You know your HVAC system requires regular maintenance, whether it’s because you installed a new system or have seen the ads. How often should you have your system maintained, and what does it include? Understanding the why and how behind these tasks makes it easier to make this a priority every year.
How Your System Works
To start understanding why your system needs regular maintenance, it’s important to first understand the basics of how it works. In a single state, it operates on the simple premise of circulating air through your home and your system.
When your system is operating at peak efficiency, it easily draws air into your system through the return vents. It then moves this air through the system, heats or cools it, and then pushes it back out into your home. The process of drawing air in and pushing air out helps the air in your home circulate.
The first major issue you can have with your system, regardless of whether you are heating or cooling, is an airflow restriction. These restrictions can happen in a number of places in the system.
The goal is to keep your system working as close to peak efficiency as possible. This both keeps your heating and cooling bills low. It also reduces the overall repair costs and helps extend the service life of your furnace.
Why Your System Needs Maintenance
Your system works itself into needing maintenance just by operating regularly. First, as it circulates air, contaminants that make their way past your filter will settle on your evaporator coil, heat exchanger and circulating fan. As these contaminants collect, they restrict proper airflow through your system.
Further, your system works with a number of motors, which create a lot of vibration as they spin. This vibration eventually loosens some mounting bolts and screws in the system.
When you have airflow restrictions or loose parts, the result is ultimately the same: increased electrical resistance. This increased resistance creates additional heat in sensitive areas of your furnace.
When you have electrical components that experience additional heat, it makes connections brittle and causes wires to wear. If the resistance is enough, some components may burn out or create shorts.
The goal of regular maintenance is to reduce the extra resistance in your system by catching the causes early. By completing a series of preventive maintenance tasks and cleaning, your technician helps your system run smoothly and efficiently.
Ideally, you should have your system maintained twice annually. During each visit, your technician will perform some common preventative, inspection and cleaning tasks. However, each visit will also have some tasks specific to the season.
Preventative tasks are a bulk of what a properly trained technician will focus on during a regular maintenance visit.
One of our technicians will check the mounting bolts and screws on your circulating and induction motors. These will loosen over time from the vibration of normal operation.
A technician will also lubricate the bearings in the circulating fan motor. If these are not properly lubricated, they will eventually wear and cause the motor to seize.
The fan is also a wheel, and like the wheel on your car, it needs to be balanced. If it is off-balance, it causes extra wear on the motor and increases the resistance in the electrical components. All of this leads to premature motor failure.
While technicians are working on your system, they will be inspecting the unit as well. Mechanical and electrical parts will eventually fail, and they usually give early warning signs when they do. When you can detect them early, you reduce the strain on your system and the broader impacts of a failing component.
Our technicians will inspect the wiring and electrical components, including the control board. During this inspection, they will be looking for melted insulation and singe marks. These indicate a problem with either arcing or a short.
They will also test components like capacitors to ensure they’re working properly. If a capacitor is failing, you may experience issues with your circulating fan starting consistently.
The circulating fan wheel is also something to pay attention to in order to replace it if it becomes damaged. There are additional components specific to the two maintenance visits our technicians will also inspect, detailed below.
In order to keep air moving through your system freely, you have to continue areas that collect airborne contaminants. Our technicians will clean these areas during their visit.
During both visits, our technicians will also clean the circulating fan wheel. This ensures it will move the maximum amount of air while it spins.
Additionally, they will clean your heat exchanger, which allows the air to be heated correctly. When contaminants collect on the exchanger, it will produce a slight burning smell when it first lights up.
Another common area to collect airborne contaminants is the evaporator coil. This is what cools your air in the summer. The evaporator coil does not warm up like the heat exchanger; it will not naturally resolve itself.
Lastly, our technicians will check your condensate drain. As your system runs, it will produce condensation, whether it is the heat or air conditioning. This condensation drips down and collects in a drip pan. That pan then has a pipe to allow the condensation to drain off.
While the condensation collects, it will also pick up small metal particles and dirt. This will cause your system to trip and stop running to prevent damage.
During spring maintenance, our technicians will want to ensure your system is ready to run for the summer. They will inspect your compressor, condenser and the area around your outside unit. They will also clean the outside of your unit and ensure it is clear of debris that may restrict airflow.
In addition, they will check your refrigerant level and offer to recharge your system if needed. A system with too little refrigerant is prone to freezing, which damages the compressor.
During your fall maintenance, the focus is primarily on your heating system. A major part of this visit is the inspection of your furnace burners and heat exchanger. If your exchanger is cracked, you’re more prone to having a carbon monoxide issue. So, ensure it is solid before you light it off for the year.
Another important area to check for your furnace is the gas flow to your system. Your regulator, igniter and heat sensor can all malfunction. When they do, they cut the fuel flow to your system. You want to find these issues before the winter season arrives.
Beltway Air Conditioning & Heating offers trusted HVAC services to Hanover, MD, residents and residents in the surrounding area. Our team provides heating and air conditioning installation, maintenance and repair services. We also have expertise in indoor air quality to help you breathe more easily and keep your system clean of contaminants.