You may be wondering how to extend the life of your HVAC system. It runs year-round, day and night, and at that pace, it won’t last forever. The average lifespan of an air conditioner is about 12 to 15 years, and furnaces usually last about 20. If you stay in one home for long enough, system replacement is inevitable.
It’s also one of the more expensive home maintenance tasks you’re likely to face as a homeowner. You’re going to want to delay that inevitability as long as possible. Replacing a broken HVAC system isn’t one of those jobs you can put off until a rainy day. It’s essential to have a plan to replace your system before it breaks down for good.
Working with your current HVAC heating and air conditioning system
If you’re good to your HVAC system, it will be good to you. It’s not unheard of for air conditioners and furnaces to last for many years beyond their average lifespans. But even a long system life can come with its own costs.
As your equipment ages, even if it’s well cared for, it will suffer reduced energy efficiency. This will cause your utility bills to creep up gradually. And individual parts will all meet their maker at some point, so you’re likely to spend more on emergency repairs once your system reaches its golden years.
What’s more, while your system is giving you all those years of excellent service, HVAC technology is always on the march. By the time you’re ready for replacement, the latest HVAC systems will inevitably be more efficient than your old system was when it was brand new. The difference could be significant.
HVAC systems aren’t particularly high maintenance, but routine heating & air conditioning services are still essential. Your air conditioner and furnace should both be inspected, cleaned and tuned up every year. It’s best to schedule your A/C service in spring. An A/C tune up in spring means that your system will be optimized for efficiency the first day you need it. A furnace tune-up is best done in the late summer or early fall. If a severe problem is discovered, you can deal with it before it comes time to switch systems. Having both services done in the course of the year will provide you with a better heating and air conditioning experience.
CAS offers the Home Comfort Club to protect your most valuable assets with tune-ups that include a thorough inspection and lubrication of all moving parts. Other Home Comfort Club tasks include cleaning the condenser, clearing buildup out of the condensate drain tube, checking refrigerant levels and replacing filters. We also check the heat exchanger for cracks and other tasks that make your system safer, more efficient and longer-lasting.
Though your HVAC technician will check your filters during your twice-annual checkups. This task is really up to the homeowner the rest of the time. Most homeowners use disposable 30-day fiberglass filters or 3-month pleated filters, and these should be checked regularly. If they’re seriously dirty, they should be replaced, even if it’s ahead of schedule.
A dirty air filter means that your HVAC system has to work harder to circulate air throughout your home. This can be especially taxing on the fan, but the whole system can suffer when it can barely breathe.
Smart thermostats, the latest in thermostat technology, are easy to program and control from anywhere using your smartphone or tablet. Some models can even learn your HVAC habits and schedule, so they can make energy-saving adjustments without any additional programming at all.
Best of all, if you choose wisely, your smart thermostat can qualify for a BGE rebate. The BGE Energy Star rebate can kick-start your savings! When it’s easier to micromanage your thermostat settings, it’s easier to use your system less. That will make it last longer.
Most HVAC systems have two fan settings. “Auto” instructs the fan to run only when the system is actively heating or cooling. “On” instructs the fan to run continuously. Some systems have dual-speed fans, which allow for a slower, more energy-efficient fan setting between heating and cooling cycles.
There are benefits to using the “on” setting. If you use a supplemental heat source such as a woodstove, keeping the fan in the “on” setting will help to circulate the warmth throughout the house. Keeping the fan in the “on” setting also helps the filter trap more dust. In homes with people who have respiratory sensitivities or allergies, it can improve air quality. A major disadvantage is that it forces the system to work harder, and that shaves time off of its life. It also leads to filters that clog up faster. If you don’t change them regularly, you could be taxing your system.
Somewhere outside your home is your air conditioner’s condenser, which is built to stand up to the elements. It can, however, become damaged from hail or windblown debris from severe storms. Every once in a while, and especially after every significant storm, look over your condenser for signs of damage.
While you’re at it, be sure to clear away any accumulation of leaves or weeds on or around the condenser. If vegetation is growing right next to the unit, cut it down. Your condenser needs room to breathe, too.
If you have male dogs, you should consider putting a low fence a foot or two around the condenser to prevent them from peeing on it. Pet urine can severely damage your unit in a hurry, which can mean that it will need to be replaced prematurely.
The less often your HVAC system runs, the longer it will last. And in the struggle to keep your treated air inside your home, insulation is your best friend.
The most important place to check for sufficient insulation is in your attic. The Environmental Protection Agency’s insulation climate map recommends that attics in our area be insulated with R38 – R60 insulation, with R30 – R38 in cathedral ceilings.
If you have insufficient insulation throughout your home, it may also be worthwhile to insulate your basement or add more insulation into wall cavities. The EPA insulation guide for our area recommends insulating with R13 – R15 in wall cavities, and R25 – R30 in floor spaces. The best way to locate and evaluate your weak insulation spots is to schedule a professional energy audit.
Ceiling fan summer/ Ceiling fan winter – Don’t stop with just the smart thermostat; give your system a break by using your ceiling fans during hot weather to stay cool while pushing the temperature a little higher. Not sure what your ceiling fans settings should be? During the summer you want the fan to blow air straight down, so your ceiling fan needs to run in a counter clockwise direction as you look up at it. The warmer it is, the higher the speed should be. During the winter, your fan should run at a low speed in a clockwise direction at a low speed to pull cool air up. The gentle updraft pushes warm air, which naturally rises to the ceiling, down along the walls and back the floor.
Shades/ Curtains – Invest in reflective shades to block out unwanted heat from the sun. Then, in winter, throw those shades open to let the free heat pour in, and use sweaters and blankets to stay comfortable while setting the thermostat a little lower.
Taking great care of your HVAC system is half the battle — and replacing it at the right time is the other half.
None of us can predict the future, so it can be tricky to make sure you get the most extended possible life out of your equipment while also avoiding the costs of efficiency losses and parts replacement due to age. The best way to estimate the ideal time for replacement is to choose a reliable HVAC company to perform your preventative maintenance and ask for their input. Be honest with them about the maintenance you’ve performed as a homeowner — if you’ve been lax about replacing the filter, for example, or if you frequently use the “on” fan setting. If you trust your HVAC technician, their opinion is the most valuable.
There are a couple of other key considerations to make long before you buy a new system.
Just because HVAC system replacement is expensive doesn’t mean it has to be nerve-wracking. Make a plan now so you can anticipate this inevitable upgrade, and you can effortlessly reset the clock for another 15 to 20 years.
When You Just Can’t Wait
At Contemporary Air Systems we know budgets can only stretch so far, especially if HVAC equipment turns out to be an emergency purchase. We’re pleased to offer you the ability to pay over time on your HVAC equipment purchase with financing options to fit any budget. We offer a number of financing options which can provide you with peace of mind without worrying about a possible budget-breaking installation. Your family members can enjoy the indoor comfort of your home as always.
With approved credit, you’ll enjoy:
Plus, by taking advantage of financing, you won’t use up your existing funding sources, like a home equity line of credit, other credit card or bank account. They’ll still be available when you need them.
When the subject is HVAC rebates we are the experts, and we always stay on top of where the best rebates can be found. We’ll help you earn them to keep your out of pocket expenses down. Please contact us to find out which financing options are available to you, or to learn about special promotions and equipment rebates.
Excerpted from an article by Josh Crank, a freelance writer who has found his perfect fit at Direct Energy in writing about home maintenance and repairs, energy efficiency, and smart home technology.