When it comes to heating or cooling a residence the majority of the home owners just know that pushing a button or sliding a switch will “magically” bring the heating system to life. The fact of the matter is that most everyone has very little knowledge pertaining to a home’s HVAC system and how it works. The extent of the average individual’s experience will cover air filter changes and basic programming of the thermostat. When the heat or air conditioning stops working properly a service call needs to be made.
There are a couple of basic steps; however, a home owner can take to help maintain the HVAC system. Air filter changes scheduled at regular monthly intervals is the first and foremost task a home owner should perform. Many heating and cooling systems may have more than one air filter. One air filter will almost always be located at the air return vent. The purpose of this filter is to reduce the wear and tear on the equipment as the air is warmed or cooled by the HVAC equipment, although any filter will help to improve the air quality.
With heat pumps there is likely a slot in the air handler itself which houses an additional air filter, usually behind a small panel which is screwed to the main body. Unfortunately there is what seems like an infinite size of air filters on the market so it is important to record what size is necessary for each individual system. A good place to write down the air filter sizes is on the inside of the thermostat cover, if present, or a note attached to the refrigerator.
Electrostatic air filters are an improvement over the traditional air filter. The great benefit to using an electrostatic air filter is that it will further reduce irritants and contaminants from the air; an important feature for allergy sufferers. While these types of filters can easily be found at most home improvement centers, they are noticeably more expensive. Fortunately these filters are re-usable after easily being washed and dried before re-inserting them. Most filters regardless of the type will have small arrows indicating the airflow direction through the filter.
The other steps a home owner can take are to ensure that none of HVAC equipment is being obstructed. Whether the heating system is composed of a furnace, heat pump or other, air flow needs to be maintained. For those homes with additional equipment located on the exterior of the home this means that bushes and shrubs need to be kept clear. A routine cursory inspection of the equipment should be made. Although many home owners will not recognize what they are looking at, listening is often more important. An abnormal sound can be a good indicator that the HVAC system should have an inspection performed by an experienced and qualified service technician. Preventative maintenance will be much more inexpensive in the long-term rather than waiting for major damage or failures to occur.