As much as half of the energy used in your home goes to heating and cooling, so making smart decisions about your home’s heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) system can have a big effect on your utility bills and your comfort, according to Energy Star, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency voluntary program that helps businesses and individuals save money and protect our climate through superior energy efficiency.
That’s why caring for your HVAC system is an important step to help avoid costly repairs or complete breakdowns at inopportune times, such as when everyone’s over for a holiday dinner. A cleaned, lubricated, and properly adjusted furnace runs more efficiently and uses less energy, and furnace manufacturers typically include language in their product warranties requiring proper maintenance to ensure coverage. Most importantly, an improperly working system could be a safety hazard.
Energy Star says a typical maintenance check-up should include the following:
- Checking thermostat settings to ensure the cooling and heating system keeps you comfortable when you are home and saves energy while you are away.
- Tightening all electrical connections and measuring voltage and current on motors. Faulty electrical connections can cause unsafe operation of your system and reduce the life of major components.
- Lubricating all moving parts to prevent friction in motors, which increases the amount of electricity you use.
- Checking and inspecting the condensate drain in your central air conditioner, furnace and/or heat pump (when in cooling mode). A plugged drain can cause water damage in the house and affect indoor humidity levels.
- Checking controls of the system to ensure proper and safe operation, and checking the starting cycle of the equipment to ensure the system starts, operates, and shuts off properly.
- Checking all gas (or oil) connections, gas pressure, burner combustion and heat exchanger. Improperly operating gas (or oil) connections are a fire hazard and can contribute to health problems. A dirty burner or cracked heat exchanger causes improper burner operation. Either can cause the equipment to operate less safely and efficiently.
DIY maintenance includes inspecting, cleaning, or changing air filters once a month in your furnace and/or heat pump—ask your HVAC contractor to show you how if you don’t already know. A dirty filter can increase energy costs and damage your equipment, leading to early failure.
If it’s time to replace your equipment, ask neighbors, friends, and family for HVAC contractor recommendations. Check the status of the contractor’s license with the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) before you hire at www.cslb.ca.gov. And don’t be pressured into buying a new system, especially if it’s unnecessary. CSLB has issued warnings about upselling scams. Before replacing your system, read CSLB’s guidelines.
For more tips on how to heat and cool efficiently, visit https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=heat_cool.pr_hvac.