When it comes to HVAC, keeping your unit well maintained nets many benefits. In addition to keeping the manufacturer’s warranty on your unit valid, routine HVAC maintenance is the best way to keep your system clean, efficient and the most effective way to prevent untimely equipment failure. We sat down with Fox Service Company’s Robert Lee and James Bagby to discuss the basics of maintaining your complex HVAC system in layman’s terms.
Keep it Clean
It’s been said that cleanliness is next to Godliness, and the same rings true when it comes to maintaining your HVAC. Fox Service Company’s Robert Lee says a clean unit means increased performance, efficiency, reliability and indoor comfort.
“The analogy I like to use that everyone can relate to is the engine in a vehicle,” says Lee. “If you have a V8 car or truck, but it’s only running on 6 cylinders, it’s not very efficient. You’re not going to get the performance you want because it’s only running on 6 cylinders. When an A/C system gets dirty, the same thing happens.”
Lee says that homeowners can make sure the units are both clean and air-tight through planned maintenance—making sure the HVAC is inspected at least twice each year.
“We want homeowners to get their money’s worth out of their air conditioning and heating systems. If they spend a dollar in utility to operate the unit, they should get a dollar’s worth of work from that unit. An example of a few things that we check for that greatly affect system performance are: are the filters the correct size and clean? Are the indoor and outdoor coils also clean and free of obstruction? Are the fans balanced and free of debris? Last but definitely not least, it is estimated that leaky ductwork can waste up to 40% of your conditioned air so we check the ductwork for any signs of air leaks.”
Capacity & Efficiency
In addition, you’ve got to make sure your unit is working efficiently. In Texas, during typical 60 percent humidity, a typical 5-ton A/C system can remove 5 gallons of water or more in a single hour. Needless to say, this requires upkeep. Fox Service Company’s James Bagby says that keeping an eye on both the indoor and outdoor unit is crucial when it comes to maintaining efficiency and capacity.
“People will notice their filter is dirty and they’ll change it, which is important, but what they may not know is their outdoor unit is moving more than twice the volume of air than the indoor unit without a filter,” says Bagby. “So if you’re not cleaning that outdoor unit, your cooling capacity and operating efficiency is greatly reduced.”
One of the best methods for keeping capacity and efficiency is routine maintenance, as well as taking care of care of the duct system.
Watch Your Condensate
Finally, make sure you protect your property from water damage. Because of the high humidity in Austin, water damage due to poor or lack of A/C system maintenance often leads to expensive repairs to your property. Lee and Bagby say that properly maintaining the condensate drain is key to reducing this risk.
“The evaporator in an A/C unit is cold, just like a glass of tea,” says Lee. “So you take a glass of tea and you set it on the counter and it starts to get water on the outside. That’s condensation. The evaporator coil does the exact same thing. The water in the air condenses on the cold indoor coil, runs down into the drain pan and funneled into the condensate drain line where it’s routed outside the home.”
As a result, Bagby says that maintaining those condensate drain line is key for all homeowners who want to protect their investment.
“You’ve got to maintain those condensate drain lines,” says Bagby. “It’s cold, wet and dark in there. It’s a prime breeding ground for you name it.”
The Bottom Line
As a general rule, it’s a good idea to get your HVAC checked out at least twice a year—once for heating and once for cooling. For larger homes and commercial properties, Lee says quarterly inspections are a good idea as well. By keeping their HVAC units well maintained, homeowners can expect the very best performance every day.
“It’s all for the customer’s benefit,” says Lee. “They change the brakes, oil and cabin filters on their car, and it’s the same concept for their heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment.”