Today’s hectic lifestyles and advanced “smart” technologies convince too many people to ignore critical maintenance and upkeep. Digital tech delivers answers to questions in real-time, so people put off proactive maintenance. Why should you worry about home heating and air conditioning when your refrigerator orders groceries to save time? The truth is that regular maintenance can’t be automated; it can only be recommended by system alerts. You still have to schedule upkeep and repairs.
An article posted at Angie’s List reports that home and business owners typically save up to 15 percent on energy costs with regular HVAC maintenance. These savings run higher for commercial clients that use their systems longer in a typical day or heat and cool multiple units. HVAC tune ups can extend the life of heating and cooling equipment that typically lose about 5-percent efficiency each year. Regardless of efficiency or regular maintenance, systems last about 15 years. Replacing your aging system is an investment that pays for itself by preserving real estate value, reducing maintenance and repair costs and generating energy savings.
Ideally, your system should be inspected twice a year–right before you begin to use the heating and cooling functions in winter and summer respectively. At a minimum, scheduling service annually is critical to maintaining comfort levels, reducing energy use and preventing expensive repairs. No matter how expensive or automated your system is, it’s still a complex mechanical unit subject to breakdowns, worn parts and external influences. Repairs, cleaning and the replacement of parts are necessary HVAC services. The benefits of regular HVAC maintenance include:
- Lower Utility Bills
Even if everything seems to be working efficiently, systems lose efficiency over time. AC drains get clogged, and water can damage AC system components and the infrastructure of your home or business. Gas heaters need flame adjustments about every three years. The flame might seem fine, but you can’t really tell by eyeballing it. Your technician can perform a fire test and flame adjustment using precise measuring tools to calibrate your boiler. Preventative maintenance reduces energy bills, and using your equipment less rigorously extends its life.
- Extended Life for Your System
There’s nothing worse than a catastrophic breakdown of heating or cooling equipment in the coldest or hottest time of the year. Unfortunately, that’s when breakdowns occur because the equipment is taxed to its maximum capacity. Air conditioning filters, fins, blades and coils need regular cleaning and maintenance to function properly. Replacing filters can reduce energy consumption between 5 percent and 15 percent, and this quick fix reduces stress on the system that needs air to work efficiently.
- Safer Operations
A damaged system doesn’t just waste money. A faulty HVAC system–such as one with a crack in the heat exchanger–can release carbon monoxide and endanger the lives of your family. Electrical shorts in an HVAC system can cause fires, and everyone is aware of the risks of gas leaks.
- Fewer Repairs
Catching problems in the early stages makes them easier to repair. For example, a frayed belt can make strange noises, but it’s easy to replace. Left unrepaired, the belt could break and whip around generating extensive damage.
- Keeping Your Family Healthy
Improperly cleaned ventilation systems rapidly become a breeding ground for mold, allergens and bacteria. These contaminants can aggravate respiratory conditions and allergies while posing severe health risks for children and people with damaged immune systems or weakened health. That’s why regular AC cleaning is so important.
Why HVAC Tune Ups Are Important
Your HVAC system lies at the heart of living in a safe, secure environment. Some maintenance tasks are easy to handle yourself–such as replacing air filters regularly. You can schedule your service in a way that you won’t forget by linking the chore to the start of baseball or football season or other benchmarks such as the annual Emmy awards and the first day of spring.
Commercial repairs and maintenance are even more critical because even minor complaints about a hot or cold environment can cause companies to lose customers or tenants. Employees become less efficient if they’re not comfortable at work. The HVAC systems in commercial applications account for 40 percent of total energy use in the United States. This is a critical area where big savings can be realized by keeping all heating and cooling equipment in top condition. Commercial operations have other imperatives such as meeting the temperature and humidity requirements of sensitive telecommunications equipment or keeping temperatures safe for fine electrical components.
The most compelling reason to schedule regular HVAC cleaning and maintenance is to save money. That might not be the most important issue for every person, but it’s important enough to emphasize. Systems that run sluggishly, lose heat, freeze up or generate too much water make the equipment work harder and use more energy. Energy costs money, and most people’s utility bills rise each year due to higher energy costs and reduced HVAC efficiency.
The right professional HVAC technicians can provide those services that you can’t or shouldn’t perform yourself. There’s a common saying that many people accept as truth: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This bit of wisdom just doesn’t apply to HVAC systems. In the first place, maintenance and cleaning regimens aren’t fixing problems, they’re preventing them. Secondly, most home and business owners aren’t qualified to know when their systems are broken in the sense that something’s not working correctly.
Consulting a maintenance checklist is useful for ensuring that proper maintenance of your system is done. A skilled HVAC maintenance team can provide the following AC cleaning and HVAC maintenance services:
- Auditing the system from top to bottom to uncover worn parts, leaks, cracks and problems with outdoor equipment
- Replacing filters
- Checking drain lines and condensation pans
- Inspecting ignition systems and burners
- Calibrating thermostats and checking controls
- Measuring the heat output of flames used to heat boilers
- Cleaning fan blades, ducts and the ventilation system
- Adjusting fans and blower motors
- Checking blades and blowers for signs of wear and replacing any worn parts
- Inspecting electrical connections
- Checking any connected “smart” home heating and cooling features of the system.
- Lubricating different areas of the system
- Monitoring the performance of heat exchangers
- Measuring airflow and determining the cause of any blockages
- Cleaning condensers and coils
- Checking refrigerant level
Smart HVAC Systems
Smart systems include advanced features such as self-diagnostics and self-modulating condensers that can regulate air temperature automatically throughout the day. Smart systems are even more important for commercial applications. IoT-enabled systems can switch equipment off based on sensors that can determine occupancy or switch off at predefined times to save energy.
A Primer on Air Conditioning and AC Tune Ups
Many people don’t understand how their AC systems work, but greater knowledge can help you identify problems and deal with minor issues until your next service appointment. Air-cooled systems use refrigerant to remove heat from the air. Older systems used Freon, but this refrigerant was banned except for grandfathered systems. HCFC-22 replaced it, but that is also being phased out by 2020. Ozone-safe hydrocarbons, or HFCs, and ammonia are replacing HCFC-22 in air-cooled systems. Refrigerants turn easily from liquid to gas and vice versa. As the refrigerant changes, it either absorbs or emits heat while traveling in a loop in a closed system. In air conditioning systems, the refrigerant absorbs heat and moisture from your home or business and conducts it outside the building.
The compressor and condenser are usually outside while the evaporator or air handler is located indoors. In urban environments, the outdoor elements might be housed on the building’s roof in a mechanical room with louvers to provide airflow. The refrigerant travels continuously in a closed loop. The evaporator coil is a long metal tube or hose that’s covered with small fins. High -pressure liquid enters the coil and becomes a gas, which causes the refrigerant to remove heat and water from the air.
There are also water-based cooling systems, window units and evaporative cooling systems, but most homes are cooled using air-cooled systems. If you have one of the other types of systems, you probably already know about it because they’re rarer and more energy efficient but usually require a larger investment.
Understanding Your Heating System
The heating part of a combined heating and cooling HVAC systems is simple. Heat is produced by electricity, gas, oil, coal or propane, but getting the heat where it’s needed is the problem. Say that your furnace operates at 75 percent efficiency, and your monthly bill averages $250 during the cold months. That means $62.50 is totally wasted.
Water is the ideal medium for transporting heat. Even a small-diameter pipe can conduct as much heat as a large air duct. The pipe carries water heated to 120-degrees F up to 180-degrees F in most systems. Baseboard convectors in radiant heat systems consist of a copper tube that runs through fins made of sheet metal. The system creates a convective heating loop as warm air flows from the bottom to the top of the unit. Some new radiant-heat systems use a serpentine plastic tube, an assembly that’s usually encased in concrete or installed under wooden floors.
Forced-air heating systems are simple and convenient. Home and business owners can connect a humidifier, evaporator coil and air cleaner to the duct system for better air quality and greater comfort.
About 7 percent of U.S. homes are heated by oil. In modern systems, oil burners atomize the oil by pumping it under pressure through a tiny nozzle that sprays it in a pattern. The spray is ignited by an electric arc delivering 20,000 volts to produce a clean, hot flame.
Heat pumps work like air conditioners, but they work in reverse. These pumps extract warm air from outside and conduct it inside. This solution works in warm climates where the temperature rarely gets below 30-degrees F to 35-degrees F. In colder climates, a geo-exchange pump can extract geothermal energy from deep in the ground. Heat pumps can heat or cool a home or business using a compressor that absorbs or radiates heat while the heat travels from indoors to outdoors and or vice versa.
Critical elements of all heating systems include thermostats, evaporator coils, heat exchangers, furnaces, condensing units, vents, ductwork and refrigerant lines.
Maintenance Tasks that You Can Do
Devoting just a little personal effort on maintenance tasks can produce gratifying results such as cutting costs. Simple fixes can keep your equipment running more smoothly until the next scheduled maintenance session:
- Change your HVAC filter once a month for best results but at least twice a year.
- Remove any waste buildup around outside units to prevent clogs and blockages of airflow.
- Trim any overhanging foliage around outdoor units.
- Make sure that ducts and return registers aren’t blocked by curtains, drapes, furniture, pillows or throw rugs.
- Clean outdoor units to keep them free of dirt, leaves, toys and other debris.
Choosing a Reputable HVAC Service Company
Regardless of where you live, both parts of your HVAC system are important. People who live, work and own businesses in the greater St. Louis area experience both hot summers and cold winters, and HVAC cleaning, AC tune ups and home heating and cooling services are important. Meyer Heating & Air fields a team of trained, certified and experienced technicians who are carefully screened and drug-tested. Call or contact Meyer Heating & Air to schedule HVAC services or get further information. Meyer offers home heating and air conditioning services and commercial heating and cooling services for businesses.
Angieslist.com: The Importance of an Annual AC Tune-up
Energy.gov: Maintaining Your Air Conditioner
Facilitiesnet.com: HVAC Maintenance and Energy Savings
Energystar.gov: Energy Savings at Home: Advice, tools, resources and inspiration to help you save energy
Searshomesrervioces.com: Smart HVAC Innovations that Make Your Life Easier
Advantech.com: Smart HVAC System for Smart Building
Energy.gov: Air Conditioning
Popularmechanics.com: How Your Heating System Works: A Primer
Thisoldhouse.com: How a Heat Pump Works