How to Maintain Central Heating & Cooling Systems

Posted: January 7, 2012

When your central heating and cooling system is in its best condition, it provides a great mix of efficiency and comfort. On the other hand, if it is left without proper maintenance, that efficiency crashes and so does your wallet.

Most maintenance for central heating and cooling systems should be left to the professionals, but some general upkeep can be performed by homeowners of any skill level. Here’s a list of suggested maintenance for central heating and cooling systems to ensure you keep the cost of comfort at its lowest.

Central Cooling

Air filters:

Air filters on central heating and cooling systems block dust, pollen, and other small particles from entering your home. Eventually, these air filters become clogged by these particles, causing a reduction in energy efficiency from 5 to 15 percent. Ignoring air filter maintenance is like throwing away the money you spent on a better unit. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends that filters be replaced every one to two months during the season. Some central air conditioner filters are reusable while others are disposable. Before you replace your air filter, check to see which kind you have.

Clogged drains:

Central air conditioners feature drains used to remove condensation and humidity. These can become clogged over time. Unclogging the drains is simple. Just push a wire through the drain channels to knock out the gunk.

Expert Level Central Cooling Maintenance

Other maintenance should only be done by professionals or homeowners with advanced knowledge. These include:

Cleaning coils:

The evaporator and condenser coils collect dirt overtime, limiting air flow and the amount of heat removed by the air conditioner. These should be cleaned, at most, every year.

Coil fins:

Fins on the evaporator and condenser bend over time, which blocks air flow. When this occurs, the fins should be straightened.

Blower adjustment:

The blower may wear down over time and need an adjustment to boost air flow.

Adjust refrigerant:

If your air conditioner has too much or too little refrigerant, an essential chemical component that creates cool air, your system will operate inefficiently.

Central Heating

Air filters:

A furnace relies on a filter to block out dust, mold, and other particles, which collects dirt over time, leading to falling energy efficiency. Your filter should be changed regularly, as much as once a month during seasons when it’s in constant use. A filter change takes just a few minutes.

Pilot light:

If you have natural gas, check whether the pilot light is on and that it’s blue. If you’re trying to heat your home but getting nothing except cold air blowing in, a pilot light that’s gone out is the likely problem. If the pilot light is yellow or orange, there may be a mechanical issue with the system.

Expert Level Central Heating Maintenance

Other maintenance should only be done by professionals or homeowners with advanced knowledge. These include:

Belt adjustment and lubrication:

Belts inside your central heating dry out and become worn over time, this reduces efficiency. These should be adjusted and lubricated, at the most, annually.

Interior cleaning:

Dirt will inevitably end up in your central heating, requiring a professional cleaning. Nearly all elements of the furnace must be wiped down and cleaned out. A dirty furnace can significantly reduce efficiency. Get a contractor to clean your furnace every few years.