Just because the weather is beginning to cool off doesn’t mean your home’s air conditioning system can be ignored in the coming months. A little preventative maintenance carried out in the fall could save you quite a bit of money next spring. Here are some tips for maintenance and saving money on your heating and cooling bills.
In most modern homes with forced air systems the cooling and heating systems use the same ducts. That is why it is so important to regularly inspect the vents and change air filters even if you do not plan on using the air conditioner for a while. Failing to change out the filters during the fall and winter months will increase your risk of severe seasonal allergies and other respiratory problems next spring. In addition to putting an increased load on the fan causing premature wear and tear. Almost as bad as dirty filters are having no filters is worse. Once the ducts are filled with dust and dander, you will most likely need to pay to have the entire system professionally cleaned, costing much more than replacement filters.
Prevent Damage from Over-Growth
Depending on where you live and the type of HVAC (Heating Ventilating and Air-Conditioning) unit you have, you should keep ground foliage at least three to six feet away from the base of your outdoor condenser. While plants and bushes grow very little in the winter, a single climbing vine could severely damage the condenser or block airflow thus reducing efficiency.
Caulk is Cheap
Once the weather begins to cool off, local critters will start looking for warm places to ride out the winter. Unfortunately, your outdoor condenser and indoor vents make excellent nest locations for animals such as rats, mice, raccoons, and possums. Watch for these “critters” and seal up any access points where they may get in along with any cracks where heat may leak out. Fall is an excellent time to search around windows and doors with a tube of caulk in hand. Caulk is cheap but will save a bundle. A surprisingly small crack can make your home drafty and drastically increase your heating bills. A couple of dollars in caulk is money well spent. See How an Energy Audit, Some Caulk and Insulation is Saving Me $1000… Per Year.
Catch Damage Early
Even modern air conditioning systems do not last forever, and catching minor damage early is the most effective way to prevent a catastrophic breakdown in the future. Mr. Reliable Plumbing & Heating recommends that homeowners have a trained HVAC specialist perform a fall maintenance call, and look for common issues such as damaged coils, frayed wires, cracked hoses, duct leaks, etc. Cleaning, repairing, or replacing these damaged parts can improve the efficiency and lifespan of your system.
Image courtesy of Bonnie Natko Creative Commons.