A Little DIY HVAC Maintenance Improves Your Heating and Cooling In NJ…
Whenever you need maintenance or repairs for your NJ heating and cooling systems, Air Temp Service is here to help. Our professional HVAC experts can get any system running at peak efficiency.
However, it’s not always necessary to call in NJ heating and cooling pros. Home HVAC systems are actually pretty simple, and there are a lot of areas of minimal maintenance that a typical homeowner can do for themselves. If you stay on top of your HVAC maintenance, you’ll enjoy more efficient heating and cooling, lower energy bills, and fewer calls to repair services.
So next time it seems like your HVAC system isn’t running quite as well as it should, try following this guide for some basic maintenance first. This applies to both traditional AC systems, as well as to whole-house heat pumps.
NJ Heating and Cooling Maintenance That Anyone Can Do
ALWAYS shut off power to the HVAC unit!
Before doing any kind of maintenance on your heating and cooling system, always shut down power to it. HVAC systems run on high voltage and touching a live element can do serious damage to you. There’s usually a marked on/off switch near the exterior unit or, at worst, you can shut it off at the breaker box.
The only type of maintenance you can safely do on an AC system without shutting off the power is cleaning/replacing the air filter. For any other work, make sure the power is disconnected first.
Look for debris in the outside unit
Once the power is off, it’s easy to gain access to the interior of your outdoor condenser/compressor unit. You just remove a few screws around the fan cage, and you’re in. Once this is done, your first step is to remove any debris that has collected inside the unit. It’s usually easiest to use a small vacuum cleaner to remove any foreign materials.
This will increase airflow, as well as remove the possibility that any foreign debris could foul the internal mechanisms.
While you have the fan removed, go ahead and clean the fan blades too. They’ll get dirty again fairly soon, but why leave the job half-done?
Clean the fins from the inside out
See those rows of tightly packed metal pieces on the sides of your outdoor unit? Those are the fins, and they’re designed to let air flow through the unit while blocking most larger debris like leaves. These should be periodically cleaned.
The best way to clean them is to take the fan unit off, then use a regular garden hose to spray through the fins from the inside out. That way, you’re blowing any trapped debris out of the condenser/evaporator unit.
Never use a high-pressure sprayer, though. That could damage the fins or other parts of the AC unit. Just use a regular garden hose.
Straighten any bent fins
While you’ve got access to the unit, take a close look at the fins. Do you see many which are bent, so that they block airflow? A few bent fins aren’t a major problem, but the more that are bent, the more troublesome they can be. So, it’s a good idea to periodically bend them back into shape.
There are commercially available tools for doing this. However, if you’re careful, you can just use a regular butter knife or a similar flat dull blade. Don’t use sharp blades, or you could damage the tubing which is embedded around the fins.
Clean up around the outdoor unit
At this point, you’ve done everything you can safely do on your own, so go ahead and put the fan back in place. However, before you finish up, clean up the area around the unit. You don’t want the leaves and other debris you cleaned out to get sucked back in! Ideally, you should remove any junk within a 2–3-foot radius around the outdoor unit and keep the area clean throughout the year. This will greatly reduce the number of leaves and other debris that end up inside the condenser/evaporator.
Occasionally check the level on your outdoor unit
Your condenser/evaporator sits on a pad just above the ground, which should be kept as level as possible. Over time, this pad may shift. If it’s not fully level, it could cause problems with the unit. So, if you see it’s no longer level, use rot-resistant shims to make it level again.
Note: if you have a heat pump, it’s OK for it to slope slightly away from the house. It may even be set up to do this already since it helps with condensation runoff.
Replace the indoor filter
There aren’t as many maintenance steps you can take on your indoor/basement unit, but there are a couple of options. The first and most important is to regularly change the air filter. Whenever your home HVAC system is in use, the air filter should be changed at least once every three months. If you have pets or people in the house with allergies, it should be changed every 1-2 months instead.
This ensures your indoor air quality is good, keeps the air flowing well, and prevents extra strain on the blower.
Clean the evaporator coil
On most indoor AC units, there will be a small door or access panel that leads to its evaporator coil – one of the most critical parts of the unit. Check your manual, if you aren’t sure where this door is. You’ll probably need to remove a few screws, or possibly some foil tape. The coil itself is made of copper, and easy to spot.
At hardware stores, you can buy inexpensive cans of coil cleaner. These are simple to use, just spray them on, let them foam, and then they’ll drip into the drain pan below.
Clean the drain pan and drain
The last major bit of maintenance involves the drain pan and drain beneath the indoor AC unit. Because the air around the AC unit is usually hot and moist, these parts can easily become host to algae or mold. These can potentially clog the drain or end up in air circulation and spread around the house.
Fortunately, they’re easy to clean with a bleach solution (half bleach, half water). Pour some over the drain pan, and into the drain. If the bleach flows through easily, you’re fine. Otherwise, if the drain is slow, use a wet/dry shop vac to vacuum out the drain interior. Then send more bleach through.
Once it flows freely, you’re finished. Close up your AC unit and congratulate yourself on a job well done.
Remember to turn the power back on
Mistakes happen. Homeowners are always extra embarrassed when they call us out for heating and cooling service, but the only problem is a flipped breaker.
Get Heating and Cooling Services in NJ Today
If you follow these steps, you should be able to keep your home HVAC system working well with minimal need for repairs. However, if you ever have serious NJ heating and cooling problems that can’t be solved with basic maintenance, remember to contact Air Temp Service for help!