When something goes wrong with the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (or HVAC) system, who do you turn to for advice – a next-door neighbor, your cousin Vinny, or a co-worker? It’s best to do your research when it comes to maintaining your HVAC system and leave the important questions to a trusted HVAC professional to solve.
HVAC describes all aspects of heating and cooling services in your home. Because these systems have so many components and are so important to the comfort of your home, it’s good to be knowledgeable about the basics. The following is some misleading advice when it comes to your HVAC system:
- Buy only the more expensive and high-quality air filters for your system, so you don’t have to change them as often. The price or quality of an air filter does not necessarily mean you won’t have to change it as often. In fact, high-quality air filters may need to be changed more often because they pull out more particles from the air. Generally, air filters should be changed a minimum of every three months, but preferably every month, to keep your system in proper working condition.
- Turn your heater or air conditioner off while you’re away on vacation. This is a really bad idea, especially in the winter, when cold temperatures could freeze pipes, leading to pipe and water damage along with a hefty repair bill. Keeping the temperature around 55 degrees is usually best practice during the winter and in the upper 70s while you’re away during the summer.
- Increase the temperature when you’re cold and decrease it when you’re hot. Set a schedule that works best for your family, as constant changes in temperature can sacrifice efficiency and cost more money in the long run by forcing your system to work harder. Increase efficiency by purchasing a programmable thermostat to set a schedule. You also can make your home more comfortable during winter months by opening drapes during the day and closing them at night, unblocking air vents, adding insulation throughout your home, and sealing any leaks.
- Help your system by adding a fireplace or space heaters to keep the house even warmer during the winter months. Using the HVAC system with a secondary heat source will usually make the system work harder because of drafting around the fireplace’s chimney. Space heaters, candles, and kerosene lamps also add a risk of a house fire.
- Always cover your outdoor unit for protection from rain and snow. Operating your system with the cover on could damage it because, in order for it to run properly, it needs good air flow. Covers also invite critters to take up living quarters. Covers can’t always keep rain or snow out completely, and if moisture gets in, so does mold and mildew.
- My system can go years without a maintenance visit. It’s always best to have an annual maintenance plan to keep your system running at top performance and to increase its lifespan. Maintain air flow by keeping, dust, and debris away from any system. Keep air filters clean and heat exchangers and coils free of restrictions. Ideally, a system should be serviced twice a year — once before the summer cooling season and once before the winter heating season.
- Bigger is better, right? This is not always the case. Make sure your system matches your home. Buying an oversized system will waste energy and money by cooling down a home too quickly, then shutting off. This short cycle does not allow air to circulate properly or allow moisture to condense the way it should.
- Duct tape is good for sealing ducts. It doesn’t always work well in dirty or dusty conditions, and air ducts are usually dirty and dusty.
- Fiberglas insulation alone keeps cold air out. Rather, it does a good job of keeping heat in. It’s always best to know how much insulation is throughout your home and what you can do to improve insulation.
- Using energy more efficiently around the house is important but can require a little research for the right answers. Do your homework and ask a professional. A smooth-running system keeps your family comfortable year-round.