Even in temperate Virginia, the summer months can push your heating and cooling system to its limit, especially if it hasn’t been properly maintained. For homeowners concerned about heating and cooling in Alexandria, VA, knowing how to prepare their HVAC units for the summer months can save money and spare them from uncomfortable indoor temperatures.
Virginia has a very mild climate, which is why it was one of the more successful parts of the country during the colonial period. Summers can get hot, but don’t quite have the sweltering humidity present in parts of the deep South. Nevertheless, it can and does get very hot during Virginia summers. Hot weather works your air conditioner harder, as it must run for longer durations to keep your home comfortable.
Getting Ready for Summer
You can avoid high energy bills and HVAC unit replacement with a minimal investment of time and money in maintenance. The following are a few best practices for preparing your HVAC system for a Virginia summer:
- Replace your air filters – This is one of the easiest and most effective ways to improve the efficiency of your HVAC system. Air filters keep excessive amounts of dirt and debris from entering your HVAC system and clogging it. They also trap debris and particulates that might otherwise continually circulate through the air of your home, causing allergy and other respiratory problems.
To change your filter, use your thermostat to turn the unit off, then find your return air duct—the duct that pulls air from the interior of your home into the system. Once you’ve found the duct, open it up and find the filter. Once you’ve found the filter, it’s very easy to remove it and replace it with a new one.
In general, you should change your air filter once a month. If you can’t find your return air duct, or if you think your home might have multiple return air ducts, contact an HVAC service company.
- Trim trees and shrubs around your unit – Having trees and shrubs around your unit is a bad idea, as limbs and other debris from them can clog or damage your unit. If you do have trees and shrubs around your unit, it’s important to trim them to avoid damage. Every spring, it’s a good idea to check trees and shrubs around the unit and trim them back. A heavy tree limb falling on your unit can cause serious damage, and if enough leaves fall in your unit it can cause malfunctions.
- Remove debris from around the unit – Trimming vegetation around your unit is just the first step. Twigs, leaves, and other debris can inhibit airflow to your air conditioner unit and may also damage components of the unit. Before summer begins, it’s a good idea to give your outdoor unit a good cleaning. Turn off the unit and remove all debris and foreign objects from the unit.
Turning off the unit is important to avoid possible electrocution. To turn off the unit, find the electrical disconnect and flip the switch. It’s usually in a metal box near the unit.
Once the unit is deactivated, you can use a water hose to spray off loose debris from the exterior of the unit. After you’ve cleaned the unit, check it regularly for debris throughout the summer, especially after storms.
- Install blinds and drapes – Some basic window treatments can help reduce the amount of solar heat coming into your home, thus cutting back on the amount of work that your HVAC unit will have to do to cool your home. If your home has lots of windows, and some of those windows are currently not covered by curtains or blinds, consider installing them before summer hits. You’ll be surprised at how effective a few window treatments are in making your home cooler and reducing your HVAC system’s workload.
- Check your coolant line – Your HVAC system’s coolant line should be insulated. Before summer begins, be sure to go outside and inspect the line to make sure the insulation is in good condition. If it’s not, contact a company offering heating and cooling in Alexandria, VA for help in repairing the line.
- Get the ductwork inspected and cleaned – Clogged or leaky ductwork can reduce the efficiency of your HVAC system, causing higher energy bills. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that about 30 percent of the air that moves through a house is lost because of holes in ductwork or poorly connected ductwork. If you’ve noticed higher than usual power bills, or signs of clogged ducts such as dust or debris near vents, it may be worthwhile to call a professional HVAC firm for air duct cleaning. Alexandria, VA homeowners can have their ducts sealed to ensure greater HVAC system efficiency.
- Upgrade to a programmable thermostat – You can reduce unnecessary use of your HVAC unit by installing a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats allow you to set times for the unit to operate and designate times when it will be off. This gives you greater control of when the unit runs. You can program it to stay off while you’re away at work, and reactivate it an hour before you arrive home to give it sufficient time to cool your house down. New smart thermostats allow you to control the device from your phone or tablet, providing even greater convenience.
- Talk to a professional – If it’s been a few years since you’ve had professional HVAC service technicians take a look at your unit, now may be the time to give them a call. HVAC service technicians can spot problems that the average homeowner can’t, and they have specialized tools and training to resolve HVAC problems. A short inspection and minor repair can save you, in the long run, as these may head off major problems with big repair or replacement costs. A regular inspection also provides you with the peace of mind that your system is operating properly and that an unanticipated repair isn’t just around the corner.
By taking a few proactive measures now, you can improve the efficiency of your HVAC system and detect small problems that may grow into larger and more expensive ones without proper repair and maintenance. The secret of successful homeownership is attention and maintenance, and that extends to your home’s HVAC system, too.
Maintenance Improves Longevity
Good HVAC maintenance isn’t just about lowering your monthly power bills. Properly maintaining your HVAC unit will also ensure that it enjoys a longer operating life, saving you replacement costs. Most HVAC units are designed to last 15 to 20 years. That lifespan can be much shorter if they are damaged or overworked. Keeping your unit in good repair and not overworking it will ensure that you get the full lifespan of your unit. As the average price of replacing a residential HVAC unit is around $3,000 to $7,000, it just makes sense to put a little effort into keeping your unit functional as long as possible.
A-Advantage Heating & Air Conditioning is a family-owned HVAC company that has proudly served Virginia for more than 20 years. With offices in Alexandria and Manassas, A-Advantage has the people and resources to handle just about any HVAC installation or repair job. Recognized with service awards from several leading HVAC manufacturers, the company takes great pride in its work and its reputation for customer satisfaction. If you want quality HVAC service from a company you can trust, contact A-Advantage today.