During hot, Southern summers, air conditioning is essential for homeowners who want to stay comfortable throughout the day and night. And yet, despite its central importance, many homeowners take their HVAC systems for granted. As with any motor-powered machine, HVAC systems require periodic maintenance to sustain proper working conditions. ENERGY STAR, a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), recommends that homeowners get a professional maintenance checkup performed on their HVAC system twice per year. HVAC contractors are often busy during the summer and winter months, so it’s best to have your system checked once in the fall (for heating) and once in the spring (for cooling).

An HVAC system checkup can not only help prevent future malfunctions, it can actually improve your system’s efficiency. There are several things that a professional should do when performing an HVAC system checkup. First, the technician should adjust the thermostat’s settings to verify that the system switches on and off at the desired temperatures. Next, all electrical connections should be tightened and all motors should be checked to ensure they’re receiving the proper voltage and current. All moving parts should also be lubricated, as friction in motors can cause increased wear and tear as well as increased electricity use. Another component that should be examined is the condensate drain. A plugged-up condensate drain can produce bacteria and mold and possibly cause water damage. A technician may clean or change your air filter as well. If he or she does, it might be a good idea to ask for instruction in how to do this on your own. Finally, a technician should inspect a full system cycle, from startup to shut down. This is mainly to ensure that everything is functioning normally and safely.

In Atlanta, where air conditioning accounts for the lion’s share of your system’s work, it’s critical to also have a technician examine the cooling-specific components of your HVAC system. This includes three things:

  • First, the technician should clean both the indoor and outdoor coils. If your coils are dirty, then the system will need to run longer and harder to achieve the same temperature, thus increasing your energy consumption and shortening the system’s life.
  • Second, the technician should ensure that your system has the proper amount of refrigerant. If it has too much or too little, the compressor could get damaged.
  • Third, the blower components should be cleaned and adjusted to ensure the indoor coil is receiving the correct amount of airflow.

While the annual system maintenance check requires an HVAC professional, cleaning or replacing the system’s air filters is just as important and can be accomplished by most homeowners. During heavy-use periods like the summer, homeowners should inspect the system’s filter once a month and change it if necessary. ENERGY STAR recommends that filters be changed, at minimum, after every three months of frequent use. Doing so will help your system run as efficiently as possible.

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