7 Truths About Residential HVAC That Every Homeowner Should Know

HVAC repair and replacement is a fact of life for anyone who owns a home for long enough. Here’s a guide to help you avoid pitfalls along the way.

Perhaps the number one challenge faced by homeowners is the number of times they must confront the old saying, “you don’t know what you don’t know.”

For example, new homeowners might not be aware of the fact that HVAC systems have disposable air filters that need to be changed regularly, yet acting on this can increase the lifespan of their system as well as help protect the health of their family. With this in mind, here are some tips about maintaining your residential HVAC to help you prolong the life of your system and choose the right partner when it’s time to hire a technician.

Prolong HVAC Lifespan

Placement matters. Prolonging the lifespan of your equipment begins right at the time of the original HVAC installation. When they first install a central air-conditioning unit, many homeowners will choose to place the new unit as far out of sight on their property as possible. This is understandable; most people would rather have a view of their landscaping than their air conditioning unit. The problem begins when homeowners attempt to further hide their AC unit by planting hedges or other plants around the unit. Things such as plants, fencing, dead leaves, and so on that block the free flow of air around the unit causes it to work harder than necessary, thereby shortening its lifespan. Inside the house, the same can be true of furnaces that may be surrounded by stacks of cardboard boxes, racks of clothing and so on. While these essential pieces of equipment are not living things, think of them as needing “room to breathe,” and you will help extend their lifespan by preventing them from working harder than they need to.

If you’re in a position to choose the original location for your central air conditioning unit outside your house, feel free to tuck it in a location where you’re comfortable that it won’t constantly be in your field of view. Just remember to keep it clear of debris such as dead leaves, falling tree buds, and so on, and keep it far enough away from anything that will disrupt the free flow of air around the unit.

Maintenance matters. While many of us wouldn’t dream of driving our cars for twenty years straight with no oil change, you might be surprised at the number of people who never think to treat important equipment, such as furnaces or residential HVAC systems, with this same care. Find a trusted technician (keep reading to find out more) to perform diagnostic checkups on your system and its controls, as well as preemptively changing out belts, hoses, and other consumable parts.

This type of proactive maintenance helps your system run optimally for longer and protects it from breaking down when you need it most, such as during periods of extreme weather like cold snaps or heat waves.

Filters matter. As we alluded to in the introduction, the air filter in your HVAC system is an important factor in keeping your system and the air in your home healthy. When the filter becomes clogged with particles it has pulled from your air, it can compromise the efficiency of your system, causing unnecessarily prolonged or more frequent sessions of operation to get your house to the desired temperature.

When you first move into your new home or if you are securing HVAC installation services for an existing home, make it your business to learn what type of filter your system uses. Reserve a supply of them in a storage area and use your calendar to remind you to change the filter frequently. The frequency is variable, based on many factors such as home renovations or occupant allergies, so you will need to be vigilant at first until you determine the best cadence for your particular situation.

Smart controls. A newer and highly recommended way of prolonging the lifespan of your HVAC system is to invest in a smart, or at least programmable control for your system. There are many on the market, but the core functionality that you should look for is a control that helps you optimize how often your system is switching on and off, which is the biggest mechanical strain on it.

Some units are strictly set-it-and-forget-it programmable but highly customizable so you can tailor settings to your schedule or habits. Some units will actually learn your family’s habits by measuring movement in the home and then optimizing the cycles on their own. How you approach this purchase depends on your comfort with technology and your budget, but we highly recommend this as an investment in both your equipment and saving on energy.

Choosing an HVAC Technician

Trust. This is important. In fact, trust is probably the most essential factor in deciding who to work with on any of your home improvement services, not just HVAC. But as we mentioned in the first paragraph, this is one of those areas where you don’t know what you don’t know. Here are a few proven ways to connect with an HVAC professional you can trust:

  • Your Personal Network. Ask people whom you already know and trust and learn from their experience.
  • Online Reviews. These can be very helpful, but they can also be misleading. Try reading the most in-depth five star and the most in-depth one-star reviews that a company has. This may help you build a more accurate understanding of their services.
  • Branded Providers. Companies such as Home Install Experts work very hard to build a good reputation around our brands in an effort to build trust right into our business offering. To that end, you will typically find branded providers offering a higher level of service, especially in a situation where anything goes wrong, or misunderstandings need to be resolved.

Value. While there isn’t necessarily a specific formula to help you calculate what constitutes good value, there are some common considerations you can look at when accepting the price-to-value structure of a deal. For example, in the case of residential HVAC you might feel like the price of an emergency service is high, but the fact that the technician was willing to drive to your home in extreme weather conditions, or in the middle of the night in order to protect the comfort of your family, make the transaction a good value for the price.

Certification. Residential HVAC installation is not the domain of your neighborhood Mr./Ms. Fixit, handyman/handywoman types. This important work is not suitable for the casual tinkerer who likes to learn new skills from YouTube videos either. Equipment such as central air conditioning, furnaces and the associated electrical wiring, gas-fitting and so on are areas where it pays to invest in licensed professionals. Before you agree to hire a referral who seems like a great fit, make sure you understand the work they are planning to do and ensure they have the necessary certifications required to do that work safely and legally.

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