How to extend the life of your HVAC system

Home Inspector with MC2 Home Inspections LLC License #110204

Just as regular tune ups extend the life of your car, performing routine maintenance on your home’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system extend the life of your HVAC equipment. While there are some tasks homeowners can handle on their own, many HVAC projects require a professional contractor.

Here is a quick overview of basic service tasks for do it yourselfers and service tasks that require a pro:

Furnace maintenance: DIY
Filters prevent dust, dirt and mold from building up in your HVAC system. Dirty filters slow airflow, forcing your system to work harder. The extra exertion can increase energy costs and lead to a prematurely damaged system. To prevent costly repairs and keep your system operating at its peak efficiency, use quality pleated furnace filters and replace them per the manufacturer’s directions, typically on a monthly basis.

Furnace maintenance: Pro
A licensed HVAC contractor should fully inspect your furnace at least once per year. During an annual inspection, the contractor will check the heat exchanger and may adjust the burners. Depending on what type of heating system you have, a professional may also check or clean the furnace flue.

Outdoor unit: DIY
Keep the area surrounding the outdoor unit free of debris. Remove any grass or leaves near the base of the unit and keep nearby vegetation trimmed back a minimum of 2’ from the unit. If the exterior of the unit becomes dirty, you may also use a soft brush and a garden hose to clean the surface. Be very careful when doing this as the fins on your outdoor unit are very easy to bend and susceptible to damage.

Outdoor unit: Pro
When servicing an outdoor unit, a professional will inspect the unit’s wiring and repair any loose or damaged connections. A licensed HVAC contractor will also clean the fins, check the refrigerant line, remove any debris that you may have overlooked or can’t see, as well as oil the fan and inspect the unit’s interior for any damage.

Ductwork: DIY
Leaky ductwork wastes energy and reduces the life span of an HVAC system. DIYers are encouraged to inspect all visible ductwork in the attic, crawlspace or garage for cracks or leaks. Most local home improvement stores carry a variety of metal tapes or sealants that you can easily apply to seal leaks however, homeowners are encouraged to contact a professional for tougher jobs such as adding new ductwork. It is strongly recommended to apply metal HVAC tape on all flue connections to properly seal the flue and prevent any CO gasses from leaking into your home.

Ductwork: Pro
A professional duct cleaner will inspect the entire system, including ductwork not readily accessible to you. As a part of the inspection, a professional will take apart the vents, clean the vents and registers, and check for mold, asbestos and other contaminants. A contractor will often seal off any fiberglass insulation in the ducts, preventing it from blowing into the home. Be wary of unbelievable deals or coupons being offered for duct cleaning. These are usually bait and switch techniques used by unscrupulous contractors. A good thorough duct cleaning should cost you around $500.00-$600.00. Not the $59.95 being advertised in your local coupon book.

While a professional HVAC contractor will keep your system running at its most efficient, there are a few things you can do in tandem to help extend the life of your HVAC system. In addition, regular care to your heating and cooling system will also improve your home’s energy efficiency and enhance indoor air quality.


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