DIY HVAC Maintenance
With soaring electric bills and inflation, most folks are looking to save money where they can. Air conditioning maintenance not only saves money on your Entergy bills and extends the life of your ac unit, but also can help you avoid costly ac repairs. Properly maintaining your system is key to energy efficiency, resident health, comfort, and function.
When your air conditioning unit is running properly, it removes humidity (excess moisture in the air), which can reduce the growth of mold that can lead to allergies or exacerbate asthma. Therefore, the optimal time to conduct ac maintenance is before you need to run it regularly (usually in springtime).
Your HVAC system is comprised of two parts, either an AC and Heat Pump, or AC and Furnace, both of which require servicing to maintain optimal efficiency. We share a few tasks you can do yourself below, additional task require a professional to manage.
Turn Off Power to Your System
Working around electrical energy and the HVAC’s moving parts is inherently dangerous, so it is paramount that power to the unit is completely shut off before maintenance. You should find a shut off box close to the exterior HVAC unit, and then shut off power to the unit on the interior breaker box.
You will need a wrench or screwdriver to remove the HVAC exterior cage away from the system to remove debris that has worked its way in. Use a shop vac to remove leaves and additional debris from the interior of the unit.
Clean the Fins
Dirt, lint, scale, biofilms, and oxidation accumulation need to be removed. Using a powerful shop vac with a brush attachment clean the interior of the unit. After cleaning with a shop vac, use a water hose (not a pressure washer, as it could damage the blades) to spray the fins from the inside out to remove debris that has built up between blades. A commercial cleaning spray may be necessary if the fins are extremely dirty.
Straighten out the Fins + Clean the Heat Exchange Coils
Grime and build up reduce efficiency of airflow through the fins, remove as much build up as possible. If fins are bent, they move less efficiently - carefully straighten bent fins using a commercial fin-straightening tool. Fins have embedded tubing and can easily be damaged, so be gentle.
When you are finished cleaning the interior, restore the fan cage and clear the area around the exterior HVAC unit of debris and leaves that can be drawn or blown in. Your HVAC system should have a minimum of two feet clearance from vegetation for airflow.
Level the Unit
The pad of your HVAC unit can become unlevel as soil settles or erodes. When this happens you can use a shim to bring the unit level. If you are using a heat pump system, a slight slope for winter run off is perfectly acceptable. Just ensure the slope stays consistent.
Clean the Evaporator Coil
Now it is time to clean the inside furnace evaporator coils. Locate your evaporator door (you may need to remove interior insulation), using a soft brush, gently dust the coil first, then spray them with a commercial no-rinse coil cleaner. The non-rinse coil spray foams up and runoff will drip into the drain pan. Clean the drip pan with soap and hot water. Once clean, pour one cup of 50% water and 50% bleach solution down the drain. You can add a bleach tablet to the drain pan to prevent algae growth between maintenance.
Provided the 50/50 bleach solution drains easily, you can skip the next step. If not, you will need to clean the evaporator drain. Restore the interior coil door (and tape if necessary).
Cleaning the Evaporator Drain
Air inside your home blows through the evaporator coil, the cool coil absorbs heat from the air (cooling it), then circulates it back into your home. The humidity in your home condenses on the cool evaporator coil and drips into the pan below. The pan drains to a tube that is routed out of your home. This tube slowly accrues algae and mold that has the potential to clog the drain. Many HVAC systems come equipped with a drain float that will stop your system from cooling to prevent flooding.
To clean your drain line, find the line where it exits the evaporator enclosure. It is usually a visible 1-inch PVC pipe. Typically the pipe runs to the outside near the condenser unit, but can also run to a utility sin or floor drain. Attic units usually run down an exterior wall.
Start by removing wet vac filter, then place the hose of the wet vac over the exterior drain line. Use a hand towel or duct tape to cause a seal around the drain line and shop vac hose, and allow the the shop vac to run for a few minutes before turning the vacuum off. This should clean your drain of algae and other biological concerns
Change HVAC Filter
Your HVAC filter should be replaced at minimum of twice a year but check it regularly to ensure optimal efficiency and prevent circulation of air born allergens. Homeowners with pets may need to change it more frequently. In addition, if you are remodeling your home air born particle from drywall or sanding will require frequent monitoring for air filter replacement as particle will clog your filter and reduce airflow to your system.
Restore Power to the Home
While the task listed above will extend the life of your unit and keep it running at optimal efficiency, there are maintenance task only a licensed HVAC technician can perform. Refrigerant leaks can lead to compressor failure that require tools and the skills of a professional. In addition, clean ducts and proper airflow are crucial to a well-operating system. While these tips can help you maintain your HVAC system, having an experience contractor service your system twice a year can help avoid HVAC system failure and costly repair. HVAC technicians are specially trained to spot impending problems before they become expensive repairs and make efficiency adjustments with trade specific tools.
If the AC Maintenance tasks mentioned above are above your skill or comfort level, call the Lake Charles AC Repair Guys at Accurate Air and Heat. Accurate Air maintenance visits are cost effective solutions to reducing your utility bills and optimizing your HVAC system for efficiency.
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Do it Yourself AC Maintenance - Lake Charles AC Repair Company
If you need a new air conditioning unit, there are a few numbers and acronyms you will want to become familiar with. We commonly come across the question, “what is a SEER rating,” and is it important.
When your AC has met the end of its useful life, you will probably need to bone up on Department of Energy minimum efficiency requirements to understand shopping and comparing new HVAC units.
HVAC systems are big-ticket items, so you are smart to investigate pertinent ratings before investing in a new air conditioning unit.
SEER is an acronym for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio and concerns how much energy an HVAC system uses over the course of a year. The DOE, US Dept. of Energy, has set a minimum efficiency rating for all new HVAC systems installed in the US by zone.
SEER is the measurement used to determine that efficiency. The higher the SEER number, the more efficient the unit should be, and theoretically, how much you can save on your utility bills.
The SEER rating range is typically somewhere between 14 (the DOE minimum requirement for Louisiana in 2022) and 27, so any new HVAC system you purchase will probably have a higher efficiency rating than the 15+-year-old unit you are replacing. In addition, the SEER rating also allows homeowners to compare one HVAC system against others.
SEER in practical terms – The amount you can save on utility bills varies greatly and is dependent on the size of your home or business, how well your structure is insulated, how much you pay per kilowatt-hour, your replacement unit SEER rating, and your current utility bills.
Savings can be estimated using a SEER calculator (free tools are available online), or by downloading the SEER spreadsheet calculator from Energy.gov.
Determining a SEER Rating
The SEER rating is determined by calculating an HVAC unit’s average performance over the course of a year, including, the amount of cooling and heating your system contributes per units of energy used. Still, it boils down to the less energy used to cool or heat your home, the higher the SEER rating will be.
Locate the BTUs (British Thermal Unit) of your HVAC, typically found on the air conditioning unit or in the owner’s manual.
Locate the watts per hour used for your HVAC system, also found either on the unit or in the owner’s manual.
Now calculate the BTUs used over the course of the year, for example purposes let’s just round it to 1,000 hours. Now multiply the BTUs from step one by 1,000 to get the number of BTUs used over the course of a year.
Now calculate the number of watts per hours used over the course of a year by multiplying watts per hours from step 2 by 1,000.
Now divide the BTUs used (derived from step 3) by the number of watts-hours consumed (derived from step 4) to arrive at the SEER rating.
Higher efficiency usually comes at a higher price. The technology that goes into producing higher SEER ratings increases the cost of the unit; you will want to weigh the upfront cost-to-advantage ratio when choosing a new ac unit, a professional HVAC contractor’s experience and knowledge can be valuable when making this decision. If you have your sights set on a specific brand, don’t worry, most manufacturers have a range of systems with minimum to high-efficiency options available to meet their client's needs and budget.
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The acronym HVAC is an abbreviation for Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning refers to the cooling and heating systems used in homes and commercial properties to keep residents comfortable. The task of an HVAC system is to circulate filtered cool or warm air through a structure. Virtually every home in Southwest Louisiana has an HVAC system installed.
An HVAC contractor is a person, or company, tasked with repairing, maintaining, and installing Air Conditioning, Heating and Ventilation systems.
When do I need to call an HVAC contractor?
HVAC owners typically call air conditioning contractors in Lake Charles La when their AC, heat pump or furnace fails to provide the level of comfort they desire. Additionally, HVAC professionals are called on to perform bi-annual HVAC maintenance services to extend the life of the AC. When the need arises, HVAC contractors are who you call to purchase and install a new HVAC unit or for emergency repair service.
What Can You Expect When You Hire an HVAC Contractor?
If you don’t have a relationship with a local HVAC contractor, your search for AC repair contractors in Lake Charles will reveal that the field of HVAC repair has distinct segments of expertise. Not all contractors share the same experience, focus, or skillsets.
HVAC research will reveal that most HVAC contractors are trained in three areas: heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. However, many contractors elect to narrow their professional focus to one or two of these categories and may further specialize in either residential or commercial HVAC.
Services Offered by HVAC Contractors in Lake Charles La.
Routine maintenance – is generally the starting segment for new HVAC technicians; furnace/heat pump and air conditioning repair require additional experience and training to accurately diagnose repair issues, while HVAC installation requires the highest level of expertise and skill.
In addition to the service segments listed above, HVAC contractors consult with home and business owners on energy efficiency and ways to reduce their utility costs. The advice can range from properly sealing drafty windows and doors to adding insulation around the air ducts.
Many HVAC contractors offer air quality control consultations. With an array of devices on the market that can improve indoor air quality, a consultation with a knowledgeable technician can save time and money on items like whole-home dehumidifiers, disinfecting light systems, electronic air cleaners, duct cleaning, and repair or replacement of your thermostats.
Some HVAC systems require specialized repair equipment. For example, water-based heating and boilers systems require specific training and skillset from forced-air systems. Additionally, solar heating is another niche system that requires a specialist.
What Tasks Do HVAC Technicians Perform?
MAINNTENANCE – A new homeowner may be surprised to learn that their HVAC System requires regular maintenance. During a maintenance call, the technician will check tubes and pipes for leaks, refill refrigerants to proper levels, test thermostats, test circuits, inspect motors and fans, clean the outdoor unit, change air filters, and look for impediments to optimal efficiency.
REPAIRS – When your HVAC system is maintained regularly, it allows your technician to identify impending repairs, helping to avoid emergency service. HVAC Repair Service generally requires repairing or installing fatigued parts of your AC system. Repair service is the bulk of a contractors work during summer and winter months.
INSTALLATION – When an HVAC system has reached the end of its useful life, a contractor is tasked with replacing it with a new unit. Replacement requires careful inspection of the existing system to ensure the replacement unit is the correct size and capacity for the home, followed by carefully replacement the existing unit, with minimal impact to the comfort of the occupants. Installation can include installing or replacing ductwork, pipes, wiring, tubing, and electrical supply lines and testing the unit after installation.
The work of an HVAC contractor can be complex and varies substantially from one home to another as there are nearly as many HVAC manufacturers are there are automobile manufacturers. Installation of a new system can be as simple as replacing the old system with a similar capacity system, or it could require updated electrical and ductwork (depending on the age of the home or structure).
When Should I Call an Experienced HVAC Contractor?
If your home cooling and heating system is failing to provide the comfort you are accustomed to, it’s time to call an HVAC professional. In addition, you should consider calling if you experience:
Consider scheduling a maintenance appointment and allow an experienced HVAC contractor in Lake Charles La to perform routine service. During the service call, your technician will alert you to an impending repair need. The sooner you schedule an HVAC maintenance appointment, the better. During summer months, most HVAC contractors stay booked with emergency service calls.
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