If you’ve ever had an HVAC repair issue, you know it can often be costly. Not every repair can be prevented, but properly maintaining your HVAC can certainly help save you money and extend the life of your system. If you don’t want to hire a technician to come out to inspect and perform a checkup, consider DIY HVAC maintenance. Proper maintenance of your air-conditioning system can save you money on common AC repairs, and even on regular heating and cooling costs. Here are some preventive maintenance tips even a novice can do, along with some simple DIY HVAC repair suggestions.

What you’re looking at

Your HVAC system contains either a furnace and air-conditioner or a heat pump that does dual duty. Both systems have an evaporator and blower inside the house and a condenser coil and compressor outside. Knowing what you’re dealing with is the first step toward DIY HVAC maintenance. Try these simple ways to potentially save yourself a service call and money:

  • Check and replace your air filters. If you do have disposable filters, they’re usually lightweight and have a cardboard frame around a foam or mesh-like center that traps dust and debris. A good rule of thumb is to replace them (just slide the old one out and the new one in) every 30 to 90 days. If you have pets or keep your windows open, you may need to do it more often. Consider buying high-efficiency pleated filters that can trap more debris.
  • Keep your outdoor unit free of dirt and debris. Look for leaves, pollen, sticks, dirt and foreign objects in and around the compressor. Remove anything that might be blocking the airflow, and keep a two-foot area around the system free of debris.
  • Clean your indoor registers and air ducts. Use a damp cloth to wipe them, and vacuum between the slats to keep air flowing efficiently.
  • During the summer, turn off the humidifier’s water supply. You can replace the water panel in the cooler months. Set it to 35-45 percent and turn it back on.
  • Tune in to any odd noises coming from the indoor or outdoor units. There could be debris caught somewhere, or a bolt may be loose. If you notice any potential wiring issues, it is wise to call a professional technician.
  • Even an HVAC system deserves a break. If the weather is not extreme, turn off the cooling and heating and use the fans to circulate air throughout your home.
HAVC Maintenance
How to perform a more thorough cleaning?

If you’re up to going beyond a simple check, you can clean your HVAC unit yourself. Before you begin, though, make sure you shut off power to the unit to avoid electrical shock or fire.
• Remove the fan cage or grill on the compressor/condenser unit. Use a wet or dry vac to clean debris from the fan.
• Clean the fins and straighten any bent ones with a butter knife. Use the brush attachment of your wet/dry vac to get rid of debris and follow up with a gentle stream of water from your hose, on the inside part of the unit.
• Replace the fan cage and clean around the unit’s exterior. Level it. Get out your level to make sure the compressor is not sitting at a slant, which could negatively affect airflow. If necessary, use rot-resistant shims to level the pad it’s resting on.

After you’ve cleaned the exterior components, go inside to finish the job.

  • Locate the evaporator coil. Dust it with a soft brush and spray it with no-rinse coil cleaner.
  • Clean the drain pan. Use soap, hot water and bleach to scrub the pan. Follow that by pouring a half-cup of bleach and half-cup of water down the drain. If it clears, you’re all set.
  • If the drain is clogged, you may need to unblock it. Look for the drain line, which is usually a gray, white or black piece of one-inch PVC pipe. Follow the line to where it drains and use your wet/dry vac to clear it.
  • Change the blower filter if it has been in use for at least six months.
  • Turn the power back on. You should be good to go.

When not to DIY?

If, during your inspection, you notice broken or worn parts, loose or faulty wiring, a burning smell or any major type of malfunction, it’s best to call in professionals with HVAC certifications. Any of those issues require the expertise of a trained technician.

How Women of HVAC helps women in the industry?

Women of HVAC showcases women in the field, and gives them the necessary tools to begin successful careers in the trades. The organization can help females in HVAC programs who are training for this lucrative, in-demand industry – one the Bureau of Labor Statistics says is expected to grow 15 percent between 2016-2026 – and provides resources, opportunities and support for those already in the field.