tips on keeping your air conditioner and heater in peak condition, as well as how to choose a good contractor.
Buy a high-efficiency air filter - High-efficiency filters provide both better filtration and easier “breathing,” for lower energy use and cleaner air. Plan on replacing your filter every 90 days. Your filter can only absorb so much debris before it gets clogged and needs to be changed.
Clear two feet around outdoor AC units - For outdoor units, keep the area around them free of grass, leaves and debris. Wash the outside fins with a garden hose regularly to keep them clean. This allows better air circulation and more efficient cooling.
Replace your carbon monoxide detector battery yearly – A carbon monoxide detector can be a real life saver. You can also opt for an all-in-one unit that combines carbon monoxide and smoke detection in a single device. It’s worth it to invest in a deluxe model that meets the most rigorous standards.
Check for noises - A noisy system is an inefficient system. Noises often mean something is not sealed or there is a mechanical issue that requires maintenance. All systems make some noise, but if yours is making one that doesn’t sound right, get your system inspected. Vacuum often if you have pets - Pets shed. Some pets shed a lot. Their hair winds up in your carpet, air, and HVAC filters. If you have carpet, more frequent vacuuming will help not only keep your home clean, but keeps your HVAC system running well and fur free.
78 F in summer, 68 F in winter - The debate about what temperature to set the thermostat is not a new one. Plenty of research has shown that in the summer set it to 78 F for the most cost savings while staying comfortable. In winter, 68 F is the best setting. If you stay within a degree or two of those settings, you’ll be alright.
Clear condensate drain line - This is your air conditioner’s drain line for condensation buildup. It can get musty, funky and can even have algae or mold buildup. Different sources suggest cleaning this line with bleach or vinegar. If you’re uncomfortable with doing this yourself, schedule a local professional to perform this as part of a normal maintenance service.
Factory-trained technicians - You want to hire technicians trained by the manufacturers if at all possible. Well-trained techs are not hard to find, and most service companies have them. If the company you contact doesn’t have any, that’s not a good sign. That’s not to say nonfactory-trained techs can’t be good and reliable, but they may not know the quirks of a particular system, which could cost you more time and money in the end.
Ongoing service plans - Does the service company offer ongoing maintenance plans? If they do, it’s a good sign they are in it for the long term and reputable. Many fly-by-night companies don’t offer this service. Whether you want to purchase the service is up to you, but a serious company should at least offer the option.
Customer service - A reputable company will have a trail of reviews on the normal review websites like Google, Angie’s List, etc. A new company won’t have these of course, but that doesn’t mean they are not reputable. Do look over reviews for general trends before hiring. A single, or even a few, disgruntled customers should not put you off from a company – things happen. But, if everyone is mad at them for valid reasons, move on to the next HVAC company.
Upfront pricing & no overtime for residential service - You’ll want upfront pricing as much as possible. This prevents surprises after the maintenance is performed when it’s too late to make a different decision. For commercial concerns, overtime may be needed or warranted depending on the situation. For residential, this is not usually necessary unless it’s a true emergency or complex situation late at night.
Same-Day service - Most good companies have enough “reserve capacity” with their main technicians that they can see you the same day if you call or schedule in the morning. If there has been bad weather or a heat wave, same-day service may not be possible.