We get it, HVAC talk can seem pretty dry and boring. But what if we talk about saving you money, keeping you safe, and feeling more comfortable in your home? Well, then HVACs are the place to start because knowing more about your system can help you do all those things. If you are new to home ownership, or just want to learn more about the equipment responsible for your comfort in your home year-round, consider this your crash course on some of the HVAC basics.
What is an HVAC system?
In its most basic explanation, your HVAC is the system that keeps your home comfortable inside even when the weather outside is not as comfortable. HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. Many systems are made up of a furnace, air conditioner, ducts, vents, grilles, and all the other components that come with it. It’s of vital importance in homes since the HVAC system is responsible for the comfort (heating and air conditioning) and the safety of your home (ventilation).
It can protect your home from the outside elements and everything inside of it – people, furniture, and finishings.
Keith Hill, the technical support manager at Minnesota Air, says, "It's so important to your home that you should know what to expect from your HVAC system; how it works, how it runs, and how to maintain it."
“Did you know that a properly-sized AC system should run nearly continuous on a 90-degree day in Minnesota?” says Keith. “Same for a furnace when it’s minus 15 degrees. A discussion with a pro about your system will give you a better understanding of how your system works and why.”
What should I do as a new homeowner with my HVAC?
This is where the advice from a professional can come in handy. Keith says that his advice to new homeowners is to first find out about the mechanical systems because whether you plan on doing the maintenance yourself or get a technician to do it, it’s good to know the system that is in your home.
“For example, at least a dozen times I’ve talked to homeowners that are completely unaware that they have a ventilator and what purpose it served. Statements like, ‘Oh, is that what that thing is’ tell me that they are unaware of what it does and that there are filters inside that require periodic cleaning,” he says. “Look at all of your mechanical systems and if you don’t understand what you have, call a pro and have him or her go through it with you.”
That small investment in a service call can show you how your system works and what you need to do for maintenance to keep it lasting for years to come. Here are some good questions for that first call:
- Where are the filters I need to change?
- How often do I need to change the filters?
- How can I program the thermostat?
- How do I operate the ventilator?
- What maintenance items can I do myself? When should I call you?
- What cleaning items can I do myself (coils, vents, AC)? What items should only a pro do?
“Paying for a service call is pretty inexpensive if it gives you some insight on your HVAC system and what you need to do to keep it running efficiently and reliably,” says Keith. “Plus, it’ll give you a chance to get to know your HVAC pro in case you do have trouble down the road.”
What can I do to maintain it?
The answer to this one helps if you’ve talked to a professional first. If you want to know how to maintain your HVAC, you first need to make sure to create a maintenance plan. Just as you make appointments for the doctor, dentist, and to get a haircut to keep yourself feeling good or healthy – your HVAC shouldn’t be forgotten about either when it comes to keeping it running smooth.
Mark your calendar, set email or phone reminders, make the next maintenance appointment before your technician leaves the home at your current appointment. Do whatever you need to do to remember to change those filters, clean the system, and get a tune up.
“I believe that poorly maintained systems are the primary cause of the most costly HVAC breakdowns,” says Keith. “Usually caused by poor airflow – lack of air filter changes and cleaning of outdoor units, etc. In this neck of the woods, furnaces and ACs should last 18 to 22 years if taken care of, subtract 5 to 7 years if not.”
Take your maintenance schedule and filter changes seriously and your home HVAC should stay up and running throughout the seasons.
What is the best temperature setting for my thermostat?
This is such a popular question with those wanting to save money and stay comfortable. And that’s just it – YOU need to set your thermostat to where YOU are comfortable, both in temperature and with money spent on the energy to maintain it. In winter, the lower the temp, the more energy savings. Then flip that idea for summer. That being said, in the summer, most people are pretty comfortable with a setting anywhere between 72-76 degrees, and in the winter 68-70 degrees is ideal.
However, you can get a programmable thermostat to not use as much energy when you are sleeping, away at work, or on vacation. That can really save a lot of money on your energy bill and that may make it easier to turn up the heat to a comfortable spot when you are home.