During the lifespan of a typical home cooling and heating system, some HVAC costs are more preventable than others. For example, an annual preventative maintenance agreement with a qualified HVAC contractor keeps your system operating at optimum performance and efficiency, as well as reducing wear and tear that may shorten component lifespan and cause malfunctions. The modest cost of annual professional preventative maintenance is a good investment. It’s also usually required by most HVAC manufacturers under terms of the system warranty.
But what about other HVAC costs you can’t predict? The expected service life of a new central air conditioner today is 15 years. For a gas-fired furnace, it’s 20 years or more. Over that extended span service may be required, from a simple adjustment to a component replacement. Variables affecting these costs include:
Warranty coverage. Major manufacturers are providing longer coverage for certain repairs. Time frame. A standard scheduled service call during normal working hours typically costs less than emergency service after-hours or on weekends. Age of the unit. Like any mechanical device, older HVAC systems may need more frequent and costly repairs. Local climate. Regional temperature extremes—such as the desert southwest and far northern locales—subject air conditioners or …
While HVAC parts are individual components, they’re also integral elements engineered to function together in a system that generates reliable, efficient cooling and heating. A shortfall or defect in a single part may affect operation and performance of the whole system. While a working knowledge of the complete HVAC parts inventory definitely isn’t necessary for the average homeowner, here are four major components to be aware of:
Air Conditioner Compressor
Located in the outside half of the system, the compressor incorporates a powerful high-voltage motor and compresses refrigerant flow to efficiently disperse heat. Compressors are typically designed to last the life of the system. Due to the high cost, replacing a damaged or defective compressor may not be financially viable in an older unit. Upgrading to a new air conditioner may be the better option.
Furnace Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger component separates the furnace burner combustion chamber from the system airflow. In addition to transferring heat to warm the airflow, the heat exchanger prevents dangerous combustion byproducts including carbon monoxide from infiltrating into the airflow. For safety reasons, a furnace with a cracked or corroded heat exchanger must be shut down until the unit is properly repaired or replaced.
Most of us know that refrigerant is the substance that is key to the cooling process, but few of us have ever seen it. It flows mysteriously through our HVAC systems, absorbing heat from our homes’ interiors as a cool, low pressure liquid, and then is pumped outdoors as a hot, high pressure gas, where the heat is exhausted by a fan, then does it all over again.
That’s more than most homeowners know about refrigerant. But because laws governing refrigerant have changed in recent years, it’s important to understand them due to the impact they will have on your budget. Here are a few things to keep in mind concerning the maintenance and eventually, the replacement of your air conditioner.
R22 vs. R410A
If you have an older air conditioner, it probably uses R22, the refrigerant that is being phased out due to the harm it causes our planet’s ozone layer. Most newer air conditioners are designed to use R410A, a refrigerant that is not as harmful to the environment.
The beginning of daylight saving time is right around the corner, so you’ll soon need to move your clocks ahead to gain an extra hour of sunlight each day. The functionality of your HVAC system is another key consideration during this seasonal time change, so be sure to take the following steps so it stays in perfect sync as you spring forward:
Check the Time on Your Thermostat Display
Most programmable thermostats today have a built-in clock adjustment feature that takes care of daylight saving time changes, but it’s worth verifying that yours makes the change automatically. If not, you can set it ahead by one hour on Sunday, March 11,th so your established HVAC preferences stay on schedule.
Make Warm Weather Programming Adjustments
The spring time change also signals that you’ll need to switch from heating to cooling soon. During this transitional period, you may want to make some short-term adjustments to your comfort settings. Once you’ve made the switch to cooling mode, make sure you input your summer temperature setting changes to minimize your energy consumption when no one is at home during the day, and at night when everyone in the household is usually sleeping.
If you want to save energy, it’s vital that all your home’s systems and HVAC components are working in sync. These tips on syncing HVAC systems can make optimizing your home’s efficiency easier to accomplish and help you maximize your potential energy savings:
Take Good Care of Your HVAC System
Regular professional maintenance is a necessity if you want your HVAC equipment to operate efficiently. To get the full benefit, you should schedule service in the spring and fall every year. In addition to ensuring your HVAC system’s efficiency, routine preventive maintenance visits are an opportunity to identify emerging issues and get them fixed before they adversely affect the equipment’s performance.
Seal Leaks in the Exterior Shell
Energy losses due to air leaks in your home’s exterior shell can be significant, so it’s vital to seal them up. Use weatherstripping, caulk and insulating spray foam to plug cracks, gaps and holes around your exterior doors, windows, along the foundation and around penetrations for wiring, pipes and vents.
Maintain the Duct System