Your home’s heating and cooling unit may be a silent support system, but when it comes to your energy bill, its presence is as loud as can be.
How loud? The average household energy expense is about $2,200 per year, and nearly half that amount can be tied directly to costs associated with heating and/or cooling your home. Now that’s loud! The costs associated with controlling the temperature in your home are significant, and if your HVAC system isn't running efficiency, then your costs only go up.
Fortunately, ensuring your HVAC system is running at peak performance doesn’t always require an expensive repair bill. There are plenty of things you can do to make sure your HVAC system is up to the task with a little preventative maintenance.
Change the Air Filter and Clean the Vents
Changing the air filter every month is one of the most important things you can do to support your HVAC system. It's also one of the easiest. The filter should be checked every month and replaced if it is dirty. Filters should be replaced at the very least every three months - no matter what. Keep up with this simple project by choosing a regular day to check the filter, such as the first or last day of the month. The same day the filter is replaced is also a good time to vacuum off the air vents. This keeps them clean and allows warm air to flow freely, easing temperature regulation throughout the home.
One of the easiest ways to help your HVAC system operate at peak performance is to lighten its load. Insulating the home's attic, windows and doors keep warm air in the home and prevents it from escaping outside. This allows your HVAC system to do less and still maintain the home's proper temperature. Use dual-pane windows and seal the current duct system in your home. Per EnergyStar.gov, a simple visual test will determine whether the home's attic is sufficiently insulated. According to their recommendation, insulation in the attic should be high enough to obstruct the view of the floor joists. If this is the case, additional insulation will offer little to no benefit.
Clear the Drainage Hole
Air conditioners commonly have a drainage hole located at their cabinet’s base. The hole is usually located beneath the evaporator fins. In order for your air conditioner to work effectively, this hole must be kept clear. While the hole may be too small for you to clean out manually, a paper clip or small piece of wire works wonderfully.
Dry Out Your Dehumidifier
Depending on the time of year, a dehumidifier can be invaluable. To be sure it’s working at maximum capacity, remove the outer casing and allow your system to dry. Once the system is dry, vacuum the entire unit to remove excess dirt and debris before putting it back together.
Remove Obstructions Around Your Exterior System
Though the AC is located outside your home, you cannot afford to sacrifice your air conditioner to the elements. Inspect the unit at least twice a month and remove loose vegetation or debris. Standing vegetation surrounding your air conditioner should not be allowed to grow within two feet of the unit. This clear zone allows your air conditioner to pull in the air it needs to control the temperature in your home.
Clean the Bathroom Fans
Your bathroom fans work hard all year and this is the perfect time to ensure the work they do is as efficient as possible. Remove the covers from your fans before washing them with soap and water. Once the covers are off, use a toothbrush to clean the fan blades before reapplying the cover. Just make sure the power is off before starting this task.
If Your HVAC System is Ancient, Replace It
Replacing the home's HVAC system is an expensive proposition, but if your system is old and inefficient, the added comfort and financial benefits of a new system can be very real. If your system is more than 10 years old, ask a service technician's opinion on the longevity of your system. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, replacing it with a new high-efficiency model could reduce your home's annual energy bill by as much as 20 - 40 percent.
Add A Smart Thermostat
Smart thermostats allow you to program the temperature settings in your home so you can set your home to be warmer during periods when you’re away and more comfortable when you're home. The system will also communicate with you and provide ways of saving even more energy and lowering your monthly bill. Follow its recommendations and you'll get new tips that can help you save even more.
Schedule A Tune-Up
Once you’ve accomplished all the tasks above, it’s time to bring in the experts. Polar Bear Heating & Air will be able to take a more detailed look at your system and identify problems you may have otherwise missed. Yearly service of your HVAC system ensures it runs properly. Homeowners should have the system inspected in the fall to best prepare it for the demands of winter.