They say April showers bring May flowers, but spring is a perfect opportunity to turn over a new leaf and start the season off right with clean air in your home. Before you fire up your air conditioner for the first time this year, follow these tips to make sure your HVAC system is clean, well-maintained, and ready to work efficiently.
Your filters are your home’s first line of defense against dust, dirt, and other pollutants. With springtime allergies popping up, it’s important to make sure your filters are up to the task of removing harmful irritants from the air. We recommend that you replace your filters at least once every three months. If you have pets, or if someone in your home has a respiratory condition, it’s best to replace your filters every month.
Replacing your filters not only improves air quality—it can save you money as well. According to the US Department of Energy, replacing a dirty, clogged filter with a clean one can lower your air conditioner’s monthly energy consumption by 5% to 15%. That’s definitely nothing to sneeze at.
The type of filter you choose will depend on the needs of those who live in your home. During times of high air pollution or allergen concentration, such as springtime, you may want to upgrade to a filter with a higher MERV rating. MERV stands for minimum efficiency reporting value, and measures how effective filters are at removing different categories of airborne particles. Each level of MERV rating builds on the previous one, meaning that a higher rating indicates greater filtering capabilities.
MERV 1-4: Removes dust mites, pollen, dust, textile and carpet fibers
MERV 5-8: Removes pet dander, dusting sprays, and mold spores
MERV 9-12: Removes lead dust, flour, and auto emissions
MERV 13-16: Removes cooking oil, smoke, bacteria, and sneeze droplets
MERV 16-20: Removes viruses and all forms of smoke
Any filter with a MERV rating of 16 or higher is categorized as a High Efficiency Particulate Air, or HEPA, filter. These filters provide the highest level of protection from airborne contaminants. Many allergy sufferers notice significant improvement from using a HEPA filter in their home.
Fallen branches, leaves, dust, dirt, debris—you name it—your outdoor HVAC unit is exposed to it all. Giving it a good deep clean in the spring is the best way to get things back in good working order.
First things first: make sure and turn off the power to the unit before you attempt any sort of cleaning. Usually, you can do this by using the shutoff switch, level, or fuse box nearby. If there isn’t one, you can turn off the power using your home’s main circuit breaker.
You can use a soft brush attachment to vacuum away debris from the exterior fins, or a hose to wash away dust until the surface is clean and clear. If you use a hose, make sure and wait until the unit is dry before turning the power back on. This is also a good time to take a look at any plant growth near the base or sides of the unit. A good rule of thumb is to keep all plants and weeds at least two feet away, so that they won’t interfere with efficiency or cause damage as they continue to grow.
Proper cleaning is especially important for rooftop HVAC units. Their remote location all the way on top of your home makes it difficult to spot problems, and accessing them involves more than just stepping outside. Similar to cleaning a ground level unit, you can use a vacuum to suck up debris from the exterior fins. Using a handheld vacuum may be more efficient, as it’s easier to transport onto the roof than an upright vacuum. If you don’t have a ladder, or don’t feel comfortable being on the roof, a qualified HVAC professional can take care of the cleaning process for you.
If the areas around your windows and doors aren’t completely sealed, your HVAC system will have to fight an uphill battle against the outdoor air flowing into your home and changing the temperature. This wastes energy and increases your utility bills.
One way to check for any hidden gaps requires only two people, a flashlight, and the dark night sky. After dusk, have someone stand outside the door or window while you shine a flashlight at its frame. If the person outside sees any light streaming through, you’ll know where to apply weather-stripping or caulking. If they don’t see any light, but you still notice problems with air escaping, it’s worth treating every window or door in the room as a potential escape route. Fortunately, you have several options to counter the negative effects of holes and gaps.
Weather stripping stops cold air from escaping your home while also stopping warm air from entering. Weather stripping comes in many forms, and can be as simple as foam tape applied around a window sash, or felt stapled around the frame.
When windows and doors are first installed, caulk is applied to reduce drafts and heat loss. This caulking develops cracks and gaps over time, making it less effective. You can fix this by using a caulking gun to seal small cracks in your windows and doors to restore the seal.
You can do a lot to make sure your HVAC system is refreshed for the upcoming season, but some jobs are best left to the professionals. Our 26-point maintenance plan leaves no stone unturned as we inspect your system from top to bottom, inside and out. While other companies may just perform a simple check for loose bolts and dirty filters, we take the time and effort to make sure nothing stands between you and the most comfortable home possible.
Vital maintenance for the cooling season includes:
Since maintenance visits aren’t available between June 1st and September 1st, it’s best to get them scheduled and out of the way before the temperatures start climbing. That way, you won’t be caught off guard by any unwelcome surprises in the heat of the summer.
If your HVAC system needs a deeper clean, or you’re in need of a repair, our skilled technicians can help your HVAC system deliver cool, clean, and efficient air to your home. Contact us to schedule whatever HVAC service you need.