Everything Cincinnati Homeowners Need to Know About HVAC Maintenance

The Reputation

It’s easy to forget, but skipping this essential service could cost you big time – HVAC maintenance needs to be a priority on every Cincinnati homeowner’s household to do list! Furnaces, air conditioners, heat pumps, boilers, and other HVAC units require a tune up on a regular basis to uphold performance and energy efficiency. Thomas & Galbraith walks you through everything you need to know about HVAC maintenance, from what a tune up includes, how often they are needed, and why they’re so important!

Does HVAC Equipment Need Annual Maintenance?

Your furnace, heat pump, air conditioner, air handler, or boiler is a mechanical system that is made up of various components that work together to heat or cool your home. Just like a car, these mechanical systems are affected by wear and tear over the course of use, even when they’re running fine with no system issues present. Wear and tear can be quite damaging to your HVAC equipment if left unchecked – HVAC maintenance tune ups offset the negative effects of wear and tear to help your system maintain energy efficient operation and reliable performance.

How Often Should HVAC Maintenance Be Performed?

HVAC maintenance tune ups need to be a regular part of your home maintenance routine. Annual tune ups are recommended for all heating and cooling equipment. Here’s what that schedule looks like, depending on the type of heating and cooling system installed in your home.

  • Furnaces and boilers that provide heat only require one tune up each year. Have this service performed in the early fall, before it’s time to start using the system for the year.
  • Air conditioners that provide cooling only require one tune up each year. Schedule this service in the early spring before the weather warms up and the system is in use.
  • Air source heat pumps and geothermal heat pumps provide both heating and cooling, therefore they should receive two tune ups per year – once for heating season, once for cooling season. Schedule your heating season tune up in the early fall, and your cooling season tune up in the early spring.

In addition to professional HVAC preventative maintenance tune ups, there are other tasks that need to be performed throughout the year so your heating and cooling equipment runs optimally. These are tasks you need to perform that are not included in professional maintenance tune up service.

  • Change system air filter (Check the filter each month and replace it according to the manufacturer’s guidelines, or more frequently if needed)
  • Clean exterior condensing unit or heat pump unit (As needed)
  • Clear area around interior HVAC units (As needed)
  • Test thermostat batteries (Check batteries each month and change every 6 months or sooner, if needed)
  • Test carbon monoxide detectors (Test batteries and function each month and replace batteries every 6 months)

What Is HVAC Preventative Maintenance?

HVAC preventative maintenance is a service that we often refer to as a maintenance tune up. This comprehensive service should be completed by a licensed heating and cooling technician for the protection of your HVAC system. A preventative maintenance tune up includes a complete inspection of the system, function tests for vital system components, servicing for moving parts, and system cleaning.

Every task performed as part of an HVAC preventative maintenance tune up helps ensure the following benefits for you and your system:

  • Improved system performance for better comfort indoors
  • Better energy efficiency for lower heating and cooling bills
  • Fewer system breakdowns, thanks to early detection of system flaws
  • Longer system service life by limiting breakdowns and wear and tear
  • Preservation of your equipment warranty, as manufacturers require regular maintenance service

What Problems Can HVAC Maintenance Tune Ups Work to Prevent?

By counteracting wear and tear as well as fixing system flaws before significant issues develop, regular HVAC preventative maintenance tune ups work to limit system problems that cause uncomfortable conditions inside the home as well as costly repair calls. A professional technician knows how to deliver the care each component needs to maintain its condition and performance, and a thorough inspection of the inner workings of this equipment by an experienced eye spots minor problems in condition or performance so they can be corrected now, instead of down the road once they develop into a serious system malfunction.

Many of the issues heating and cooling systems can develop can be avoided through regular maintenance, such as:

  • Thermostat malfunctions
  • Problems with heating system ignition
  • Tripped breakers
  • Blown system fuses
  • Overheating
  • Heat exchanger damage
  • Poor heat exchange
  • Poor airflow
  • Water leaks

Does an HVAC Tune Up Have to Be Done by a Professional Technician?

Comprehensive care for your home’s heating and cooling systems involves many different steps, some of which you can take care of yourself and some which should be left to the professionals. Think of HVAC maintenance like vehicle maintenance – you take care of periodic tasks such as checking tire pressure, checking oil level, refilling fluids, cleaning the interior, and car washes, but you also take your vehicle in to a mechanic for regular tune ups so a professional can complete the more complex tasks.

HVAC maintenance is much the same – you should change filters regularly, clean system exteriors, and test thermostat batteries, and also schedule regular tune ups so a professional can service the specialized equipment. While you may feel tempted to try and perform a complete tune up on your own, beware that heating and cooling units contain many delicate components and it’s easy to damage or misplace something if you don’t know what you’re doing. For the protection of your system, it’s best to leave regular HVAC preventative maintenance tune ups to a professional technician.

What’s Included in an HVAC Maintenance Tune Up?

An HVAC preventative maintenance tune up addresses the various vital components of your heating and cooling system. A tune up has many steps to ensure all parts receive the attention they require for optimal, safe operation. Each heating and cooling company does tune ups a little bit differently, but in general your tune ups should include these steps:

For all heating and cooling units:

  • Test thermostat
  • Observe sequence of operations
  • Inspect electrical connections and tighten as needed
  • Lubricate moving parts
  • Inspect disconnect power box
  • Check fan controls
  • Measure airflow and make adjustments as needed
  • Check amp and volt draw
  • Measure rise and drop of temperature
  • Inspect breakers
  • Inspect capacitor
  • Inspect contactors

For furnace and boiler units:

  • Measure carbon monoxide levels
  • Perform indoor air quality analysis
  • Inspect sequencer
  • Test safety controls
  • Inspect burners and clean as needed
  • Test and inspect ignition system
  • Inspect heat exchanger or heating elements
  • Inspect gas lines and connections
  • Check gas valve function
  • Measure gas pressure and adjust as needed
  • Clean equipment cabinet
  • Inspect oil nozzle and filter, replace filter if necessary (for oil boilers & furnaces)

For air conditioner and heat pump units:

  • Verify refrigerant charge
  • Check refrigerant connections
  • Inspect and clear condensate drain
  • Clean condenser coil
  • Inspect evaporator coil
  • Inspect compressor and terminals
  • Clean equipment cabinet
  • Test reversing valve function (for heat pumps)
  • Test defrost controls (for heat pumps)

How Can I Service My Heating and Cooling Equipment?

In addition to scheduling your system’s annual heating and cooling preventative maintenance tune ups, it’s important that you know how to clean and care for your HVAC system in between these visits.

DIY Tasks vs. Maintenance for Professionals

As mentioned, HVAC maintenance is not a single, simple task – it involves various steps to ensure all components are addressed. There are DIY elements of HVAC maintenance and there are also professional services that make up a well-rounded system care strategy.

Protect your system from accidental damage and make sure it receives the complete care it needs when you know what your responsibilities are and what your technician will do for you. As a homeowner, take responsibility for regular air filter replacement and cleaning of unit exteriors. Maintenance for everything within the equipment cabinets should be left to your technician.

How to Clean Your HVAC System

Cleaning is important to the function and performance of heating and cooling units. Indoors, the filter is the primary concern – outdoors, it’s the condenser or heat pump. Learn how to clean your HVAC system inside and out below:

Cleaning exterior heat pumps and air conditioners:

  1. Shut off power to the outdoor condenser unit or heat pump at the breaker inside your home.
  2. Remove all debris that have stuck to the fins surrounding the unit’s exterior – this accumulation blocks airflow and prohibits heat transfer. Remove leaves, grass clippings, mulch pieces, twigs, and any other natural matter that has built up along the exterior of the unit.
  3. For tough debris deposits, use a vacuum with a soft brush attachment or gentle waterflow from a garden hose.
  4. Clear away grass, weeds, plants, and other vegetation growing up along the base and sides of the unit.
  5. Trim away any branches from nearby trees or shrubs to prevent possible damage due to falling and avoid encroachment so airflow isn’t impacted. Leave at least two feet of clear space around the unit on all four sides.
  6. Once finished, turn the power back on.

Changing HVAC air filters inside:

  1. Remove the existing filter from the unit.
  2. Visually inspect the surface to see if a new filter is needed. You can also hold the filter up towards a light to see if light is able to come through – if not, a new filter is needed.
  3. Insert the brand new replacement filter into the filter compartment. Make sure to follow the arrows on its frame and insert it in the correct direction.

Cleaning indoor HVAC equipment:

  1. Use a terry cloth or rag to wipe down the metal cabinet of your furnace or air handler, which removes dust and prevents it from being sucked into the unit.
  2. Remove any items stored in the immediate area surrounding your furnace or air handler. Keep at least six feet of clear space surrounding your equipment and make sure no flammable items are stored nearby.

How Much Does an HVAC Maintenance Tune Up Cost?

There is a fee for regular HVAC maintenance tune up service, which is an ongoing expense as tune ups are required regularly. Don’t be intimidated – this service is very affordable and well worth the price! Maintenance tune ups are a low-cost service that will pay you back many times over in savings.

Prices are different from one HVAC contractor to the next, and tune ups average anywhere from $75 to $150 in most cases. Often times, HVAC service companies run promotions or offer special deals that lower the price of your tune up so be sure to check with the representative about current specials or coupons when you schedule. If your technician uncovers issues that need to be repaired through the tune up inspection, repair charges are assessed in addition to the tune up fee.

Are HVAC Maintenance Plans Worth the Price?

While HVAC maintenance tune ups are already very affordable, joining a maintenance plan can offer additional savings and perks that help you out when they’re needed most! HVAC contractors offer different maintenance programs that include varying benefits – they may be called preventative maintenance agreements, service plans, or another name. Membership typically covers the annual heating and cooling tune ups your HVAC system needs and provides additional advantages for joining. Some examples may include:

  • Priority scheduling for tune up appointments
  • Savings on system diagnostics
  • Discounts on repairs
  • Savings when you buy new HVAC or indoor air quality equipment
  • Extended labor warranties

It’s easy for some homeowners to skip a tune up, simply because they forget to make the call to schedule service. HVAC maintenance plan membership eliminates this worry and insures your heating and cooling units get tuned up on time, every time! With priority scheduling, your HVAC company contacts you when it’s time to schedule your next tune up to make sure it is completed before the start of the season!

Schedule Your Next HVAC Maintenance Tune Up Today!

Keep your Cincinnati home’s heating and cooling equipment in prime condition so it will deliver optimal comfort this coming season. Schedule your next HVAC maintenance tune up when you contact Thomas & Galbraith today! Or, join our True Comfort Membership plan and we’ll make sure your heating and cooling tune ups are scheduled on time each season, at your convenience!

Subscribe for Savings and Tips in Your Email!