How long would you drive your car without changing the oil? You should think about heating and air conditioning the same way.
Your HVAC system works harder than nearly any other system in your house. It often runs daily, working hard to heat or cool your home in response to the temperature outside. That’s a lot of wear and tear on an expensive system.
Regular HVAC maintenance keeps your system in tip-top shape, lubricates the gears (literally) and minimizes wear-and-tear damage.
HVAC pros recommend getting your system inspected twice a year: once in spring before AC season begins and once in fall before you start using your heating.
A typical AC inspection costs between $50 and $200 and takes about an hour, but this quick inspection can save you thousands in the long run. If you have a service contract with your HVAC provider, this often includes twice-yearly checkups.
Consider this work to be a valuable investment in your future. Sooner or later, problems always develop in HVAC systems. With regular maintenance, you both minimize the wear and tear and catch minor issues before they become major ones.
Regular inspection benefits you in more ways than just preventing AC repairs. They’ll also lower your energy bills by helping your system run more efficiently. A well-maintained AC doesn’t have to work as hard to generate the same amount of cold air. Plus, keeping your AC in good shape increases your air quality.
Here’s what you can expect from a professional AC inspection:
— Inspect the motor, blower, drain line and coils
— Check operating pressures and temperatures
— Verify refrigerant levels
— Lubricate where needed
— Check ducts for potential air leaks
— Test electrical components
DIY ways to care for your HVAC
Pros should handle most HVAC cleaning and maintenance. However, you can improve efficiency in between inspections with these three simple DIY steps:
1. Change the filters as recommended by the manufacturer
Some filters last several months, while others must be changed every month depending on size. Better filters are worth the money. You don’t want a filter you can easily see through. Some pros call those “bowling ball catchers” because they only filter out big particles.
2. Clean your outdoor unit
Clear at least a few feet around your outdoor AC unit and ensure plants don’t invade its space during the growing season. When plants or debris block the outdoor unit, it takes more energy to transfer heat into the air and needlessly runs the system longer and harder.
3. Keep an eye on your system
Every so often, take a look at your central HVAC system. It doesn’t need to be a thorough inspection; a quick peek will do. You’re looking for frozen or dirty coils or water leaks. If you catch these problems early, they’ll be easier (and less costly) to repair.
Your everyday toolkit: Keep these items on hand for home repairs
Keep a box with these essential basics: tape measure, claw hammer, utility knife, level, crescent wrenches, hex keys, a handsaw, pliers, multiple screwdrivers and a collection of screws and nails.
Try to keep it organized and easily accessible; it’s very easy for a tool box to dissolve into chaos if you don’t keep things in proper order. You’ll thank yourself later on when you need to find a particular screwdriver for a task.
Every home should have at least one fire extinguisher per floor. If you have only one, make sure it’s near the kitchen, where most home fires start.
Look for an ABC-rated unit that will extinguish all fire types.
Teach everyone in the home where it is and how to use it. While you’re at it, make sure your family has a plan to escape in the event of fire, and practice it.
Drill and drill bits
A battery-powered drill and driver is an essential home tool. Add a selection of drill bits in many sizes to be ready for whatever you need.
The standard 12-volt cordless drill you can find at many big-box stores should provide more than enough juice for most home purposes.
Emergency supply kit
The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends keeping an easily accessible kit with these items for emergencies: three days of food for every person in the house, 1 gallon of water per day per person, first-aid kit, flashlight, weather radio, basic tools, dust masks, plastic sheets, garbage bags, can opener, medicine, hygiene products and cellphone charger.
You can find more details from FEMA at Ready.gov/kit.
A must-have for many household needs. Many injuries take place due to people using chairs or other inappropriate stand-ins for a ladder.
Remember to practice ladder safety: Never go beyond its recommended top step, don’t try to reach just a few inches more, and have a buddy hold and stabilize the ladder for you.
Keep plastic gloves, leather gloves, dust masks, ear protection and eye protection on hand. You never know when a job might call for them. It’s wise to use protection during a wide variety of tasks — a mishap during yard work or while using a drill can lead to an eye injury. You can usually find safety kits that will include all the basics you need.