Your home’s HVAC system includes a number of heating, cooling, and ventilation components that all work together to make your indoor living spaces more comfortable. Like any complex system, individual components that breakdown or function poorly can influence the operation of the system as a whole. Keeping all components of your heating, cooling, and ventilation system in good working order will ensure that you and your family feel comfortable in your home, and that your utility costs remain as affordable as possible.
Just how much of an effect does your HVAC system have on your energy bills? According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “Heating and cooling your home uses more energy and costs more money than any other system in your home–typically making up about 54% of your utility bill.” That’s a pretty significant impact! While there are a vast number of malfunctions that can cause your HVAC system to operate poorly (or lose function completely), the following five problems are not only common, but easy and cheap to fix, too.
When the air conditioning or heating goes out, panic is hardly an uncommon reaction. Even if you’ve never experienced it yourself, we’ve all heard stories of through-the-roof service bills and extensive system overhauls that stem from a furnace or condenser that isn’t functioning properly. The worry of costs we can’t afford and hassles we don’t want is a powerful deterrent that causes many of us to ignore or deny the problem for as long as we can.
The fact is, however, many instances of heating and cooling systems going on the fritz are caused by a broken thermostat–an ailment that can be remedied very affordably and extremely quickly. Many folks who put off calling for service when the culprit is a broken thermostat not only deal with the uncomfortable temperatures for much longer than they needed to, but waste a fair amount of money running a system that is not working efficiently.
Here’s another quick and easy fix that can cause a heating or cooling system to perform poorly. Disposable filters range in price dramatically, but the ones that can be purchased for a buck or two should be changed once a month during peak seasons while the slightly more expensive ones can perform for 2 or 3 times that long. Permanent filters should generally be cleaned every month during times of high use. Even if the dirty filter in your system seems to be doing its job well, it could be causing your system to work harder to produce the desired results. Keeping your filter, therefore, can prevent premature wear to your system and save you money, too.
The air that comes out of your vents (be it heated air or cooled air) must travel through a series of ducts before it reaches the appropriate room. Though ductwork can vary in design from one home to the next, many supply lines that lead to the individual rooms of your house have a damper at the main supply line that is used to restrict airflow. In instances where some rooms cool or heat much faster than others, it may be because the dampers are not balanced. Reducing the airflow to a line allows more conditioned air to flow to other areas of the home, and finding the right balance of dampers will help each room of the house receive the right amount of heated or cooled air.
This one applies only to cooling units. A conventional condenser unit requires a liquid refrigerant (commonly referred to as Freon) in order to create the cool air that comes into your home. When the unit doesn’t have enough refrigerant, it can’t do its job, and the air it produces is not cold. This issue not only leaves the inside of your home too hot, it causes the condenser to work overtime, which can lead to more problems.
Refrigerant doesn’t just go away; if it is missing from your unit, you can bet it is leaking. This is definitely a job that should be taken care of ASAP, but in many cases, the repair won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
There are several reasons why a furnace or condenser is completely unresponsive, but many times the culprit is a tripped breaker. Going to the breaker box and flipping the designated switch back to “on” may get your system running again, but beware: Breakers rarely trip for no reason! If this happens once and never happens again, the one time was probably a fluke. If this happens more than once, though, call a service professional immediately, as this could be a sign of a serious problem.