Should I Hire an HVAC Professional or Do It Myself?
How many YouTube videos does it take to maintain an HVAC system?
Oh, that’s not how the joke goes?
Well, either way, there are a lot of YouTube tutorials out there showing viewers how to perform different services on their heating and air conditioning system. Some can be useful and informative, but others may leave you confused and attempting to follow them can be difficult and dangerous.
Ask Yourself: How big is the job?
Smaller things like changing a filter or cleaning around the system are things that, as a homeowner, you can easily take care of yourself. You can perform these maintenance chores safely and relatively easily, especially with full knowledge of the different elements of your HVAC system.
As the jobs become more involved, they require a well-trained and experienced professional. Did you know attempting to install your own HVAC system can have serious legal ramifications? This is in part because you must carry the correct certifications in order to avoid contributing to environmental damage. All types of refrigerant used in modern HVAC systems require a certified technician to properly install or remove and recover them from the system. Accidentally venting refrigerant into the atmosphere is potentially damaging and very illegal, with fines of up to $10,000 for just a single incident.
A significant reason that extensive repair and installation of your HVAC equipment is best left to professionals is safety. Potential dangers involving electrical wiring, and/or natural gas lines exist. If the air conditioning equipment is not properly installed or repaired, the electrical wiring could become a fire hazard. Electrical issues are one of the most common causes of house fires. If you heat your home with a gas furnace, gas leaks could result from improper or incorrect handling of the gas lines or valves.
When it comes to the heating system, improper wiring can once again be a risk but an even more grave concern is carbon monoxide emissions: a silent killer. It’s odorless and colorless but extremely poisonous. Anytime you burn heating fuels like oil or gas, carbon monoxide is naturally produced as a result. A properly installed system is designed to expel those gases as they are produced. Making sure that ALL repairs are performed by a qualified technician can prevent potential problems.
Choosing the Right System
Like we mentioned in “What is the Lifespan of My HVAC System?”, maintaining a good relationship with a quality HVAC provider is key to understanding how to choose the best system for your home and budget. Although it may appear that the professional companies are quoting you more expensive systems they are actually helping you select the best solution for your home.
If you were to attempt to piece together a system on your own, even if you could legally purchase the equipment – you may not get the results you expect. Getting the right system depends on the size of your home, the layout, and your criteria for a comfortable environment.
With a system that is too big, it will run hard, then shut off, and continue this cycle. This leads to temperatures constantly fluctuating throughout the home. Excess humidity is not pulled from the air as it should be. This is also going to put wear and tear on your system, causing it to prematurely break down.
If the system is too small, it will constantly run at maximum capacity and likely still not keep your whole house comfortable. Once again you run the risk of higher energy bills because the system is constantly working overtime.
Professional HVAC contractors have the training and experience to help you choose the perfect system so that you don’t need to worry about making any of these calculations yourself.
As we have seen, while there are certain elements of your HVAC system that you cannot install on your own, there are several maintenance steps that you don’t always have to call in the pros to perform.
1) Change Your Filters.
Neglecting your filters can cost you big time: when you don’t change your filter as frequently as you should, its ability to clean the air diminishes. The filter will accumulate dirt and grime that jams the porous surface of the filter and eventually restricts the airflow that your system needs to work properly. This forces your HVAC system to work harder and run longer and increases your energy bill as a result.
Changing your filters can be a fairly quick and easy job but it has a profound impact on the efficiency of your system. Your MSCO technician will show you during your maintenance visit how to change your filter and which filters will be most effective in your system.
2) Clean Around Your Outdoor Unit.
Cleaning around the condenser of your HVAC system (the outdoor unit) is important in ensuring proper airflow within the system. If you have a heat pump, this involves year-round maintenance including snow removal, cutting back vines and branches, and controlling falling leaves. If you have an air conditioner, covers are available to protect the unit when it is not being used.
Now that it’s warming up and you absolutely will be using your condenser – you’ll want to remove anything potentially restricting the unit. This includes raking back leaves and clearing debris from around the sides of the condenser and cutting back branches and vegetation surrounding it at least two feet in all directions.
3) Keep Indoor Registers Clean.
Your heating and cooling system uses ducts to distribute conditioned air throughout the house. These ducts terminate in a series of specialized metal “boots” that are capped by a register or grille in the walls, ceilings, and floors of your home.
These registers are the direct way that heated or cooled air is delivered to each room, and they need a little care to keep doing their job. Make certain that registers are not blocked or restricted by furniture or other decorations in the room. They need plenty of space to perform properly. Make sure that the internal louvers in each register are either open or adjusted as desired to maintain proper airflow. There will be a lever or knob to adjust each one.
Take care when performing house cleaning chores that registers or grilles are not accidentally scratched or damaged. They should be kept clean and dry in order to prevent rusting. If airflow from an open register is diminished or non-existent it may mean that the duct attached to it has become disconnected and may need to be repaired.
Taking these steps, you can safely help maintain your own HVAC system and assist your HVAC professionals in keeping your home more comfortable.
Contact us online or call at 757-418-8305 today, to learn more about HVAC installation, DIY maintenance tips, and for all your home comfort needs and concerns.