This article was crafted with the help of Bob Cunningham from Cunningham Associates Heating & Air Conditioning.

The importance of regular HVAC maintenance is well known to building managers at large facilities like office buildings and college campuses. Those professionals employ heating and air conditioning contractors who use sophisticated tools like predictive maintenance software to fine-tune their energy usage, preempt problems with their HVAC systems, and, ultimately, save money.

Bob Cunningham, the owner of Atlanta-based Cunningham Associates Heating & Air Conditioning, suggests that homeowners—building managers in their own right—should also think proactively about their HVAC systems. According to Bob, the benefits of adopting a regular HVAC maintenance program can include longer unit lifespan, lower energy costs, and even better quality of service.

Maintaining Efficiency and Safety

Bob recommends that homeowners have their HVAC systems inspected twice a year—ideally, prior to the heavy use that comes in the summer and winter. Although many homeowners believe their system’s air filter is the main point of inspection, Bob says that there’s more to it than that. “There’s actually a variety of things that we’re checking that have to do with maintaining efficiency and maintaining safety.”

For example, every spring or summer, technicians inspect the condenser coil, a part of the compressor-condenser unit (usually located outside a home) that can accumulate dust and debris. “If the coils are dirty, then it restricts the ability of the refrigerant to transfer heat,” says Bob. “You lose efficiency, and the unit has to run longer and harder.”

When inspecting HVAC systems before winter, Bob says that the most important thing is to ensure the safety of combustion furnaces. Technicians should always check a furnace’s heat exchanger, the metal box or tubing that contains the burners and heats up passing air. As a metal heat exchanger warms up and cools down over time, it expands and contracts. Generally, that’s not a problem. “It’s designed to perform that way,” says Bob, “but in some cases a crack in the heat exchanger can develop.” Over time, a cracked heat exchanger can significantly affect the performance of a furnace, and Bob points out that it may even allow carbon monoxide to leak into the house. Fissures in flue pipes and vent connectors are similar problems that can present long-term safety issues unless noticed during regular HVAC maintenance inspections.

In general, though, Bob says that most homeowners adopt regular maintenance programs in order to save money by lowering utility costs and preventing costly breakdowns. The effect of regular cleaning and maintenance on a homeowner’s electric bill can be significant; for example, given that air conditioners run nearly all day during the summer’s hottest temperatures, even seemingly minor improvements in efficiency can add up to create noticeable benefits. Regular inspections can also alert homeowners to issues like weak capacitors, loose wires, and other small problems that can be fixed relatively cheaply—before they contribute to a larger, more expensive problem.

Priority in Service

Regular HVAC maintenance can, according to Bob, “reduce the odds of downtime, lower utility costs, and increase the life expectancy of equipment.” But one of the most compelling benefits of having a program relates to customer service rather than the mechanics of HVAC systems.

Adopting a regular maintenance program creates a relationship between a homeowner and a contractor. Then, when breakdowns occur or regular maintenance is needed, scheduling hassles and long wait times are less of an issue. “One of the biggest reasons why people purchase maintenance agreements is priority in service,” says Bob. “If somebody calls us and wants service done, and they have a maintenance agreement with us, we feel an obligation to take care of them right away.”

When customers use the same technicians as part of a regular maintenance program, their service tends to be more efficient as well. Technicians who are already familiar with a homeowner’s HVAC system can devote themselves to immediate problems or maintenance concerns because they already know a system’s service history and setup. Also, as Bob notes, there are many different kinds of air conditioning filters, humidifier evaporator pads, and other unit accessories; a technician familiar with a home’s particular HVAC units can be prepared with the correct equipment. “By showing up with the right materials, hopefully we minimize the homeowner’s time spent dealing with their furnace or air conditioner.”

Whether there’s a problem with your HVAC system or you just want the peace of mind that comes with regular checkups, it’s wise to consider signing up for a maintenance contract with your local Best Pick. Not only will you receive top-notch service and preventative care, you can rest at ease knowing that if your heat goes out in the dead of winter, a technician you know will be there to fix the problem quickly and correctly.

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This spotlight article was crafted with the help of Cunningham Associates Heating & Air Conditioning, an Air Conditioning & Heating Best Pick in Atlanta. While we strive to provide relevant information to all homeowners, some of the material we publish may not pertain to every area. Please contact your local Best Pick companies for any further area-specific advice.