Home Maintenance Tips to Prevent HVAC Breakdowns

One of the most contradictory aspects of being a homeowner is the simultaneously stressful and fulfilling fact that the home is like an ecosystem of its own that will either thrive and turn into a place like your very own sanctuary or cause you a heap of problems and discomfort if not properly cared for. I’m talking about home maintenance, the little things that require doing every once and a while, none of which may seem like a big deal on their own but all together they determine many things about what it’s like to live and be in your home.

One realm of this broad category is HVAC maintenance. Home HVAC maintenance is essential because these systems can only provide us with consistent and reliable cool and warm air if they are properly taken care of. Air conditioning in Austin is a part of everyday life and oftentimes a necessary thing and the last thing you want to happen is an air conditioner breakdown in the middle of the summer. The thing is, breakdowns aren’t exactly random. The possibility of your air conditioner breaking down can be greatly reduced if you take time and care to maintain your HVAC system, which is why in this tip of the day we’re going to run down some tips on how to do exactly that to improve your Austin air conditioning experience.

Be Proactive

The number one tip that one can follow to minimize their risk of experiencing an HVAC breakdown and requiring potentially expensive repairs is to schedule professional maintenance checks before problems arise, to keep problems at a bay.

Most recommended that you have both your furnace and air conditioner checked by a professional twice a year, once before the start of the summer season, and once before the start of the winter season. Once a year is acceptable but there are plenty of reasons why twice a year is preferable. One is that there are different reasons why furnaces might benefit from a check-up both before and after their season of most use, and the same goes for the air conditioner. Before it starts to get cold, you want to have your furnace looked at to make sure it is ready for the heavy use it is about to get and after its season of use having it looked at again to make sure no problems developed over the cold season will ensure that it will work at its best again come the next winter.

The same goes for the air conditioner. Before the summer it’s good to have it looked at to make sure it’s in the best shape possible to go through a rigorous and long summer use period. Afterward, having it looked at again to make sure it stays healthy while dormant and didn’t experience any significant but unseen problems over the summer is a good idea.

Unfortunately, many people tend to neglect their HVAC unit and do not pay any attention to it until a problem arises. Whether the air stops blowing through your vents, the temperature coming out isn’t cooled or loud noises have started to come from your unit when it is switched on, these could all have been easily avoided had you scheduled regular maintenance checkups on your HVAC unit. Do not wait for your unit to break down to give it the attention it so badly needs in order to survive the fast-approaching stifling temperatures of summer. Spring is already here and before you know it you will be battling one hundred degrees plus weather outside. It is these times of the year when you depend on your HVAC unit the most, but you should always pay special attention to the condition of your HVAC unit no matter what time of the year it is. Throughout the cooler months, it is important to still have regular maintenance checkups on your unit to ensure that it’s ready to work its hardest for you this coming spring and summer.

Change Your Air Filters

The air filters in your home are the single most important HVAC-related regular maintenance task that you can do yourself. Like getting your oil change and going to the dentist, changing your air filters is a seemingly banal task that makes all the difference in the world if you neglect it. So make it a very regular part of your life. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to see how often you should be changing your air filters. Many need to be changed once a month to work at peak efficiency and others need only every other month or three to be changed.

There is one maintenance task that homeowners can and should do on their own: change their HVAC filter. This air filter, which comes standard with your cooling system, is designed to protect the inside components of that system. If it becomes clogged it can create obstructions for your airflow and disrupt other components of your HVAC system as well. Dirty or clogged air filters reduce airflow, making a furnace or air conditioner work harder to circulate. In some cases, a clogged filter may damage the limit switch, which controls the fan.

Your lifestyle might also make a difference in how often you should consider checking and changing your air filter. For example, if you have excessive contaminants in your homes such as pet dander or cigarette smoke, your filter should be changed monthly. Otherwise, you may be able to get away with performing this task once every three months.

A Clean House Means Clean HVAC

Your HVAC system and the rest of your house as a whole are intricately connected. This means that what’s good for your house is good for your HVAC and vis versa. Keeping your house clean is an excellent way to make sure your HVAC systems have the best chance possible of lasting a long time and requiring fewer repairs.

In addition to checking the filters in your heating and air conditioning systems to make sure they are clean and unobstructed, homeowners should pay careful attention to keeping their house clean, and not just to keep on your mother-in-law’s good side. According to the National Association of Home Builders, “dust and dirt, if allowed to accumulate, can harm the finishes on blinds, cabinets, countertops, floors, sinks, tubs, toilets, walls, tiles and other items. If dirt does accumulate, make sure to clean it with a substance that does not scratch or damage the finishes.” The outside of your house should be checked on a regular basis to make sure that gutters and downspouts aren't clogged, window sills are caulked and the errant sprinkler isn’t showering your home.

Also, make sure there is enough space around your outdoor unit that is clear of any debris such as leaves or toys or anything that could potentially mess with the air conditioning unit. There needs to be at least a two-foot radius around the air conditioner that is clear of anything but grass ideally. If you have pets or small children, it might be worth it to invest in a small barrier that can keep them from getting into or disrupting the delicate inner parts of the air conditioner’s outdoor unit.

Cleaning the Unit Itself

Besides just keeping your home clean, you can also apply this habit to your HVAC system itself by doing some basic maintenance and cleaning tasks that are fairly easy to pick up even with the most basic of home maintenance skills. There are many reasons why having your HVAC system tended to by a professional once or twice a year is absolutely essential but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some of these tasks you can apply directly yourself in between these checkups.

The first step when dealing directly with your HVAC unit is to turn all the power to it off so you don’t hurt yourself. On the exterior condenser/compressor, look for an exterior shut-off box near the unit. Indoors, also turn the power off at the breaker box to ensure that no power is going to the unit.

Next, you’ll want to do some cleaning on the outdoor unit. First, remove the fan cage. Using a screwdriver or wrench, remove the fasteners and lift the cage or fan grill away from the top of the unit. By hand, or with a wet/dry vacuum, clean leaves and other debris from the interior. With a strong stream from a garden hose, spray through the fins from the inside out to blast any built-up dirt or debris from between them. Never use a pressure washer, since the pressure can damage the fins. If the fins are particularly dirty, use a commercially available fin cleaning spray which you can find at a home improvement store.

Next pay attention to the fins themselves. Since any reduction in air-flow through the fins can reduce efficiency, carefully straighten bent fins using a butter knife or commercially available fin-straightening tool. Be gentle so that the tubing embedded within the fins is not damaged. Once finished with the cleaning, replace the fan cage.

Now it’s time to move inside. On the inside unit, find the evaporator coil door. You may need to remove some foil duct tape and take out a few screws or bolts. Inside, use a soft brush to dust off the coil, then spray the coil with commercially available no-rinse coil cleaner. The spray will foam up and then drip into the drain pan. Clean out the drain pan with soap, hot water, and a little bleach. Then, pour a cup of half bleach and half water down the drain. To keep the drain clear longer-term, place a commercially available drain pan tablet in the pan. This will inhibit future algae growth.

Home Maintenance and Air Conditioning Repair in Austin

Home maintenance is an important part of being a homeowner. If you want to make sure your air conditioner and furnace have the best chance possible of having long lifespans and staying as energy efficient as possible, it is essential that you consider them when making a home maintenance routine. There are many ways to do this. Some of the things worth considering are touched on above.

But most of all the best thing you can do to ensure your HVAC system experiences a few break downs as possible is scheduling regular maintenance checks with a trusted contractor. AC Express is an Austin AC repair company that does everything from new unit installation to regular AC and heater maintenance checks. We operate all across the Austin area including everything from Cedar Park and Georgetown to Lago Vista and Liberty Hill. If you need AC repair in Austin, even same-day AC repair, look no further. Call today!