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Can I Perform Home HVAC Maintenance Between Service Visits?

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Find Out What You Should and Shouldn’t Do to Optimize Your HVAC System

HVAC companies throughout the region gather at conferences and seminars to share industry knowledge. One topic that always arises is what homeowners can do on their own to maintain their HVAC systems.

Understandably, homeowners like to feel knowledgeable about their homes, including the more complicated parts, like their HVAC system. The good news is there are several home HVAC maintenance procedures that homeowners can perform themselves to achieve a sense of empowerment and, of course, increase the longevity of their system.

With only a little knowledge of AC maintenance, there are three important tasks that any homeowner can do between service visits from their regular HVAC provider. Remember, however, that there are some tasks that are better left to the professionals. Those are covered below, too.

3 DIY Home HVAC Maintenance Tasks You Can Perform on Your Own

Each of the AC maintenance tasks below can be performed by any homeowner, regardless of their experience. In fact, you don’t have to be handy at all to attempt some crucial adjustments that will truly benefit your HVAC system.

Home HVAC Maintenance Tip #1: Monitor and Replace Your Air Filters

This is definitely the easiest home HVAC maintenance job you can do by yourself. Typically, your air filter is found within the air handler, or just beneath your return register where the air handler and register meet.If you have questions about the location, you can always refer to your product’s manual, which is likely available online. When you open the compartment, you can pull out your filter to inspect and replace it.

During your filter inspection, check to see how much debris there is. If the typically
white material is a dusty gray color – or worse – it’s time to replace your filter. You’ll also
know if your filter is ready for a change by the scent coming from your
air vents. If it seems less fresh than when it was installed by a professional HVAC team near you, it’s time to change it out.

When that time comes, all you need to know is what size filter you need and
what your preference is for MERV rating. If this is your first time changing your filter, use
the measurements on the filter you’re replacing, which is a length by width by depth
measurement, such as 16x25x2. For MERV rating, the higher the rating, the more
dust and other airborne particles will be filtered out as return air passes through. If you’re
looking to filter out allergens or pet dander for a family member with allergies,
you should aim for a MERV rating of 11-13.

Once you’ve purchased a filter, simply install it in the space that held the old filter, and
you’ll be all set. DIY AC maintenance isn’t as bad as it seems, and this particular cooling
maintenance procedure keeps your air fresh and minimizes strain on your system

Home HVAC Maintenance Tip #2: Level Your Outdoor Unit

Your outdoor unit is the machine that pulls air into your home, which is then refrigerated within the indoor part of the system. Check this outdoor system from time to time to ensure that debris, leaves, mud, or weeds aren’t impeding the system’s ability to pull in air effectively.

Additionally, ensure that your outdoor unit is level. Over time, the soil or concrete underneath can erode or crumble, making the system wobbly and uneven. When the system operates on an uneven surface, it will vibrate, creating a nuisance throughout your home. In addition, a vibrating system experiences far more unnecessary wear and will eventually loosen certain components and wiring.

You can perform AC maintenance on your system by ensuring the ground underneath is even; that is, if the problem hasn’t gotten to the point where you have to move the system itself. However, if the unevenness is slight, you can likely make this repair yourself.

All you need is a level tool, a long plank of wood, and some sand to complete the job. Use a level tool to determine which side of the machine requires sand that will even the system out. Then, put the long board carefully underneath the machine on the side that is uneven and apply pressure to the other end, like a lever. You only need to lift the machine slightly. Finally, have a helper pack sand in the spaces that are uneven while you’re holding up the machine. Use your leveling tool again to see how you did.

Home HVAC Maintenance Tip #3: Clean and Clear Out Your Vents

As your return vents draw in and recycle conditioned air, they pull debris from your house along with it. This includes your hair, pet hair, dust, food particles, and dirt. These particles are supposed to end up in your filter, but, without consistent maintenance, they can get stuck in the vents and the opening to the duct. If you notice that your home is experiencing more dust and debris than usual (perhaps you’ve had more guests or foot traffic lately), you can unfasten your return register grilles and clean them. You can also vacuum inside the ducts. If you do this every few months, you won’t have much debris at all, and your system won’t be clogged as it tries to provide optimal airflow for your home.

This job is perhaps the simplest of all the DIY home HVAC maintenance you can perform. Aside from unscrewing the register grilles, this task is just like any other vacuuming work. DIY cooling maintenance doesn’t have to be rocket science.

What DIY Home HVAC Maintenance Tasks Should Homeowners Avoid?

It’s true that nearly anyone can tackle simple AC maintenance – although there are some jobs that require the technical assistance of an HVAC technician.

As we mentioned in our second tip above, if your outdoor unit is too uneven, it’s best to have an HVAC technician move it, so you don’t damage any of the components.

In addition, the list below, while not meant to be exhaustive, outlines several other tasks you should leave to a professional:

  • Wiring and electronics issues
  • Cleaning interior components
  • Replacing damaged components
  • Inspecting gas- and combustion-related components
  • Adding lubricant or refrigerant

The typical homeowner risks serious injury – or damage to their system – without proper instruction or experience as a cooling maintenance technician.

Do Your Part to Keep Your System Strong with Home HVAC Maintenance

Ultimately, as theAlliance to Save Energy explains, your system should be installed and maintained by experts, so that your heating and cooling operates as expected.
Interested in continuing to hone your skills as a homeowner? Learn more tips and tricks for your residential HVAC system with these resources.