Too often, HVAC systems serve as the unsung heroes of a home.
HVAC is a shorthand term for “Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning,” and refers to all of the components that make up these systems around a home.
HVAC systems regulate the temperature in your home, helping to keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter. These systems also help manage humidity, vent dangerous fumes, get rid of unwanted odors, and filter out dust and debris, allowing you to breathe more easily.
And yet, many of us tend overlook our HVAC systems — until something goes wrong.
So, as a buyer or a homeowner, what should you know about HVAC? What goes into keeping these systems operating at their very best? Let’s explore some of the major “do’s” and “don’ts” of HVAC:
DO: Understand Your System
Whether you’re looking for a new home, or considering making updates or repairs to your existing property, it may help to learn a few things about your HVAC system, including what type of HVAC you have, and how your system works.
Across Chicagoland, you’ll find many different types of HVAC set-ups, each with their own advantages and drawbacks. Some combine heating and cooling into one unit, for example; others have a cooling system outdoors and a furnace indoors. Some HVAC systems run on gas, while others are powered by electricity. Some heat with “forced air,” others with radiators. The list goes on.
It’s important to know what you want out of your heating and cooling systems, so that you can decide what type of HVAC setup will work best for your household. Similarly, it’s important to know what your property can handle. Some older Chicagoland houses, for example, might not be able to accommodate a more modern heating system without significant updates.
DON’T: Try to Do HVAC Maintenance on Your Own
There are plenty of home projects that you can tackle on your own, without having to call in a professional. As a homeowner, it can be satisfying to complete a DIY repair or upgrade. In many cases, doing it DIY is also a way to cut down on your costs.
However, the DIY approach isn’t going to be right for every part of your home. That’s certainly the case with HVAC.
Home experts agree: When it comes to HVAC, leave repairs, installation, and maintenance to the professionals, rather than trying to do it yourself.
The fact of the matter is that HVAC systems are incredibly complicated and technical. There are many moving parts, and one small error could result in major problems elsewhere in your system. If your HVAC isn’t operating at peak efficiency, you could see higher utility bills. You may be too hot in the summer, or too cold in the winter. At the same time, servicing an HVAC system often means having to deal with complicated and dangerous home elements, like electrical systems, gas lines, and ductwork. Worst case scenario? A small mistake could lead to a disaster down the line, in the form of a fire, carbon monoxide leak, or a gas leak.
DO: Consider Small Green Upgrades
While you shouldn’t take major HVAC projects into your own hands, there are several ways that you can improve your system, making your home more comfortable and more efficient, all in one fell swoop.
For example, if it’s possible with your system, you may want to consider upgrading your thermostat. A smart, programmable thermostat lets you take control over your heating and cooling in powerful ways. For example, you could set your home’s temperature to automatically go up or down when you’re gone for the day. Adjusting your temperature by ten degrees for eight hours could help you save anywhere from 5-15 percent in heating and cooling costs, according to DIY Network.
Homeowners may also want to consider inspecting and updating the insulation in their home. A few minor upgrades to the insulation in your attic or basement could help keep your home a lot more comfortable, while taking the strain off of your HVAC and cutting your utility bills.
And for safety’s sake, make sure you have functioning smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home. Regularly check these alarms to make sure they’re fully operational.
DON’T: Take Your Heating and Cooling Systems for Granted
Summers in Chicagoland can be warm and sticky, and the winters… Well, the winters are legendary for being cold and blustery. If you’ve ever had your heating, ventilation, or cooling systems fail, you know how hard it can be to make it through the hottest and coldest months of the year.
As a homeowner, it’s important to not take your HVAC systems for granted. The components that make up your HVAC are workhorses. They do a great deal to keep your household comfortable and healthy, in many ways. It’s important to take care of the systems that help take care of you.
One of the most important things you can do to protect your HVAC system is to schedule regular service appointments with an experienced technician. Having an HVAC pro inspect and service your system at least once a year is a great way to catch any minor problems, the sort that you may not be able to notice on your own. An expert will also be able to tune up your system, helping make sure it’s operating at its peak when you need it most.
DO: Change Your Air Filters and Keep Your System Clean
It’s important for homeowners to bring in professional help when it’s time to have their HVAC serviced, updated, or installed. But there are some small steps you can take to help keep your home’s systems functioning properly, in between regular maintenance visits.
For one thing, it helps to regularly change the blower filters for your furnace and AC units. The most basic filters are intended to be replaced monthly, while the more elaborate ones should be replaced twice a year, and sometimes even more often, depending on where you live and how often you use your HVAC. These filters work hard to trap allergens, dust, mold, and grime, so changing them out is a great way to help your family breathe easier, while helping your HVAC system perform better.
Similarly, you may want to make it a point to regularly clean the components of your HVAC system. Dusting your air vents regularly, for example, is a great way to promote healthful air circulation around your home. Keep the areas around your indoor and outdoor heating or cooling units clean and clear, and regularly get rid of the dust and grime that may build up on the devices themselves.
Performing these basic steps regularly can help extend the lifespan of your heating, ventilation, and cooling systems — helping to keep your home more comfortable, while maximizing your energy efficiency.
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