HVAC systems, better known as air conditioning and heating systems, warm and cool our homes, so it can be incredibly stressful if a unit stops working — especially on a scorching day. Regular maintenance and tune-ups keep your systems operational, improve longevity, and make your home more energy efficient.
Despite the systems’ complexities, you can perform many HVAC tune-ups and solutions on your own, so long as you have the right tools and follow the appropriate steps. From cleaning your condenser coils, to troubleshooting ice buildup, there are all kinds of ways to keep your HVAC units in top shape.
How To Change Your Air Filter
HVAC filters should be changed every one to two months for your air quality and health. Fortunately, this process is relatively simple and rarely requires a technician’s help.
- Turn off your HVAC unit to be sure the machine doesn’t pick up any air during the process. Remove power using the breaker if the unit won’t turn off.
- Locate your filter, which you can usually find either along the ductwork, under the air register grille, or at the bottom of your HVAC unit. However, every model is different, so filter locations vary. When in doubt, check your owner’s manual.
- Remove the filter cover. Some HVAC units feature access panels over their filters, while others secure them using screws or other mechanisms. Whatever the case, carefully remove the cover or other apparatus and set it aside. Be sure not to strip the screws or bend the panels so you can reinstall them later.
- Remove the air filter. Your air filter should slide seamlessly out of its slot. Pay attention to the filter’s orientation as you remove it so you know which direction to install the replacement. Take care to keep any buildup on your old air filter away from you or your home as you dispose of it, since it’s likely to contain pollutants and contaminants.
- Line up the new filter facing the same direction as the previous one. Most filters feature arrows on the side that should point in the direction of airflow. Double-check your owner’s manual if you’re unsure which way the filter should face.
- Insert the filter by sliding it into the open slot. Then, turn your HVAC unit back on to check that everything works.
The most important factor in changing your air filter is its orientation. Filters installed backward allow significantly less airflow, impacting your air quality and energy bill. After double-checking the specifications, consider writing the filter’s direction and dimensions on your HVAC unit with a marker to help you next time.
How To Clean Your Coils
HVAC condenser and evaporator coils absorb and exchange temperatures inside and outside your HVAC unit. Unfortunately, dust, dirt, and other buildup can impair these functions, so knowing how to clean your HVAC coils is important for the best performance.
- Turn off your HVAC unit. Since you will be working with conductive metals, the safest option is to turn off the breaker.
- Locate the coils. Condenser coils are usually found across from the service panel on outdoor AC units, while evaporator coil locations vary across different indoor units. Check your owner’s manual for specific locations.
- Remove the protective covers. Use a screwdriver or drill to detach screws and plates without stripping or losing them in the process. Some AC models may need you to remove the condenser fan or other components to reach the coils. Consult the owner’s manual or contact a qualified technician if you have any concerns.
- Remove debris around the coil, along the protective cover, and within the HVAC unit. Using gloves, clear away any larger contaminants such as leaves, grass, dirt, and webs. Then, use a vacuum or another tool to safely remove the dirt and debris you couldn’t reach by hand, specifically along the bottom of the compartment.
- Spray cleaner along the coil and inside the opened compartment using a dependable foaming coil cleaner. Use a flashlight to spot any fins or corners that are particularly dirty. Once everything is covered, let the foam sit for several minutes (unless the cleaner instructions specify otherwise).
- Spray the coils and HVAC unit with water. Start by hosing down the inside compartment, keeping your sprayer on wide, low-power settings to prevent damage. Once all foam has been removed, spray the outside of the HVAC unit to remove any leftover debris before reassembling it.
Condenser coils are incredibly fragile, so be extra careful when cleaning them. Avoid physically touching the coils as much as possible, and don’t attempt to clean any HVAC units you feel you might break. Hiring a technician to maintain the coils will almost always be cheaper than replacing them.
How To Defrost Your Freezer
High-quality AC units get cold fast — sometimes too fast. Ice and frost may build up along your AC’s edges and vents, usually indicating a more serious problem requiring immediate attention. Never let your AC keep running if you notice ice buildup, as leaving it risks damage and other problems.
- Turn off your HVAC unit by turning the thermostat from “cool” to “off” as soon as you spot the problem. Do not turn the unit off using the breaker for this repair.
- Turn on the thermostat fan while keeping the rest of the unit off. This will increase the warm air spread throughout the AC, particularly on hot days. Keep the fan on until the ice has dissipated, and ensure it doesn’t turn off automatically under your unit settings.
- Check the HVAC unit for defects, such as dirty coils, clogged air filters, or improper refrigerant levels. Ice on your AC is rarely an isolated issue, so be prepared to transition into another repair.
- Monitor the unit after completing maintenance to check for further ice buildup, especially on days when it’s overworked. Reach out to a home maintenance service provider if problems persist.
How To Check Your Refrigerant Levels
Refrigerant travels through nearly the entirety of your HVAC unit, absorbing and releasing temperatures to spread cool air. Low or leaking refrigerant could cause your AC to draw more power, produce less cold air, and create permanent defects.
Like oil in a car, refrigerant levels are essential to the efficiency of your AC and should be checked frequently. You will need a dependable refrigerant slider and digital thermometer to complete this check.
- Check for warning signs that your refrigerant levels are low, such as ice buildup, unusual noises, decreased air quality, and spikes in your power bill. Make a habit of checking for these problems frequently to catch problems before they become serious.
- Double-check your unit specifications, such as the necessary type of refrigerant and levels. This information can usually be found in your owner’s manual or on the AC’s type plate.
- Inspect the refrigerant pressure using the AC’s pressure gauges. Check if the current pressure levels are higher or lower than the desired point for your unit. Additionally, check the discharge pressure and any other gauges that may be out of place. If your unit does not have pressure gauges, consult your owner’s manual for alternate steps.
- Troubleshoot problems using a refrigerant slider and digital thermometer. Specifically, take readings of evaporation, condensation, and refrigerant temperature levels. Use the slider’s “dew” settings for evaporation and “bubble” settings for condensation. For temperature, use the slider and thermometer during the unit’s sub-cooling and sub-heating processes to record the most accurate results. Compare these results to the unit’s specifications you found earlier to pinpoint the issue.
- Contact a home maintenance service provider to perform maintenance on your AC unit. While you can check the levels yourself, fixing leaks and refilling refrigerant are complex processes that should be left to qualified technicians. If you can’t identify any leaks or irregular levels but problems still persist, a service provider can guide you to the best solution.
How To Schedule an Annual HVAC Tune-Up
HVAC tune-ups should be performed every six to twelve months for your systems’ best efficiency and longevity. These tune-ups correct minor issues and ensure everything is operational.
- Create reminders so you never forget to schedule an HVAC tune-up. You can use your smartphone’s reminder settings or a dedicated maintenance app like HomeKeep. To be as proactive as possible, set new reminders after every tune-up and HVAC installation.
- Search for a dependable home maintenance service provider by asking for recommendations, searching online, or using a home maintenance app. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, thoroughly assess each technician’s reviews and experiences to determine the right choice for you.
- Contact the HVAC technician. While phone calls are generally the best way to reach out, some HVAC service providers may prefer text or email to maintain a paper trail. If you do call, be prepared to leave a detailed voicemail specifying the problem, model information, and availability to reduce callback questions.
HVAC Tune-Ups and Solutions
Like most technology, HVAC systems are complicated. A hissing noise could mean improper refrigerant levels, a clogged air filter, or structural issues beyond your maintenance abilities. Since questions about HVAC maintenance rarely have simple answers, it’s crucial to have dependable home maintenance resources and services like HomeKeep in your back pocket.
HomeKeep is a comprehensive home maintenance solution that provides HVAC tips, troubleshooting strategies, unit information, reminders, and other resources for maintaining your home appliances. In some states, the app even lets you schedule in-home maintenance services. This way, when something goes wrong, you can quickly schedule a service appointment with a qualified technician without wasting time combing through pages of reviews and ratings.
Create a HomeKeep account and browse our personalized plans to get started today.