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HVAC Maintenance Tips to Keep Your System Running All Year Long

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As homeowners, it is important to maintain the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system in our homes to ensure it is functioning efficiently, reliably, and safely. Regular HVAC maintenance not only helps to prevent breakdowns and extend the lifespan of the system but also improves indoor air quality and reduces energy bills. In this guide, we will outline an HVAC maintenance timeline for the year, including monthly, seasonal, and annual tasks that homeowners should consider.

Why HVAC Preventative Maintenance is Important

Maintaining your HVAC system on a regular basis is essential for optimal performance, reliability and safety. Neglecting maintenance can lead to decreased efficiency, increased energy bills, and potential breakdowns, which can be costly to repair. Additionally, regular HVAC maintenance improves indoor air quality and prolongs the lifespan of your system, reducing your impact on the environment and supporting good causes.

HVAC Maintenance Checklist

We’ve created a convenient HVAC maintenance checklist for you to print out and use throughout the year.

Annual Timeline for HVAC Preventative Maintenance

Below are monthly, seasonal, and annual HVAC maintenance checklists for you to bookmark in your browser and refer to.

Monthly Tasks

  • Check your air filter, especially cheap filters or 1-inch filters. For a disposable filter, simply replace your old one with a fresh new one. On the other hand, if you’re using a reusable filter, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and give it an appropriate wash before reinserting it into your device. If you run your HVAC system frequently or have pets your filter needs to be checked monthly
  • Double-check all of the air registers and return air grilles in your house to make sure that they have not been closed off or blocked. Don’t close off more than 20 percent of your vents, as this can decrease airflow throughout your HVAC system and cause issues with performance or even system overheating. If needed, consider talking with a Jacobs consultant about investing in a zoning system to reduce energy waste.
  • Check to make sure the area around your heating and cooling system is clear. Never store paint, gasoline, rags, or other flammable material near your HVAC system.

Spring Tasks (March, April, May)

  • Prepare your air conditioning for the summer heat! To ensure optimal performance, you’ll ideally want to check your AC when temperatures are above 55 degrees. A tune-up now will help keep you cool all season long.
  • Check or change the HVAC filter frequently. 4-inch filters can be checked every quarter while 1-inch filters need to be checked monthly.
  • Make sure there is no debris, leaves, grass, or bushes obstructing the outdoor HVAC unit. Do not enclose your outdoor HVAC system with bushes. Leave 2-3 ft of space around the unit so it can breathe and be accessible to technicians.
  • Check for bees nest or rodents nesting in the bottom of the HVAC unit or chewing on wires.
  • Check your concrete or plastic pads. Over time they can tilt causing the unit to fail because the fan needs to be level.
  • Carefully examine your air conditioner’s drip pan and condensate drain lines for any blockages. If these parts become clogged with mold or algae, the condensation can’t exit properly. Malfunctions in the cooling system and water backups inside your home can bring about costly water damage. Make sure to take safety precautions by disconnecting the power to the system before attempting any maintenance on it. Employ a wet/dry vacuum or some rags for sopping up excess moisture from within the drip pan, or utilize mild soap if something needs cleaning. Furthermore, use that same tool to rid drain lines of clogs and blockages.
  • Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors every season. Test batteries using the unit’s TEST button. Vacuum away any dust which has accumulated on the detectors.

Summer Tasks (June, July, August)

  • Check your filter and replace or clean it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Spray down the outdoor unit. Condenser coils need to be clean to expel heat effectively. Homeowners can take their hose and from the top of the unit spray down four corners and get debris out like cottonwood fluff. Make sure that the spray is not aggressive so you don’t damage the fins. This can be done while the HVAC system is running. You may need to do this more frequently if you have a lot of trees nearby.
  • Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors every season. Test batteries using the unit’s TEST button. Vacuum away any dust which has accumulated on the detectors.

Pro Tip

If your system isn’t keeping up in over 100-degree weather help it by using a sprinkler on the outdoor unit to cool it down and make it run better.

Fall Tasks (September, October, November)

  • September is the ideal time to begin preparing for the winter season! Make sure you set up an appointment with a professional HVAC technician so your heating system can receive thorough maintenance. This includes tuning up furnaces, boilers, heat pumps and various other types of heating systems to ensure they are functioning optimally over the coming months. The technicians will also examine all components of your equipment to guarantee it runs efficiently and reliably in cold weather conditions.
  • Check your filter and replace or clean it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Check to make sure there are no debris, leaves, grass, or bushes obstructing the outdoor HVAC unit. Make sure not to store outdoor furniture in the area surrounding your outdoor HVAC unit.
  • Check to make sure the area around your heating and cooling system is clear. Never store paint, gasoline, rags, or other flammable material near your HVAC system.
  • Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors every season. Test batteries using the unit’s TEST button. Vacuum away any dust which has accumulated on the detectors.

Pro Tip

For maximum savings on energy costs, set your thermostat back 10 to 12 degrees for periods of 8 hours or more. Doing this can help you save one percent on energy costs per degree! The best times to do this are while no one is home – such as overnight or during the day when your house or workplace will be unoccupied.

Winter Tasks (December, January, February)

  • If it snows more than 4-6′ at your house, look to make sure snow isn’t crowding it.
  • Check your condensate line when the temperature drops below freezing to ensure it doesn’t freeze.
  • Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors every season. Test batteries using the unit’s TEST button. Vacuum away any dust which has accumulated on the detectors.

Annual Tasks

  • Be sure to schedule one HVAC maintenance appointment per piece of equipment each year. If you only have a furnace, have it checked in the fall. If you have a furnace and AC or air handler/heat pump, schedule maintenance twice a year. This will ensure your HVAC system is ready for winter and the cooling side is ready for summer.
  • Check your thermostat settings and make sure they are correct.
  • Examine ducts for holes, leaks, or other sources of energy loss. Check your condensate drain to ensure proper operation and prevent flooding.
  • Clean all indoor air quality components, such as filters and humidifiers, to improve air quality.

Read Next: What’s Included in an HVAC Tune-Up & Why Do I Need One?

Tips for Maintaining Your HVAC System

Here are quick tips for checking and maintaining your HVAC system:

Change filters regularly

Cleaning or replacing your air filters every 1 to 3 months can help reduce energy consumption, minimize dust and other contaminants in your indoor air, and prevent system failure due to clogged filters.

Clean the outdoor unit

Clear away debris, leaves, and branches from the outdoor unit to ensure proper airflow.

Check condensation drains

Proper drainage helps protect your HVAC system against water damage and mold growth. Regularly check condensate drains for blockages and build-up of debris.

Inspect and clean the air ducts

Have an HVAC professional clean your air ducts to remove any accumulated dust or debris, which can reduce airflow and decrease the efficiency of your system. Check ducts for holes, leaks, or other problems that can reduce airflow and cause high energy bills. Repair any damaged sections to maximize efficiency.

Check refrigerant lines

Monitor the refrigerant lines for any signs of leakage or corrosion, which can reduce efficiency.

Inspect electrical components

Carefully examine all electrical components to ensure they are working properly and not showing signs of wear or damage. If a component is damaged, it should be replaced immediately by a professional in order to prevent further damage and reduce the risk of fire or other safety hazards.

Test thermostat

Make sure your thermostat is working properly and that it is accurately measuring the temperature in the home. Check to see if any settings need to be changed or updated, such as setting a desired seasonal temperature or programming a schedule for when the system should be on or off.

Monitor the system’s performance

Keep an eye on your HVAC system’s performance throughout the year to ensure that it is functioning efficiently and effectively.

Optimize energy efficiency

Upgrade to a programmable thermostat, seal any gaps or cracks around windows and doors, use ceiling fans to circulate air, and schedule regular HVAC maintenance to reduce energy bills and prolong the lifespan of your HVAC system.

Schedule annual maintenance

Having a professional HVAC technician inspect your system annually helps to identify potential problems before they become major repairs and can extend the life of your system.

Sign up for Routine Maintenance

A regular HVAC maintenance schedule is important for preventative measures. Doing this will save you time, money, and stress in the long run. A few of the benefits that come with regularly scheduled preventative maintenance include:

  • Improved air quality
  • Increased energy efficiency
  • Reduced repair costs
  • Improved system longevity
  • Enhanced system performance

Jacobs offers HVAC maintenance agreements to Portland and Vancouver residents that provide regular, preventative care.

Common HVAC Issues & Repairs

Some of the most frequent problems that you should keep an eye on to prevent an emergency technician call:

  • Clogged air filters, leading to reduced airflow
  • Blocked condensate lines, resulting in water damage
  • Broken or faulty fans which cause uneven cooling and heating
  • Malfunctioning thermostats, leading to inefficient operation of the system
  • Refrigerant leaks and other refrigeration issues

Signs You May Need a New HVAC System

It is important to regularly monitor the performance of your HVAC system and keep an eye out for any warning signs of potential failure. Common indicators you should look for include unusual sounds, smells, or temperatures and sudden increases in energy bills. If you’re experiencing any of these issues, it may be time to consult with a professional and decide if you should replace your old HVAC system.

HVAC Maintenance FAQs

You have questions and we have answers. Here are some FAQs from homeowners that can help you make decisions about your own HVAC system’s maintenance and repair.

Is HVAC maintenance necessary?

Yes, HVAC maintenance is necessary because it helps to prevent breakdowns and extend the lifespan of your system. Regular maintenance also ensures that your system is running as efficiently as possible, which can help you save money on energy bills over time.

How often should I schedule professional HVAC maintenance?

It is recommended to schedule professional HVAC maintenance twice a year, preferably in the spring and fall. Regular maintenance helps prevent breakdowns, improves the system’s efficiency, and prolongs its lifespan.

How much is HVAC maintenance?

Preventative maintenance is the savvy homeowner’s best friend. An annual maintenance plan includes two visits and ranges from $325 and up depending on how many HVAC systems a home has, which is far less than replacing or repairing a broken system (which could be several thousand dollars). Specialty equipment repairs, such as those for boilers, oil furnaces and geothermal heat pumps, may increase that initial fee, however even these prices are much lower than what you’d pay in an emergency situation.

How can I tell if my HVAC system needs maintenance?

Signs that your HVAC system may need maintenance include unusual sounds or smells, poor indoor air quality, increased energy bills, or uneven heating or cooling throughout your home. If you notice any of these signs, it may be time to schedule a professional inspection and service.

What can I expect from HVAC maintenance?

During a maintenance visit, an HVAC technician will inspect the system, clean and lubricate moving parts, test for proper operation, check for safety issues or gas leaks, check the electrical components of the system, and alert homeowners of any parts that are showing signs of failure. The technician may also recommend additional energy-saving measures to help optimize your system’s performance.

Schedule your Next HVAC Tune-Up Today

As any homeowner knows, the comfort of your home depends on a well-functioning HVAC system. In the summer, it keeps your home cool and in the winter, it keeps your home warm. But like any mechanical system, your HVAC system needs regular care and maintenance to keep it running smoothly. Without proper care, your HVAC system will start to break down, costing you more money in repairs and ultimately shortening its lifespan.

Jacobs Heating & Air Conditioning offers a variety of HVAC maintenance plans to keep your system running efficiently and reliably. All our agreements feature Saturday service, scheduling reminders, and monthly payment options. Our repairs and service are Energy Star Compliant and meet the ACCA national standards for residential maintenance. Jacobs technicians are trained on the latest technology and equipment. They are tested and certified through North American Technician Excellence (NATE) so you never have to worry about the quality of our service.

About the Author

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Amanda Jacobs, Internal Project Manager

Amanda Jacobs is an Internal Projects Manager and 3rd generation member of Jacobs Heating & Air Conditioning. She received her MBA from Seattle University and has worked for a leading HVAC training and consulting firm. When not talking HVAC on the Jacobs Blog, you can find her on the golf course or whipping up her famous vegan chili.