HVAC Maintenance: A Guide For Beginners
HVAC Units are the heart of comfortability in homes, apartments, townhomes, and businesses. Just like a heart, it requires regular maintenance to perform at its peak capabilities and keep a building at the desired temperature. Regular maintenance has also been proven to save you tons of money by avoiding a slew of potential breakdowns. Keeping your home at a comfortable temperature is a must here in Georgia as the summers can be extremely hot and uncomfortable.
Let’s dive into the basics of HVAC maintenance and steps you can take to keep your unit running smoothly and when it is time to call the professionals.
How an Air Conditioner Works
Think of your central A/C unit as essentially a giant refrigerator but on a much larger scale. There are seven main parts of every HVAC unit. It starts with the evaporator bringing in outside air which the cooling coils remove heat and humidity from the air using refrigerant. The blower circulates the air over the evaporator dispersing the cool air throughout the building. The condenser releases the collected heat into the outside air. A compressor pumps the refrigerant between the evaporator and the condenser to chill the indoor air. Your Unit’s main fan help to push heat out by blowing air over the condenser and then outside. The filter removes dirt and debris from the air in the system to keep the inside air clean. The final piece of the puzzle is the thermostat located within your home to set the desired temperature.
Why does my HVAC unit need maintenance?
Like almost every type of machine, regular maintenance is an important part of keeping your A/C unit running smoothly over the years. By taking a proactive approach you can effectively extend the life of your central air unit and almost diminish the possibility of potential breakdowns saving you tons of money on repairs. So what are the steps to maintaining a healthy HVAC unit?
Let’s talk about it down below.
Turning off the Power
For some of the steps below, you will need to clean parts of your outdoor unit which produce a lot of electricity. In order to clean it safely, you will want to shut off the power at the breaker box in your home. Normally the switches are labeled so find the one the is marked as your AC unit or test them one by one until your HVAC unit loses power. Simply mark it and now you know exactly which switch to flip when it’s time for maintenance.
Cleaning Evaporator Coils
These coils play a major part in keeping your home cool as they remove heat and humidity from the air but removing the humidity can cause them to become saturated with moisture which is a breeding ground for mold, mildew, and make it sticky for dust and debris. The best way to clean them is using compressed air after the unit is powered off and given a little bit of time to dry out. You can also use a brush if you don’t have access to compressed air. Just be careful to avoid blowing or brushing dirt and debris into the ducts or your home. We recommend eye protection to keep the debris out of your eyes.
Unclogging The Condensate Drain
The moisture from the evaporator coil has to exit the unit somehow right? That’s where the condensate drain comes in as it removes all of that excess moisture from inside the unit and drains it outside. This is actually one of the most common reasons we are called as all of the moisture eventually can lead to blockages in the drain from mold, mildew, debris, etc. If you want to do it at home you will need rags, a shop vac, and some distilled vinegar or water, and a little dish soap. A simple breakdown is to find the drain pipe and wipe up or use the shop vac to remove excess water. From there you the vacuum on the pipe to suck and blockages out. Once the clog has been sucked out you will want to find the drain access point and pour the vinegar or soap and water mixture down the pipe and let it sit for 30 minutes to break up the rest of the debris. Then flush the pipe with water and make sure it is draining properly and you will be good to go. We will be adding a full in-depth guide on this at a later date.
Changing your AC Filter
When dust and debris are pulled into the main unit, the filters are what keeps the dirt from entering your home. You might also have one inside your home if you have a central air return as it keeps dust in your house from recirculating. Replacing these is a fairly straightforward process and is normally carried out by the homeowner. Simply locate the filters on your system and match them with a replacement and then swap them out.
When should you call an HVAC Professional?
We have gone over a lot of the basic maintenance required to keep an A/C unit running smoothly. While most of these can be done they are often very time-consuming and can be dangerous if not done properly. The best time to call a pro is if you are uncomfortable with hands-on work with your HVAC unit or don’t have the time to handle it. Technicians also have a lot more training and can identify any underlying issues that you might not be able to spot.