Posted on: October 27, 2016
By: Alan O'Neill
Posted in: Air Conditioning
When your air conditioner’s parts start to wear down, it uses up more energy to compensate for the stress. This will result in an increase in your energy bill and a decrease in your unit’s ability to generate cool air. Dirt also has the same effect as wear and tear. As dirt builds up on the fan’s blades, it weighs them down causing the motor to work harder than it needs to. Eventually it could cause the motor to work itself out and fail. You’ll be left with nothing but a high energy bill and an expensive repair.
Every homeowner should learn the importance to routinely service, clean, test and adjust their heating and cooling appliances on an annual basis by a licensed HVAC contractor or company to ensure that their heating and cooling appliance runs at peak performance and efficiency as advised by heating and cooling manufacturers! It’s very important to have tune-up and maintenance done on your central air conditioning system once a year. Among the benefits that you can get from having them performed on your air conditioner regularly is the significant reduction in energy consumption. One way of keeping your air conditioning costs down is to have tune-up and maintenance performed regularly.
When inspecting your heating system, recognize that some things you can do yourself, and others are best done by a professional.
Mechanical systems need to be tuned up periodically to keep them operating smoothly and efficiently. That’s true with our cars, and it’s true with our heating systems. If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to get your heating system inspected, cleaned, and tuned.
Some of this annual maintenance can be done by homeowners, but most of it should be done by a heating system technician.
Here are some things you can do yourself:
Check and adjust your thermostats. If you have programmable thermostats in your house, take advantage of their convenience and savings potential by properly setting them. Most provide multiple time-periods during weekdays, with potential for separate settings on weekends. For more on programmable thermostats, see my prior column, “Using Thermostats.”
Replace air filters. If you have a forced-air distribution system with a furnace or heat pump, replace the primary air filter at the start of the heating season and then every month or two throughout the heating season, depending on how dirty it gets. Replacement filters cost a few dollars apiece and help your system operate efficiently.
Inspect and clean air registers or baseboard radiators. Efficient heating depends on warm air rising into your rooms from hot-air registers or baseboard radiators (convectors). Make sure these aren’t blocked by carpets or furniture, and vacuum them at the start of the heating season to improve heat transfer.
Tune-up measures that should be done by a professional:
Required heating system maintenance depends on the type of fuel and system you have. In general, oil-fired equipment is a lot dirtier than gas-fired equipment. Oil boilers and furnaces should be cleaned and tuned up every year (in some cases twice a year), while some natural gas- and propane-fired equipment can go for two or even three years between servicing–though I still recommend an annual inspection for safety reasons. A few of the components of this servicing are described below:
Inspect and clean the boiler or furnace. Proper operation requires well-functioning heat exchangers in a furnace or boiler; soot deposits should be cleaned off. The burner nozzle needs to be cleaned to ensure proper firing. And the flue pipe may need cleaning, as deposits may reduce the draft, causing problems.
Measure combustion efficiency. Ask for a written report on the combustion efficiency of your heating system. Heating technicians determine combustion efficiency through a combination of measurements that can include flue temperature, percent carbon dioxide or oxygen in the flue gases, smoke (mostly an issue with oil systems), carbon monoxide, and draft (the pressure differential that exhausts flue gases). Often, the combustion efficiency is tested both before and after cleaning and tune-up; ask for written results of both.
Safety check. Combustion-based heating systems consume oxygen and produce heat along with two primary combustion products (carbon dioxide and water vapor). There are also unwanted combustion byproducts, including carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides, and smoke. The heating system should be inspected for cracks and failed seals that may be allowing flue gases to escape into the home. A heating technician will be able to identify if flue gas “spillage” or “backdrafting” is happening, especially with oil-fired systems, due to soot deposits. Backdrafting problems can arise if changes made in the house, such as general air tightening or installing a central vacuum system or a high-velocity kitchen range hood fan, affect air pressure. Backdrafting is a dangerous condition that should be corrected.
Duct testing. If you have a forced-air system, it’s a good idea to have your duct system tested for air tightness and, if necessary, sealed with duct mastic. This is particularly important if the ducts run through unconditioned space, such as an unheated attic, crawl space, or basement. Ask if your heating system technician has a “Duct Blaster” for this testing. Ducts in unheated spaces should be well insulated.
Recommendations for heating system improvements. During the annual heating system tune-up, ask if modifications would improve performance and efficiency. For example, if your heating system comes on for fairly short periods of time even in the coldest weather, it may make sense to downsize the burner nozzle, which will reduce the fuel consumption (and heat output), so the furnace or boiler will cycle on and off less. With an older oil system, ask if it makes sense to install a “draft reduction” system that will lessen the amount of heat going up the chimney. And if you don’t have them already, by all means consider programmable thermostats.
As you are thinking about improvements to the heating system, don’t forget about the house envelope–buttoning up should be your top priority for reducing energy use for heating.
Modern air conditioning units are quite dependable and long lived, but that doesn’t mean you can install one and forget about it. If you’ve never given your air conditioner a checkup, now’s the time. Fully licensed and experienced professionals can install and maintain all energy efficient air conditioning systems available on the market. They understand the fundamental facts that like any other piece of machinery at your home; your air conditioning system also needs regular maintenance. A well maintained and sound air conditioning unit operates at up to 25% and even better efficiency than a poorly maintained system. If you are overdue for a tune-up, seeing signs of problems, or are simply just proactive call Abacus Plumbing at (713) 812-7070 and schedule a tune-up today!
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