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Improved energy efficiency and indoor air quality are not limited to brand-new construction. Owners can improve the performance of their existing home by investing in top quality heating and cooling equipment. This upgrade will bring year-round comfort and energy savings and perhaps a federal tax credit, as well. However, if the owners want that equipment to perform as designed, they must maintain it.
Fortunately, the proper maintenance of heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems (commonly referred to as “HVAC”) does not require homeowners to be mechanical contractors. A few easy steps for preventive care, conducted on schedule, are usually all it takes to keep those systems humming at peak performance.
The vast majority of residential HVAC systems are “forced air” configurations. The system consists of a centrally located condenser along with a furnace and blower units that push heated or cooled air through a network of large pipes (or ducts) into the rooms of the house through vent registers.
A forced air system relies on other ducts to suck in and return air to the system from registers near the ceiling. “Return” air is either recycled through the system or exhausted to the outside, keeping the inside air fresh and comfortable.
Maintaining this system starts at the blower, which circulates a high volume of air. The blower contains a removable filter to prevent small particles and allergens from contaminating the indoor air. For most HVAC systems, the filter should be replaced every three months. Some newer, high-performance systems may have filters that only need to be replaced semi-annually or even just once a year. Consult your owner’s manual for frequency of replacement as well as size of filter. Filters of all sizes are available at most home improvement and hardware stores and are easy to remove and re-insert into the blower.
The next component to maintain is the duct-work It’s a good idea to have the ducts cleaned out at least every two years. In fact, most professional remodelers will offer or simply conduct a thorough duct cleaning after any significant indoor remodeling project. Responsible remodelers do not want their homeowners to be greeted with a puff of construction dust the first time the HVAC system is used! Two years later, the owners should contact a local duct-cleaning service or ask their remodeler for a recommendation.
On the same every-other-year schedule, the entire HVAC system should be checked by a professional mechanical contractor. Again, the remodeler can recommend a reputable service, ideally the company that installed the system. This check-up will ensure that the system is operating properly; bringing enough fresh air into the house, providing adequate ventilation and maximizing energy efficiency. Homeowners can do random spot checks by inspecting the outside of the equipment for any leaks, cracks, or other abnormalities and reporting those to their remodeler or HVAC service contractor.
This type of simple and inexpensive maintenance program will help to keep the HVAC system running at optimum performance for many years.
Todd Allen Miller, AIA
QMA Design+Build, LLC
5000 Boardwalk, Suite 2
Ventnor, NJ 08406
NJ New Home Builder License #037561
NJ Home Improvement Contractor #13VH01107300
(609) 822-4949 – phone
(609) 822-4429 – fax
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