If you don’t want to be without your air conditioner during the hot summer months, there are a few steps you can take. Let’s talk about some of the warning signs that something’s wrong, what you can do to keep your system working properly, and what to do to make sure you’re not stuck in the heat if things do go wrong.
If your system is no longer able to keep up with properly cooling your home, that could be a sign that it’s reaching the end of its useful life. It could certainly also be an indication that there’s a problem that needs addressing. (For example, maybe it’s low on refrigerant). You’ll tend to see a reduction in performance and output of the system along with increased operating costs.
An AC freeze-up is when the coil inside the system basically becomes a block of ice. The main reason this usually happens is because the system has become low on refrigerant. It’s a sealed system, but a small amount of refrigerant is lost every time the system is checked. Of course, it would take many years before enough refrigerant is lost from these checks to actually cause the system to freeze up. For this reason, it’s more likely that the problem lies elsewhere. It might be due to a leak that drained refrigerant out of the system.
Maintaining Proper Airflow
The most critical factor that contributes to proper operation and longevity of the system is good airflow. If the airflow in a system is reduced, it has to work harder. The homeowner can take care of this very easily: make sure the filter is changed on a regular basis. You should have spare filters on-hand that are made specifically for your system. Depending on the type of filter, it may need to be replaced as often as once a month or as rarely as once a quarter.
Not only does regular filter changing lead to adequate airflow, but it also prevents dirt from entering the system. Once dirt begins to accumulate, it becomes more difficult for the system to work efficiently. You can think of it like changing the oil in your car. We all know that oil changes need to be done regularly to keep a car’s engine working properly. The exact same thing applies to your air conditioner. It’s easy to underestimate how important this practice is to keeping the system functioning
Lifespan and Efficiency
If your system is approaching the end of its useful life, it might be time to make sure that it’s not going to break down when you need it most. The average lifespan for the cooling system is 10 to 12 years, and the furnace lasts around 12 to 15 years. That’s dramatically shorter than the lifespan of systems that were manufactured many years ago.
For those of us who are a bit older, we remember furnaces that were built like tanks. It took two or three people to bring it into the house. It weighed 800 pounds and the metal was 1/4” thick. That was great for longevity, but it wasn’t so great for fuel efficiency. Now that we’re in the days of mandated fuel efficiency, manufacturers are making the metals thinner. The manufacturing changes have resulted in superior heat transfer at the sacrifice of longevity.
Gas furnace efficiency is rated by percentage. If the rating is 90% efficiency, that means that 90% of the fuel cost is actually going into heating the home. Only 10% is going up the chimney. A heat pump will be rated similarly to an air conditioner, so it will have a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio)
If your HVAC system isn’t working properly, we’ll usually be able to come to your home the same day. There are some exceptions, however. During the first excessive heat spell or unusually long hot stretch, most of the HVAC companies have full schedules to the point that they have a waiting list. That’s why it’s very important that you turn on your air conditioner right when it gets warm.
Once you have that first 75 degree day, turn on the system to make sure it can cool the home to temperature in a reasonable time. That’ll mean that it’s very likely it’s going to be able to face the hot season to come. If you wait until the first 95 degree day to turn the unit on, what will happen if it’s not working properly? It’s likely that you’re not going to be the only one who’s having that problem. You’ll be one of the many people on a long waiting list.
Remember, the most important step you can take as a homeowner is to have a system that’s operating efficiently for as long as possible. That means that you have to have it maintained regularly. Your best bet is our TotalCare Plan, where we come out to your home twice a year (spring and fall). We’ll do a complete tuneup to make sure everything is operating in spec as efficiently as possible. If something like a capacitor, contact, or igniter is starting to get out of spec, we’ll change those components out proactively while the repair is still inexpensive. If you’d wait until those parts were to fail, it would probably result in a very expensive situation.
Give us a call or contact us online today if you want to make sure that your HVAC will work reliably throughout the summer months.