Even though they perform a simple task– heating and cooling your home, HVAC units are complex systems. They have many electrical and mechanical components that can wear down, lose efficiency, or break if you don’t correctly service them.
Compare HVAC service to maintenance you need for your car– you’ll need oil changes, brake service, new belts, and other services over the lifetime of your vehicle. Although services for your air conditioner, furnace, and heat pump are different, you need to keep up with their maintenance too. Otherwise, your HVAC system can fail and cost you lots of money.
To learn exactly how often, when, and why you should service your HVAC, continue reading our extensive guide!
How Often Should You Service Your HVAC Unit?
Homeowners should service their HVAC unit at least once per year. If you have both a furnace and an air conditioner, that means you will have service for each of them (but at different times of the year).
If you have a heat pump, we recommend servicing it twice a year. Since it runs all year long through the scorching heat and frigid winters, it’s best to do more frequent maintenance to prevent issues and break-downs.
The Best Time to Schedule HVAC Maintenance
The best time to schedule service for your HVAC system depends on the type of system(s) in your home.
Almost all HVAC professionals recommend servicing a central air conditioning unit in the spring.
Spring is recommended because the temperatures are still mild but warm enough for you actually to run the AC system and test it out. Ideally, you shouldn’t wait until the middle of summer and risk having no AC during the hottest days of the season.
Like air conditioners, you shouldn’t wait to complete furnace maintenance until you need heating the most. In this case, you’ll want to service your furnace before winter, during the fall.
During the fall, outdoor temperatures will be mild but not yet catastrophically cold. However, some days and nights will be cold enough where you’ll need your furnace and will be able to monitor its performance.
Heat pumps work similarly to air conditioners – they use liquid refrigerant to move heat from one location to another. However, AC units can only remove heat from your home. Heat pumps can do that too, but they can also operate in reverse to remove heat from the outdoors and warm your home.
As such, they usually run all year – in cooling mode during the summer and heating mode during the cold months. Since they experience wear and tear all year round, we recommend servicing them about every six months.
The best time for heat pump maintenance is in the spring and fall, just like AC units and furnaces, respectively.
Why You Shouldn’t Avoid Routine HVAC Maintenance
You shouldn’t skip the routine maintenance for your HVAC system. Sure, you’ll be saving a little bit of cash now, but later on, you might get hit with a hefty repair cost that you could have side-step altogether with maintenance.
If you never perform maintenance on your HVAC system, it could lead to equipment failure, which means you may not have heating or cooling until you repair it.
Obviously, repairs cost money, and trust us- repairs will almost always cost more than routine maintenance, sometimes thousands more.
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How Much Does HVAC Maintenance Cost?
On average, routine HVAC maintenance costs between $80 to $250 per visit. So if you have your AC unit and furnace serviced at separate times, you will pay for both service calls.
However, many HVAC companies provide discounted bundles that will save you money and prevent you from missing a service visit by scheduling it in advance.
What Does HVAC Maintenance Involve?
HVAC maintenance has many steps, which an experienced HVAC can knock out in one to two hours. They’ll follow a checklist of maintenance tasks, but they will generally clean filters, coils, and other components and ensure every major piece is working correctly.
The type of HVAC maintenance differs depending on the equipment being serviced.
Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps
Most air conditioner and heat pump maintenance tasks are the same, besides a few more checkers for a heat pump. The most common time for AC unit and heat pump maintenance occurs during April and May, with heat pumps having another service visit in September or October.
During a service visit, the HVAC technician will test the following:
- Proper temperature differential between supply and return vents
- Check refrigerant levels (and for leaks if it is low)
- Verify blower and compressor operation
- Check for adequate airflow
- Clean evaporator and condenser coils
- Check belts
- Oil moving parts
- Test thermal expansion valve
- Ensure reversing valve responds correctly (heat pumps only)
While the HVAC technician inspects your air conditioner or heat pump, they will note anything that requires a repair now or soon in the future.
Combustion furnaces are the most common type of residential furnaces. The main focus of furnace maintenance is on the heating elements themselves. Here are the main areas an HVAC technician will focus on when performing service on your furnace:
- Verify adequate airflow
- Verify proper supply temperature
- Ensure accurate thermostat control
- Inspect flame sensor (clean if needed)
- Inspect burner and pilot light
- Clean filter
- Check flue
- Test pressure switches and solenoids
- Check blower motor and lubricate
- Inspect humidifier (if applicable)
The HVAC technician that services your furnace will spend some time inspecting the flue and testing for carbon monoxide (CO) and gas leaks too.
What HVAC Maintenance Should a Homeowner Do?
Between service visits, homeowners should do some light routine maintenance themselves too.
The main thing you should stay on top of is ensuring your filter is clean. Between service visits, homeowners should do some light routine maintenance themselves too. As a general rule of thumb, you should switch out your HVAC filter every six months.
Note: Depending on your type of filter, you might change it more or less frequently. You can check it monthly to see if it’s dirty or clogged. Keep up with vacuuming your home if you have pets since excess hair will quickly lead to a clogged filter.
Besides changing the filter, homeowners should routinely inspect their HVAC equipment. You can do simple checks – make sure it reaches your thermostat’s setpoint, look for leaks, listen for new troublesome sounds, and keep an eye on the cleanliness of the outdoor unit.
Save Time and Money with HVAC Maintenance
Heating and cooling systems are complex electrical and mechanical devices. Unless you’re an experienced HVAC technician or an expert repair person, we don’t recommend servicing your HVAC system on your own.
HVAC technicians have experience and training that tells them when/what/where, and how often to inspect, repair, or replace specific components. Plus, they know every major brand’s equipment. As such, testing and servicing of their complex components are best left to the pros.
If you service your HVAC system yourself and you don’t know what you’re doing, there is a high chance you’ll do something wrong or overlook something critical. In that case, your good and frugal intentions can lead to equipment failures which will cost you more money in the end.
So, if you need service for your air conditioner, heat pump, or furnace, we recommend you get in touch with our knowledgeable and experienced HVAC partners. Fill out our form to get in touch with an HVAC professional today!
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