What happens if you neglect HVAC maintenance?

First, your monthly energy bill goes up. Then, your system breaks down and you’re hit with unplanned repair or replacement costs. Worst of all, you may be stuck in the hottest summer heat wave or the cold chill of winter without a working HVAC system.

Surely these are scenarios you wish to avoid, yes? Then we have good news for you.

With proper HVAC preventative maintenance, these terrible fates can be averted. But what exactly is the required maintenance for your HVAC unit? It’s all laid out for you in the guide below.

Here, we’ve listed all the steps required to keep your HVAC system in tip-top shape. Follow this HVAC maintenance checklist to avoid certain doom.

Why HVAC Maintenance is Important

Making sure your HVAC unit stays properly maintained ensures it runs as efficiently as possible. It also extends the life of the system.

Neglecting HVAC maintenance leads to problems like air leaks, clogged ducts, or complete breakdown. It’s a lot cheaper to pay for regular preventative maintenance than to replace or repair your HVAC.

And what if it breaks down when you need it most? You don’t want to be stuck waiting for repairs in the middle of the hottest or coldest months.

Plus, the above issues cause your system to work harder, using more energy per month. Furthermore, a poorly-maintained, inefficient unit won’t heat or cool your house as well.

Then, you’ll run the system more often and use even more monthly energy.

Staying on top of HVAC maintenance means fewer bills and reliable temperature control.

Self-Maintenance

Here’s what you should be doing yourself to prevent HVAC problems:

Air Filter Maintenance

The air filter traps indoor air pollutants until it fills to capacity. Once full, though, it’s actually a clog, blocking the airflow.

You should change the air filter at least every 3-6 months. Although, length of use varies depending on the filter you use. Check the packaging for the intended length of use.

Also, heavy use of the HVAC system or unusually poor indoor air quality causes filters to fill more quickly. If the filter looks full before 3 months, change it early.

When you do change it, timestamp it for reference. Write on it the date you installed it and the date it needs changing.

Clean Intake Vents

The intake vents on your ceiling collect dust over time. If neglected, this too can become an air clog.

Look up every once and a while to check them for excessive dust. When necessary, simply clean them out with a broom or vacuum.

Air Leaks

During seasons of heavy use, check for air leaks as often as you change the filter. Inspect windows and doors as well as any air ducts that are easily accessible.

Listen and feel for any air leaks.

We repeat, ONLY inspect ducts that are easily accessible. Don’t go out of your way to inspect hard-to-reach ducts. You might injure yourself or damage the system.

Leave out-of-reach ducts to the professionals.

Air leaks are energy leaks. If you find any, get them fixed now. For every month you wait to get them fixed, you’ll pay more on your electric bill.

System Check

During the months of heaviest use, do a system check each month. That is, manually test every function of your thermostat one-by-one.

Test all the buttons and programmable settings. Make sure it turns on when it’s programmed to and that the fan, heating, and cooling features are functioning.

Programming the Thermostat

At the beginning of the heating and cooling seasons, check the thermostat settings. Make sure it’s not running at times when no one’s home or in rooms that aren’t occupied.

Program the thermostat (and close or open vents) appropriately to prevent energy waste.

When to Schedule Professional HVAC Maintenance

The above, DIY maintenance does not replace the need for professional maintenance. For maximum efficiency and lifespan, your HVAC unit requires both professional and self-maintenance.

Schedule professional maintenance at these intervals.

Furnace Maintenance

Schedule furnace maintenance at the end of summer, before fall starts. This gives you plenty of time to fix any furnace issues before the cold weather hits.

AC Maintenance

The same idea applies to your AC unit. Get it repaired at the end of winter, long before the weather warms up. If there’s one thing you don’t want, it’s an AC malfunction in the dog days of summer, especially when it could have been prevented.

Combination Heating and Cooling Unit Maintenance

Again, it’s the same idea with combination heating and cooling units. You’ll want to get them maintained several months before you need them. Do this twice a year, once at the end of summer and once at the end of winter.

When to Replace Your HVAC Unit

Even properly maintained HVAC units won’t last forever. On average, AC units last 10-15 years, furnaces 15-20. But experts agree: if you do keep on top of maintenance, your unit should last 25% longer or more.

In contrast, a poorly-maintained unit only makes it to the minimum 10 years, if that. So you see, neglecting HVAC maintenance can cost you more than 25% extra in HVAC replacements in your lifetime. Not to mention what it costs you per month in energy waste.

The good news is, replacing old, inefficient equipment with a new ENERGY STAR-certified HVAC system can reduce your home’s energy use by 20% or more. If your system is over 10 years old or is running inefficiently even with proper maintenance, it may be time to replace it.

Check out this guide to see if your HVAC system needs replacing. Also, during your next scheduled maintenance, ask the HVAC technician about it.

If it does need replacing, go for an energy-efficient, ENERGY STAR-certified unit this time around. This could save hundreds of dollars off your yearly energy costs.

Keep This HVAC Maintenance Checklist

Neglecting HVAC maintenance will bring you nothing but discomfort and expensive, unplanned-for bills.

Don’t let this happen to you, not when preventative HVAC maintenance is such an easy habit to get into.

Take care of your HVAC so it can take care of you. Follow the steps in this HVAC maintenance checklist.

We have plenty more HVAC maintenance tips where that came from. Now, check out “How To Tell If It May Be Time For A New Air Conditioner.”