As most homeowners know, maintaining heating and cooling systems is vitally important. For optimal performance, energy efficiency and safety, preventative maintenance will be necessary. Many heating and cooling (HVAC) specialists will offer what is referred to as a "performance tune-up" for your home HVAC system. When hiring a technician for an inspection and tune-up of your furnace and air condition system, the following details should be included on the checklist:
Your furnace is comprised of several key components, each of which contributes to the operation. Inspecting the parts for signs of damage and adjusting these components will ensure safety and peak performance. Be sure the following is included in the service inspection and tune-up:
Carbon Monoxide (CO) Check: Although it is colorless and odorless, a leak in your home can be extremely toxic to those exposed, even for a short period of time. In the United States alone, it is estimated that almost 5,000 people each year are treated for carbon monoxide poisoning. To ensure your safety, it is essential to inspect your gas, kerosene or oil fueled furnace regularly for signs of leakage. As part of the service, your technician will look for hidden cracks in the furnace's heat exchanger. Cracks may cause carbon monoxide emission, leaking toxic fumes into your living area. The technician will also check pressure switches and limit switches, and if these are found to be faulty, they should be repaired or replaced. Flame sensors and igniters should also be checked, as these may also be sources of CO leaks.
Thermostat Calibration: If you've noticed your thermostat seems to be inaccurate and reads higher or lower than the set temperature, it may be time for a calibration. During the tune-up, your technician will note where the thermostat is located. If it is placed in direct sunlight or directly near an air duct, it may affect the accuracy of the reading. In many programmable thermostats, there will be a calibration adjustment. The technician may also unscrew the unit from the wall and clean dust, debris and corrosion from the internals.
Furnace Motor Lubrication: For a furnace motor with covered oil ports, periodic lubrication will be necessary. This is typically done on an annual basis. The technician may apply some motor oil to each of the motor's ports to keep it running smoothly.
Filter Inspection: Whether your furnace is equipped with a fiberglass or paper filter, it should be inspected, cleaned and changed regularly. During the tune-up, this will be standard.
Safety Control Check: The safety control switches should be checked during the tune-up and adjusted accordingly. For starters, the blower door safety switch should be inspected. This switch will prevent accidental operation if the blower door is opened.
An electric motor thermal overload safety switch should be checked as well. This switch prevents an electrical overload, which may potentially be a fire hazard. If necessary, the technician may reset the control.
Your Air Conditioner
As part of the routine inspection and tune-up, these key points should be included:
Cleaning of the Coils: The condenser and evaporator coils should be thoroughly cleaned. Dirt and debris may affect the performance of your cooling system. The technician will remove the access panel and use a specialized brush or compressed air to clean all coils.
Blower Cleaning: If the motor blower is dirty, there may be a dramatic reduction in cooling throughout your home. The HVAC service technician will disassemble the blower and vacuum the dirt and debris. A lint-free cloth may also be used to clean the blower.
Lubricate Moving Parts: As with the furnace lubrication, the same service will be performed on the air conditioning system. This may include lubricating with air conditioner compressor oil, directly to the unit's compressor.
Keep the above checklist handy for future reference. The next time you request an inspection and tune-up of your home systems, know what you'll receive as part of the heating and cooling services.
A few years ago, I could tell that we were having serious furnace problems. In addition to dealing with a house that was constantly too cold or too warm, we were also plagued by a noisy, smelly furnace that seemed to have trouble on a daily basis. Unfortunately, I didn't know enough about furnaces at the time to spot the problems quickly. One day, the entire system died, and it was beyond repair. After having that experience, I learned a lot about HVAC systems, so that I could troubleshoot future systems. This website is all about teaching you what you need to know so that you don't end up in the same situation.