Most people don’t really think about their heating and air condition unit – until it breaks. Here’s a rundown of repairs and maintenance you can do yourself, and when you need to call in the HVAC repair big guns.
HVAC repairs you can DIY – basic maintenance
Generally speaking, it’s better to call the experts when you’re dealing with your HVAC system:
- Furnaces are more about diagnosis then just fixing the problem
- HVACs can be dangerous
- You might violate your warranty or your homeowner insurance policy if you DIY it
That said there are plenty of times when DIY is just what the HVAC repair doctor ordered. Most of the things that you can do for your HVAC system without a pro are routine maintenance tasks – once your system actually breaks, it’s a lot harder to fix yourself because it takes an experienced technician to figure out what’s wrong (even if the HVAC repair itself is simple).
Pretty much all HVAC systems, from oil-fired boilers to heat pumps, have some form of filter. Keeping these clean and clear is a great way to help ensure your house air is clean and clear (no point recirculating dust).
Plus, this sort of basic HVAC repair will help you reduce your energy bill. When a filter gets clogged and dirty, it takes more energy for your system to circulate air and thus cool or heat your house. The Department of Energy predicted that a clogged filter can drive up a utility bill by 15%, which translates into some serious money at the end of the winter.
Before you call in the HVAC repair experts for a house that just won’t get warm, make sure that your thermostat is calibrated. These can get knocked out of whack over time, so it’s important to stay on top of it.
All you need to do is pick up a cheap thermometer and see if it matches the temperature showing on your HVAC thermostat. If not, then you can reset the thermostat per your HVAC manufacturer’s instructions. Should fix you right up.
Lubricate your blower
If you have a furnace with a blower motor, a good way to make sure you have efficient heating all winter is to take it apart and lubricate the blower motor.
This is easier than it sounds.
All you need to do is turn everything off (and double check that it’s off!), take the motor out and clean the caps. Then, lubricate the bearings (1-3 drops per bearing are plenty). Finally, reassemble. Easy!
HVAC repairs you need an expert for
Of course, there are a lot of things that you’re definitely going to need a HVAC expert for.
The same way that you should be doing some maintenance on your HVAC system to avoid excessive HVAC repair costs, you should also be getting in an inspection every year or so.
First, this will let the pros catch problems early before they can really develop into issues.
For example, you might have build-up deep in your furnace that, left unchecked, will wear more on your motor and cause it to burn out faster. A technician can come in and clean it out, making the motor’s job a little easier and increasing its lifespan.
AC unit won’t start
This could be just a matter of resetting it and checking the circuit breakers. But if that doesn’t work, then you need to call in the HVAC repair professionals.
It’s not clear what’s going wrong. It could be something relatively simple. However, it could equally be a burned out compressor, which requires a significant amount of technical expertise to replace.
This is also the territory that it starts being a problem of ‘good money after bad’. When you’re looking at major HVAC repairs, at some point it becomes more cost effective to simply replace the unit with a new energy efficient one. A professional can help advise you on how best to spend your HVAC dollars.
Oil system only starts after reset
This is probably one of the most common problems that we see where a professional should be called out but isn’t. The furnace suffers in the short term and your wallet suffers in the long term.
Here’s what happens.
An oil furnace won’t turn on. The circuit breakers are all set to go, it looks ok, but it just won’t go.
What do you do?
You push the reset button. That’s what it’s there for, right?
The furnace starts right away. Great! Home free!
And this is all fine. After all, the furnace did start. But what we’ve found is that usually when a furnace doesn’t want to start, it doesn’t want to start for a reason. And while setting the reset button buys you some time to solve the problem, that underlying problem is probably still there.
In this situation, the best thing you can do is organize a professional to come and take a look. Remember: a problem solved early is a lot easier (read – cheaper) than a problem solved later. You should think of the reset button as an early warning system.
Naturally, anything that has ‘combustion’ in the title should be dealt with by an HVAC repair professional. If you think your furnace smells a bit funny, your chimney is emitting a bit too much smog and grit for comfort, or your utility bill is abnormally high, then you should consider getting an inspection. All these things are likely caused by a combustion problem:
- A funny smell and a smoggy chimney is usually incomplete combustion.
- A high utility bill means that your furnace is not efficiently converting natural resources to heat – hence poor combustion.
Unfortunately, there’s no way for a non-professional to fix the problem and even for HVAC repair pros, the recommendation is often to upgrade the whole unit. But you’ll never know unless you get it inspected.
HVAC systems tend to be pretty self-sufficient. But they do take some light annual maintenance and TLC to keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. And the good news is, a lot of that maintenance like cleaning and replacing filters and oiling bearings can be easily done by you. But when something goes wrong and you’re not quite sure what it is, it’s best to call in the experts.
They’ll work out the problem and the best way to solve it, quickly and effectively – without having to watch 20+ hours of YouTube videos.