Many homeowners close vents in rooms they do not use to save energy costs. However, this actually causes the system to work harder and reduces its efficiency.
Maintain the area around your HVAC unit by removing trash, toys and other debris from around it. Additionally, keep shrubs and plants two feet away from the outdoor unit to allow for proper airflow.
1. Check Your Filters
One of the best things you can do to ensure your HVAC system runs efficiently is to check and replace your filters regularly. Dirty filters restrict airflow and cause the equipment to overwork, reducing its efficiency. They also make your home less comfortable and may lead to expensive repair bills in the future.
In order to change your filter, you need to turn off your unit. This can be done by flipping the switch on your thermostat, or by turning off the circuit breaker that powers your unit. Then, you need to locate your filter. This is usually located in either a return duct, or in the air handler cabinet (located in an attic, basement or utility closet). Once you find the filter, you need to open the grille or cover that holds it. You may need a screwdriver to remove the screws that hold it.
Once you have the air filter in hand, you need to look at it closely. Many of them are directional, with an arrow or airflow symbol on the side that indicates the direction that air is meant to flow through it. If your filter has an arrow, make sure that the arrow is pointing towards your furnace or air handler.
You should check and change your filter every 1 to 3 months. This will minimize dust and other contaminants in your home, and it will help reduce energy consumption. It’s a good idea to mark this task on your calendar, or even use your programmable thermostat to remind you to do it.
You should also be sure to keep the area around your filter clear. Don’t store paint, gasoline, rags or any other flammable materials near it. Finally, make sure that shrubs and other landscaping plants are well away from the outdoor unit. This will prevent them from causing blockages or overgrowth that can interfere with the ventilation system.
2. Clean the Coils
Coils are the heart of your AC unit and they are one of the most important components to keep clean. Dirty coils will lead to system failure and increase energy costs. Regular cleaning will prevent ice from forming on the coil surface and preventing proper heat absorption. Investing in an evaporator coil cleaning program will extend the life of your equipment, saving you money over time.
During the cooling season, the air blowing over the coils will carry with it dust, hair, microorganisms, and other debris that can settle on the evaporator coil. When the evaporator coil is covered in a layer of organic material, it inhibits the proper absorption of heat, causing the temperature on the evaporator to drop excessively and creating ice.
Regular cleaning of the evaporator coil prevents these problems and increases the efficiency of your system. It also helps prevent the evaporator from overheating, which can damage it or cause it to fail. Overheating can lead to costly repairs, replacements, and lost productivity.
To perform a coil cleaning, first shut off power to the unit and put on any safety gear you might need. Then remove the access panel by unscrewing the screws or bolts holding it in place. Then take a brush to remove any large pieces of dirt or debris and a coil cleaner. Apply the cleaner and follow the instructions on the label. When you are done, rinse the coils with water and let them dry before putting the cover back on.
It is also a good idea to regularly sweep the area around the unit and ensure that it is free of grass, leaves, sticks, and any other debris. If there is any obstruction, it will restrict the airflow and make the system work harder, decreasing efficiency and increasing energy costs. In addition, obstructive debris can lead to the compressor overheating, resulting in expensive system repairs or replacements. To prevent this, it is a good idea to have an annual sweeping done by professionals. They will remove any large debris and ensure that all the small dirt particles are removed as well.
3. Clean the Condenser
The condenser is the outdoor component of your HVAC system that works in conjunction with the evaporator coil to remove heat from your home. Like all components of your AC, it needs to be cleaned regularly to function properly. Fortunately, cleaning the condenser is an easy DIY task that will help ensure your system functions at peak performance all year round.
Before you begin cleaning, turn off power to your condenser unit. This will protect motors and electrical parts from oversaturation that can damage them. Also, place a tarp or protective cover over the unit to prevent grit and debris from falling into it.
First, locate the condenser coils and fan. On newer units, these are usually in the front on the bottom or at the top. Older models may have the coils on the back. Check your owner’s manual for specifics on how to identify them. Then, use a brush to remove any dirt or dust on the coils and fan. If the coils are clogged with grease, you can clean them off using an OEM-recommended degreaser. Just make sure you follow the instructions carefully to avoid damaging your unit.
Once the coils are free of debris, you should hose them down. Make sure to spray the outside of the coils and fan as well as the inside rows of tubes. You can also use a flashlight to shine light through the coils to see if any insulating dust is present.
When you are done hosing the coils down, you can remove any leaves or other debris that has found its way into the unit. You can also clean the fins (the small metal prongs that protect the coil) with a hose, using care not to stretch or bend them. A special tool called a fin comb can help straighten the fins, allowing the coil to be cooler and more efficient.
You should also be sure to keep your air vents open. Many homeowners close them in rooms they don’t use in order to save energy, but this actually makes the system work harder. The air must travel farther to reach those unoccupied rooms, and it is harder for the system to distribute that air evenly throughout the home.
4. Clean the Ductwork
Whenever the air conditioner runs, it also circulates air through the house’s ductwork. As the air moves, it carries dust particles, pet dander, volatile chemicals, carbon monoxide, mildew spores and other pollutants. These contaminants are then recirculated throughout the home over and over, impacting indoor air quality. In turn, these pollutants can trigger asthma and allergies, cause sinus problems and trigger a range of other illnesses. Cleaning the ductwork regularly will prevent the accumulation of pollutants, improve indoor air quality and keep family members healthy.
You can DIY clean the ductwork to some extent, although it’s best left to professional duct cleaners to do a thorough job. Regardless of who performs the task, it’s vital to wear protective gear, including eye protection and a dust mask. In addition, you’ll need a brush, a vacuum cleaner with a dust brush attachment, a screwdriver (for opening wall and ceiling vents) and a step-stool.
To start, turn off the HVAC system at the thermostat or by shutting off the circuit breaker. Remove supply vent covers and cover other vents with paper towels to prevent blowing dust from escaping while you work.
Use the brush to remove dust and dirt from inside the duct. If there’s a lot of buildup, you may need to use a screwdriver to remove the vent from the wall or floor. After you’ve removed the vent, use the vacuum cleaner hose with the dust brush attachment to vacuum all the remaining dust inside the vent.
Once the ductwork is cleaned, wipe down the vent and the surrounding wall or floor with a cloth that’s been slightly dampened with warm soapy water. Rinse and change the cloth as needed. When you’re finished, put the vent cover back in place and run your system for 30 minutes to filter out any extra dust loosened during cleaning.
It’s a good idea to clean the ductwork periodically, at least once every two years. This will help keep your HVAC system operating efficiently and reduce energy bills. It’s also a good idea to clean the ductwork after major repairs or if you undertake a home remodeling project that creates lots of dust.