If you’ve been juggling information from a bunch of HVAC maintenance checklists looking for answers to your leaking furnace or dead AC unit, but all you’ve ever found was a generic blog that ended with a sales pitch, we totally understand your pain.
It seems like all these HVAC tips and tricks blogs aren’t even written by certified HVAC technicians (spoiler alert - they’re not).
We get you:
We’re here to help you (actually help you) with your HVAC issues. Sometimes, there’s an emergency that needs to be patched up right away and you don’t have time to call an HVAC contractor. Other times, you’re just fighting with the darned thermostat to get it to the right setting.
Wherever you are in your HVAC journey, we’ve got you covered. But…
Before we get started:
We’ve broken down this list of HVAC tips and tricks by category so that you can find the exact answer to your air conditioning or heating questions. The first half of this HVAC maintenance checklist is broken up by where you are in life (beginner, homeowner, renter). The second section consists of seasonal HVAC tips to help you figure out the best time of year to perform preventative maintenance. Finally, we included some tips for technicians to best serve their customers.
Side note: You’ll notice everything is branded “NexGen”. Don’t worry, this isn’t an HVAC sales pitch, we’re just really proud of our Orange County HVAC company. You wouldn’t believe how many people are out there that would steal your photos and content so we’ve got to be cautious.
Without further adieu, here’s our comprehensive list of the only 31 HVAC tips and tricks you’ll ever need to know:
Here’s a pet peeve:
People who assume you’re an expert. Yeah, at NexGen Air, we’re expert HVAC technicians, but we understand that not everyone is. We’re going to start this section off with the fundamentals for all of you HVAC beginners out there.
This is for true HVAC beginners who have never had to deal with an HVAC issue. If you already know what a furnace looks like or where to find your ductwork, please skip ahead to the more technical HVAC tips and tricks.
HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.
There are 9 basic components that make up a complete central air and heat system. These components are the furnace, the heat exchanger, the evaporator coil, the condensing unit, refrigerant tubes, the thermostat, the ductwork, the vents, and the heat pump. (Don’t worry! We’ll explain these parts in detail further down the list.)
The furnace is your heating unit. Furnaces usually run off electricity or natural gas. There are pros and cons to both, but we’ll cover that in another section. You can find your furnace hiding in your basement, garage, or utility closet. Your furnace’s main function is to heat up air and move it into your ducts to warm your house. (Fun fact: Furnaces are commonly mistaken for boilers, but they’re totally separate appliances).
Here's a great example of a brand-new Lennox furnace in a utility closet.
This is not part of your furnace although you can find it nestled inside your furnace. While the furnace pushes hot air into your ducts, the heat exchanger is the one actually converting cold air into hot air.
Another resident inside the furnace, the evaporator coil actually absorbs any heat from air passing over it in order to blow cool air through your vents and into your home.
Your condensing unit serves a similar purpose as your evaporator coil but you can find the condensing unit outside, usually on the side of your house. However, as the evaporator coil absorbs heat, the condensing unit gives off heat (think of it as the exhaust pipe for your home when you’re trying to cool it).
If your AC unit doesn't look as clean as this, it's time to schedule an HVAC installation.
Refrigerant tubes connect your evaporator coil to your condensing coil. Refrigerant tubes are typically made of metal and are designed to hold refrigerant and to connect the indoor and outdoor units.
Your thermostat is that little device mounted on the wall somewhere inside your house that allows you to control your home’s temperature (don’t ask us where to find your thermostat, there’s not really a rule as to where they’re placed - they could be anywhere!). Did you know you can get a smart Wi-Fi connected thermostat that allows you to program the temperature of your home from your phone?
There's more than just Nest when it comes to smart, wi-fi connected thermostats. Stay connected to your home with your smartphone!
Your home’s ductwork is what allows the conditioned air from your furnace or AC unit to be distributed around your house. Ductwork in Southern California homes is usually found overhead, running through attic and ceiling space.
Air vents allow your heated or cooled air to enter your living space from the ductwork.
A heat pump works for both heating and cooling. In the summertime, heat pumps pump hot air out of your home, and in winter, heat pumps do the exact opposite.
This section is mainly directed at new homeowners seeking HVAC advice but it applies to all homeowners.
If you’re a new homeowner, you need to know what kind of HVAC system you have. The typical system is a central air conditioning system which has all of the components listed above in our HVAC tips for Beginners section. Your home could also have a ductless mini-split system or even a window-attached wall unit (yikes!). You should also know whether your furnace is electric, or natural gas, or if your home uses a heat pump or boiler system.
If you’ve just moved into your home, change the air filter. Your home was most likely listed for a few months before you purchased it, and even though the air conditioner probably wasn’t running all that often, it’s still a good idea to start with a fresh clean air filter.
Your condenser is usually in your side yard and is easily forgotten. Over time, shrubs and debris can grow or build up around your unit, limiting its airflow, and making it work harder to cool your home.
Many new homeowners are guilty of this one. In order to save energy, homeowners close the vents in rooms they don’t use thinking it will save them energy. In reality, this actually makes your HVAC system less efficient. Heat likes to distribute itself evenly within an object. When that object is your home, heat will get into that closed-vent room anyway, but it means your HVAC system will work harder in order to create an even temperature around the house.
Keeping air vents open allow for equal temperature distribution throughout your home and keeps your HVAC system running efficiently. Bonus points for keeping your vents clean to avoid allergies and blockages.
Did you know most home inspectors don’t check ductwork? What this means for a new homeowner is that you won’t know if your ducts are dirty or in need of repair. If your home seems dusty, or you notice your HVAC system making loud noises as if it is working harder than it should, you should check your ducts. Chances are, they’re just dirty, but on the off chance that your ducts are leaking air, you need to make sure to call an HVAC technician to patch or replace your ducts.
As a new homeowner, you can’t rely on your parents or your landlord to fix any appliance issues in your home - that’s your responsibility now. Unless you work as a contractor, chances are you don’t have a strong relationship with one. This goes for all home improvement contractors, but trust us when we say that your HVAC contractor should be top of the list. HVAC systems have a lot of small moving parts and play a huge role in your home’s comfort. The most common home issue is related to HVAC so make sure you’re not calling a stranger when you need to service your air conditioning or heating unit. A strong relationship with an HVAC contractor will save you thousands during the duration of your homeownership and your contractor will be very familiar with your home, your HVAC system, and your expectations for price and service.
Watch this: Here's a great example of a reputable HVAC company that you'd want to build a relationship with. If you live in the Los Angeles, Orange County, or Palm Desert areas, find an HVAC company like NexGen.
Manual J is the calculation used to make sure you’re getting the right size HVAC system for your home. It’s a very complicated calculation and we don’t expect you to know how to do one, but you should definitely expect your HVAC contractor to know how to do it. Running a manual J for your new home is extremely important so that you can install the right HVAC system, otherwise, your system may not run efficiently or have trouble heating or cooling your home.
As a renter, you still may want to know a little bit about HVAC units. Although your landlord should be responsible for any HVAC maintenance, you never know how long that will take.
The last thing you want is to be waiting on your landlord’s response while your home turns into an oven.
This goes without saying, but sometimes it’s easy to forego proper maintenance on an HVAC unit when it’s not actually your HVAC unit. Clean your HVAC unit when you move into your new rental. Make sure the air filter is clean and make sure all the moving parts are lubricated and operating smoothly.
As soon as you move in, take photos of your furnace, condenser, vents, and even ducts if you have access to them. This gives you some photo evidence for your landlord in case there’s ever an issue with your HVAC unit down the line.
If your furnace runs on natural gas, make sure you close your gas valve in the summer when you don’t need to heat your home. Natural gas can leak from your unit and can become a dangerous situation. If you’re renting a home and are not familiar with the maintenance history of said home, it’s best to be on the side of caution.HVAC Tips for Summer
You wouldn’t believe how many times we’re asked about the best energy-saving tips for summer or summer thermostat settings. No, there isn’t really an ideal AC temperature to save electricity, but here are some summer HVAC tips that we know will help you maximize your HVAC efficiency. Here are our seasonal HVAC tips for summer.
Southern California areas like Los Angeles, Orange County, and especially Palm Desert have mild winters. This means you’re probably not using your HVAC unit at all, allowing your vents to accumulate a lot of dust. Before it gets hot enough to have to turn on your AC, you should do a quick checkup on your vents and vacuum off any dust that has accumulated.
If you live in Los Angeles, Orange County, or Palm Desert, you know summers get HOT! Not only that, but Southern California has some of the most expensive electrical costs in the country. Investing in a smart thermostat can add peace of mind when it comes to staying cool as well as saving money because your thermostat can be programmed to maximize your HVAC unit’s efficiency.
Ever wonder what all the hype is about smart thermostats? Wi-fi connected thermostats, also known as IoT thermostats (Internet of Things), can save you a lot of money on utility bills and offers you a greater level of control over your home's climate.
Your AC unit will be working its hardest during the summer. Make sure you call an HVAC technician to give it a quick tune-up before you fire it up and run it all summer long. The last thing you want is to find out your HVAC unit isn’t working on the hottest day of the year.
If you’re into spring cleaning, add HVAC maintenance to the top of your list!
Most air conditioners have a drainage hole for fluid buildup from condensation to clear out. If your drainage hole is clogged up, you may end up with a lot of water buildup and a damaged AC unit.
If you live in a humid climate, your dehumidifier is your best friend. Spring is a good season for performing preventative maintenance on your dehumidifier. Take the case off of your unit and let it dry out completely. Take the extra step to vacuum it to make sure its extra dry and free of debris to make sure it stays working properly.
We get it. Springtime in Southern California is beautiful and all you want is to let some fresh air into your home. Just remember, spring is also allergy season and if your doors and windows are left open, you’re welcoming all of those allergens into your home. If you absolutely must have those windows and doors open, however, we recommend investing in a high-quality air purifier.
Your HVAC system works really hard to warm up your home. If you live in Los Angeles, Orange County, or the Palm Desert areas (or anywhere in Southern California for that matter), you get how chilly winter can get. If all the heat that your furnace generates escapes your home, why even bother with heating your home? Invest in some quality insulation to get the best HVAC heating experience in winter.
(That pink stuff is insulation. If your attic doesn't look like this, it may need some more insulation, or else your HVAC unit won’t work as efficiently).
You’re most likely not blasting the AC in wintertime. To make sure your dormant outdoor AC unit stays in top shape, consider covering it up to protect it from any unforeseen damage.
Remember when we said to build a good relationship with the best local HVAC contractor you can find? Here’s where it comes in handy. Call up your local HVAC technician and do a quick checkup on your furnace. If your furnace has been off all year, you may want to do a small tune-up before keeping it on all winter long.
Yeah, we even have tips for HVAC technicians too! Sure, we're one of the best HVAC companies in Orange County, but we’d like to think we’re the best contractors because we share the love. Here are a few tips that we use to best serve our customers.
This isn’t some feel-good ethics lecture. It’s important to understand exactly what your customer needs when it comes to their air conditioning or furnace needs. Think about it, you’re an expert HVAC contractor - you know exactly how to explain what’s wrong with an HVAC system. Your customer may not know the best way to explain what wrong with their HVAC unit and you need to put yourself in their shoes to best serve their heating and cooling needs.
This is a no-brainer if you’re an HVAC apprentice, but for those HVAC contractors with years of experience, it may take a hit on your pride. Remember, at the end of the day, the worst mistake you can make is not serving the customer right. Make sure you earn that 5 star review on yelp for being the best HVAC contractor by calling for help or reading up on the top HVAC tips and tricks!
Hey look! it's some of the smartest, most experienced HVAC technicians in Orange County! Keep it up!