Maintenance tips every homeowner should know

With summer fast approaching and the temperatures beginning to climb in Kenmore, there are a few things that homeowners should investigate that will save them money in costly air conditioner repairs.  Before you can investigate those elements though, you must have a basic understanding of the components in a residential HVAC system.  There are a few main components, and there are relatively few standardized locations for each one.

First you have your exterior unit sometimes referred to as the pump.  This piece is outside, and is usually made up of a few components that cycle the refrigerant and send it through the coils.

The next component is the air handler which circulates the air that needs to be cooled over some coils or a grid of tubing that has refrigerant cooling the tubes that transfers that chill to the air that is circulating.  This element is often in a utility area or garage or in an area above the garage, but always has a pan to catch excess condensation.  The condensation that accumulates in this pan also has a pipe that leads to the exterior of the house to allow the condensation to flow outside before it overflows into your living space.

The third element is the duct work, and this would also include the vents, the insulated tubes or ducts, the returns and the connective elements that hold it in place.

The final piece is the programable thermostat which is the control and monitoring component that manages the temperature and the length of the cycles that the unit will have to complete before shutting down.  I will give two (2) examples below of each component on how to maintain and save money on possible costly repairs in the future.

1)     The Exterior Unit –

  1. Always cut brush and shrubbery at least 12 inches away from the perimeter of the outside unit.  This will allow the unit ample area and air flow to keep from overheating.
  2. Always have the exterior unit protected from electrical surges or lightning.  As infrequent as it may be, lightning can be very dangerous to the circuit that allows the unit to run, and so you may want to ask about any surge protection or breakers that can be installed from your power company to prevent blown circuits.

2)     The Air Handler –

  1. Clear the drip pan overflow tube regularly.  You can place a suction end of a shop vac on the exterior end of the tube to draw any mold or mildew that has grown in that tube, and you can also ask your plumber or a/c tech to install a “T” in the pipe with a short section of tubing and a cap for the section.  It should be easily accessible and not interfere with the flow of the piping.  This tube should be used to keep the pipes clear by pouring a cap of bleach into that “T” to prevent further growth that would obstruct the flow.
  2. At least once per year have a trained professional technician service the coils in the handler to check for leaks and clean the coils.

3)     The Duct Work –

  1. Be sure once your system is running, go into the accessible crawlspace or ceiling areas where your ducts are running, and feel the length of the ducts and especially the seams for any cold air leaking out.  This is the sign of faulty seams that may have worked loosened or separated tape or sealant on those seams, and it may need to be repaired by an a/c tech.
  2. Clean your ducts at least annually.  This will lessen the likelihood of spreading or harboring mold, mildew or cold germs in the minute layer of grime that accumulates on the inside of your ducts.  It is also worth repeating here that you should be changing out your filters on your air return vents regularly – check on the labeling of the filter you choose because some can go as long as three months between replacements, but if you are not sure, plan to change the filters monthly.

4)     The Thermostat –

  1. If you still have a mercury-based thermostat, do everyone a favor and take it to a recycling facility that will properly dispose of the mercury and recycle what can be re-used.  Also, this is when you need to consider a programmable thermostat.  They allow you to plan to reduce or turn off the a/c when you are not at home or if you plan to be away for a while.  You do not have to suffer because of that choice because you can set it to turn prior to your arrival home, and cool the house to comfortable by the time you come in.
  2. Annually, have your thermostat calibrated.  You may be setting you’re a/c to a certain temperature, but you may not be aware that your thermostat is over-cooling to a new temperature, or under-cooling and thus never getting your house comfortable.  The calibration will allow you a little more control over your temperature and finances you need to pay for that temperature difference.

I hope these are helpful to you as a consumer, and most importantly give you a few techniques to prolong the life of your unit as well as save money on costly repairs that could have been avoided.  To be clear, the above recommendations are for a Heat Pump style unit, and you should verify this is what you have at your house prior to inquiring about some of the more permanent suggestions in this article.  If you have any questions about this blog please call G & S Heating, Cooling, & Electric

These home savings tips were sent by Joe Schembri with U Fill or We Fill, a Tampa dumpster rental company.

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