There’s nothing like a new home. It’s a symbol and physical representation of possibility, belonging, and family. There are a lot of exciting things about becoming a new homeowner and sometimes that means it becomes easy to forget about the important details that come with owning a home that might be less exciting. When people think about a new homeowner checklist, they might picture tasks like buying furniture and dishes, getting the yard cleaned and settled, and painting walls. What they might not think about is all the little details involved in making sure the air conditioning and heating systems are running efficiently and smoothly.
It turns out there are a lot of details involved in prepping an air conditioner in a new home. If the home you’ve bought was new then you have to delve into deciding what air conditioner to buy and who to contract to install it. If it’s an old house you have to figure out whether the air conditioner needs repairs or tune-ups or replacement. There’s a variety of potential house improvements you’ve got to consider when it comes to air conditioning. And you have to get an idea of the sort of maintenance tasks you need to start making a habit of. That’s what this tip is about. Read on to get to the new homeowner’s air conditioning and heating checklist.
Inspecting the Current HVAC System
The first thing you should do when it comes to going down your homeowner checklist is to inspect and test the air conditioner your new home has. Take inventory of how it performs and what it needs in terms of repair or potentially replacement. How do you do that? Well, you start by simply letting it run and looking for symptoms of issues.
Turn your AC on and set to cool, let it run for a while and see if you detect anything unusual. Smells and sounds are the first two things to look out for. If there’s a burning smell, that could be melted insulation which would need repair. If you smell a musty odor you could be in for necessary mold removal. Or perhaps the place starts to smell like dirty socks in which case there could be standing water in the ductwork or the evaporator coil pan. That would also be something that would require immediate attention. As far as sounds go, there shouldn’t be anything other than the usual blowing hum of the air conditioner while it’s on. If you hear a harsh banging sound when it’s starting up that will require attention. If there’s any kind of grating, squealing or popping sound then something is definitely off and should be checked out by a professional.
Also, make sure you don’t forget to check the obvious things like that air is coming through steadily from all the air vents and that it is nice and cool. Poor airflow could be the sign of many different issues from low refrigerant to dirty air filters, so it’s best to have it diagnosed by a professional. On top of that, you’ll want to visually inspect as much of the air conditioning system as you can see. Look for rust in the ducts and on the air conditioner. Check for cracks or dents and bends. Look for leaks, especially around the condensation drain. Take note if the lights dim when the AC kicks on. All of these things are signs that the air conditioner needs at least a tune-up before it can be considered in full working order.
You’ll also want to take stock of some facts about the air conditioner. Find its label on the outdoor or indoor unit. Is the unit 10 years old or older? If that’s the case, then most professionals recommend that it’s time for a replacement. Also, make sure you check the SEER rating. The SEER rating will tell you how energy efficient this current system is. If it’s below 10 then a new unit will probably be a cost-effective investment that will pay for itself in terms of the difference in energy bills. New laws have made it a requirement for newly installed air conditioners to have a SEER rating of at least 14. So those are two handy checklist rules, if it’s older than 10 or below 10 SEER then replace it.
Also, check your warranty. If this is a newly constructed house, check that your new home warranty covers the heating and air-conditioning systems. If you’re buying a pre-owned home with a new HVAC unit, ask the seller for a copy of the warranty. If the seller had the systems under a yearly maintenance contract, find out if there are future maintenance visits due.
So let’s say everything seems to be in working order. The air conditioner runs smoothly. There’s no odd smells or sounds. There’s no obvious damage or leaks. Air comes and it cools the house. The air doesn’t switch on and off too quickly. The air conditioner is newer than 10 years old. It has an acceptable SEER rating. You’re convinced it doesn’t need replacing or major repairs. That’s a relief. But, even still, there are certain improvements that could be made that you should consider before finishing your checklist. Some of these improvements are optional but could be beneficial and desirable, some of them are highly recommended for all new homeowners.
Such is the first potential improvement, attic insulation. If your home is pre-owned then you’ll want to stick your head up in the attic space and check all around for adequate insulation. There should be insulation throughout, at least six inches thick. Insulation is measured using something called its R-value. Different regions in the US have different recommended R-values for attic insulation. For those of us in the Austin area, which includes everything from Lago Vista and Manor to Buda and Taylor, the recommended R-values are R 30 to R 60 for an insulated attic, R 25 to R 38 if there’s already insulation but it’s insufficient (say 3 to 4 inches), and R19 to R 25 for the attic floor.
Then there are a number of improvements that aren’t required but could end up saving you money. The first to consider is a water heater blanket. This is exactly what it sounds like, a blanket designed to keep the water in your water heater from dispersing. Adding this to your water heater will slowly but surely save you money over time in your energy bills. Just make sure the blanket doesn’t obstruct the thermostat, water heater top, bottom, or burner component.
Another highly recommended addition to consider that will help your air conditioning situation is ceiling fans. If your home doesn’t already have ceiling fans in all the most important rooms of the house including the bedrooms and living room then adding them will help you out. Ceiling fans help circulate air, creating better ventilation and more comfort. The most important thing to know about proper fan usage is that the air directly below the fan should be blowing down on you in the summer and should be pulled upwards away from you in the winter. This will optimize your fan usage and the energy savings it can bring. You can use the reversal switch on your fan to switch between the modes at the start of each season.
The last air conditioning-related home improvement you might want to consider for your new home is a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats are great because they allow you to control and maximize the usage of your air conditioner without having to think about it past when you first set it. As you are probably aware, it’s always a good idea to raise the temperature of your thermostat during the warm season when you’re not home. When no one’s home to enjoy the cool air it doesn’t make any sense to have the air conditioner working just as hard. But it can be hard to remember to manually change the thermostat multiple times a day. That’s where programmable thermostats come in. They allow you to set certain times when the air conditioner will be running more or less and it will do it all automatically. This can end up saving you a lot in electricity bills over time, making it a good investment.
Starting a Maintenance Routine
This last section of the new homeowner’s checklist for their air conditioning is about starting a new checklist that one can use to keep their new or old air conditioner in good shape far into the future. There are a number of things you should do on a regular basis that can help keep your air conditioner efficient and healthy. Let’s jump into a few of those things.
Air filters come first on the list. This is something you can check right now and something you should continue to check every few months at the least. Open the grilles on the return air vents in your home and pull out the air filters. If they look dirty then they probably need to be replaced. Make note of the dimensions of the air filter and purchase new ones. Then make sure to make checking and replacing the air filters a part of your house maintenance routine.
Keep an eye on your energy bills. One of the best ways to catch hard to detect problems with your air conditioner is simply to keep a record of your energy bills and take note of sudden increases in electricity costs. If you can’t attribute a significantly higher bill with more air conditioner usage then there might be something in your AC unit that needs a tune-up.
Make sure the vents in your home are free of debris, dust, and obstructions. All of the vents should stay unobstructed by any material. Check inside the vents occasionally for dust. If dust seems to build at a fast rate there might be some sort of circulation issue that a professional can check out. These habits will keep airflow consistent and adequate throughout your home.
These are just few of the many maintenance tasks you can add to your new home maintenance schedule. Look at some of our past tips for more ideas of ways you can routinely keep your air conditioner in the best shape possible.
Austin AC Repair and Preventative Maintenance
For over ten years AC Express has been a leader in the Austin area for delivering top-quality air conditioning and heating service. From minor repairs to complete overhauls, AC Express can do it all. Whether you want to find a reliable contractor to give your air conditioning system regular preventative maintenance checks or you want to find someone install a new state of the art air conditioning unit in your new home, consider AC Express, the Austin air conditioning service you can trust. Call today! (512) 866-5520